For seven years, my wife has been dealing with this idiot constantly waffling over which restaurant to visit for dinner. Seven years of rattling off restaurant names, checking websites, rattling off signature dishes, checking drive times, then rolling up to the restaurant to find out it wasn’t even open that day.
We celebrated seven years of marriage a couple of weeks ago, and she didn’t want any of that. She wanted to be someplace where the breeze would smell nice and the food would be simple, but taste great. She wanted to be someplace relaxing. She wanted to be someplace where the dog could hang out.
Sandcastle is all of these places, and we’ve made it part of our anniversary weekend for the past two years.
Sandcastle is the beachside stop on Minneapolis’ Lake Nokomis, led by local chef and magnificent name-haver Doug Flicker. The white napkin crowd will probably recognize him from Piccolo, which Flicker led for seven years before shuttering in 2016; and Esker Grove, his upscale restaurant in the Walker Arts Center. Esker Grove hasn’t even been open two years, and a stack of awards and even James Beard Nominations has already begun building.
For the rest of us, you hear Flicker’s name a lot in conjunction with Bull’s Horn, the #divebar sitting about a mile and a half from Sandcastle in the old Sunrise Inn spot. Flicker has also collaborated with Heggie’s. You know Heggie’s, right? You might not remember Heggie’s right now, but you’ll definitely remember Heggie’s next time you get drunk.
The menu at Sandcastle is uncomplicated, unpretentious, meant mostly for grabbing-and-going (there’s a window for that) or a sit-down to look at the lake. It’s prime real estate for pupper- and people-watching, so you probably won’t spend much time discussing how good Sandcastle’s cheese curds or the Nokomis Dog are. You’ll notice, though. The Nokomis Dog is a tasty thing – a pork weenie with peppers and cole slaw – and we’ve never left a single cheese curd behind in our snack boats.
But if you’re at Lake Nokomis for Sandcastle, and not the other way around, you’re probably going to call up a Dog Flicker. It’s a beef weenie with kimchi, cilantro, and a fried egg. It’s a funky dog, and I mean that in a good way. It’s not loaded with kimchi, which is good. Kimchi doesn’t need to be served in bulk for its flavors to be realized. It’s just right on the Dog Flicker.
That fried egg is loaded with yolk, though. Bite into it wrong and you’ll be somebody else’s people-watching entertainment.
The fish tacos contain what I like to call “a napping portion of meat.” I’m serious. The tortillas barely wrap all the way around the damn things. You’ll tilt your head to one side a little, in the very same fashion you did when you bit down on your Dog Flicker, and back that fish hauler into your mouth like a semi trailer.
You could easily call a Dog Flicker a meal, or the fish tacos. Your humble author made a business decision during his last visit, and scarfed both options down. My wife is 2-for-2 on visits ordering the American Indian Fry Bread, and is in no hurry to break that routine. Her basket looks like a freshly-vaporized city after she’s finished, and she’s going to be so happy I wrote that.
It isn’t Sandcastle’s fault that we haven’t yet tried the chicken jumbalaya, the BLT, or the sweet pea falafel wrap with dill yogurt and sprouts. We’ve already gotten Sandcastle programmed into our heads as “hot dogs, fry bread, maybe tacos, maybe curds, and drinks.” The shrimp and octopus ceviche sounds like something that would taste really good; the chopped salad and the arugula mozzarella wrap, someone else will have to let you know how those are.
Drinks are good. I really liked my horchata, and my wife her lemonade. They’ve got rotating beers on tap and wine, too. You’ll probably hang out for a little while after you’re done if the weather’s nice. Maybe you’ll lock onto the ducks floating by, draw the perfect breeze, or get a good line of dorky outfits walking around in the park nearby. That will hopefully give you time to decide that, yes, you’ll go back up to the counter for a twist cone.