Whereas James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Spike Gjerde typically maintains a laser-like focus on all things Chesapeake Bay, he and his restaurant team are shining a light on a more local attraction — Baltimore’s Inner Harbor — with new waterfront, wood-fired eatery, Sandlot.
The intentionally temporary restaurant/beach bar that’s cropped up between Harbor East and Fells Point is the most immediate manifestation of the brainstorming between Gjerde’s Foodshed family of restaurants and real estate developer Beatty Development Group.
Corey Polyoka, a Woodberry Kitchen alum who is now managing partner of Foodshed, told Eater his hospitality group is assisting Beatty in defining the dining ecology (Foodshed is devoted to sourcing everything locally) of the forthcoming Harbor Point community.
Polyoka said the makeshift restaurant/beach bar — a 30,000-square-foot installation which includes six volleyball and three bocce courts, plus seating for about 300 people — is expected to remain in place for five to seven years. It will eventually be replaced by a dedicated green space.
“The rest of the development is going to be built around it,” Polyoka said of Sandlot’s cornerstone status. According to Polyoka, creating a fully portable seasonal restaurant — he said every component, from the light poles to the reconditioned shipping containers are “fully transferable” — was a challenge and a thrill. “In the end, the only thing we’re going to lose is the concrete and the sand.”
Menu development had to adhere to Foodshed’s strict sourcing standards but also honor the allure of beach dining.
“We are going with more of a food-you-can-eat-with-your-hands motif,” is how Polyoka described the dive-on-in fare delivered from a wood-fired rotisserie/smoker. Expect: three types of nachos (from salsa- and beer cheese-covered chips to a seafood number featuring smoked fish and crab meat), assorted skewers (blackened catfish, summer squash), roasted chicken, meaty offerings (all-American hot dog dressed with ketchup, mustard, and relish; Maryland crab roll with celery salad), and zesty “gunpowder” seasonings (the basic blend combines fish pepper, toasted rice, and salt, while the red eye ups the ante with ancho chile flakes, coffee, and dried ham).
Over at the bar, featured beverages remain devoid of any citrus or refined sugar (dealbreakers in Foodshed’s book) yet strive for a tiki vibe. “Almost everything is coming out of a blender or a smoothie machine,” Polyoka said. Frozen rosé anchors one of the featured slushies; rum steers a pair of boat drinks; rye whiskey paired with Cracker Jack ice cream fuels one of the boozy milkshakes.
While various Foodshed properties are contributing to Sandlot — Woodberry bakes the bread; butcher shop Parts & Labor supplies the meat; preservation-centric Canning Shed lends jams to the effort — Polyoka stressed that this latest venture is meant to stand on its own. “You’ll only be be able to get it with your toes in the sand,” he said.
When exactly Sandlot plans to pack it in for the season remains in flux; Polyoka mentioned wanting to stick around until early fall (he cited Oktoberfest as one motivating factor). The Sandlot is currently scheduled to operate from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Parking is $4.
Next up for team Foodshed: bringing D.C. into the fold by opening A Rake’s Progress in The Line hotel complex.
Status: The Sandlot grand opening is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. 1000 Wills St., Baltimore, Md.; website.