You can’t beat the sun, sand and water view at Sandlot in Harbor Point — or the delicious, casual fare.
We had a hard time believing we were in the city at the outdoor, beach-inspired restaurant, except for the Domino Sugars sign across the way and the towering Exelon building behind us.
The outdoor venue, which opened in June, is the newest offering from James Beard Award winner Spike Gjerde and Corey Polyoka, partners in the Foodshed restaurant group, which operates Woodberry Kitchen, Parts & Labor and other eateries.
The family- and dog-friendly spot takes up a scenic swath along the harbor’s edge with al fresco picnic tables, sofas, hammocks, and activity areas for volleyball, bocce and more.
Chef Joseph Conrad is behind the easy-to-manage foods, which include chicken wings, nachos, sandwiches and spit-fired chicken. There are kids’ menu options, too.
Getting to the parking lot is puzzling at first. It requires driving through a garage off Dock Street to an open-air lot. (Look for the Sandlot signs.) It’s $4 after 5 p.m.*; before that, we paid $10 for three hours.
Once you’re inside the enclave, the cheerful staff is happy to answer any questions you may have about ordering food and drinks (at a counter or at a silver Airstream trailer) and where to sit (anywhere you can find a spot).
Our only issue was a lack of shade on a 93-degree summer afternoon. The few available umbrellas were commandeered when we arrived, leaving us roasting at our table faster than the kitchen’s chickens. Management said they are working on more coverage.
But we enjoyed the relaxed vibe of the place and its role as a community playground and picnic spot.
Sandlot is planned as a temporary project, lasting five to seven years — until further Harbor Point developments take over the space. We already don’t want to see it end.
SCENE & DECOR: After you pass through security, where you’re given a wristband if you are of drinking age, a relaxed island mentality starts to set in. The beach music, palm trees, cocktails and sand between your toes set the mood. You can order drinks at the Airstream trailer or at shipping containers with a walk-up counter, where you also decide on your food. Grab a seat while you wait for your order and gaze at the beautiful waterfront.
APPETIZERS: There are a lot of munchies here. We started with five scallion-crab fritters ($9), served with a tangy chili-pepper jam. The golden, breaded rounds weren’t overly crabby, but they were great nibbles. The Chessie nachos were an addictive mound of crisp chips, topped with smoked fish, crab, roasted corn salsa, beer cheese, green onions and pickled jalapenos. We were mistakenly given chicken nachos at first. We enjoyed them, too, before realizing we had the wrong dish and trading it in for the right one. The summer squash kebabs ($7) were outstanding. The vegetable sticks were treated to a terrific coating of jalapeno pesto and served over a half of soft pita bread.
ENTREES: The spit-fired chicken (we got a half, $18; a whole is $28) was a juicy portion of fall-off-the-bone, crispy-skinned meat that was wonderful. It’s a must-order dish. The island-spiced pork-shoulder sandwich ($13) was an engaging union of tender meat slices, jalapeno pesto, caramelized onions, cilantro and an herb salad on a sturdy spelt roll.
DRINKS Cocktails, craft beers and wines are available. We sipped on a fruity garnacha ($6) in a plastic cup. The wise beverage folks chilled the red wine for the hot day. The Boylan root beer ($3.50) was also refreshing. Free water can be found in yellow coolers with spigots around the property.
SERVICE The staff was engaging and knowledgeable, whether delivering food, clearing tables or bringing to-go boxes, all with smiles.
DESSERT Desserts weren’t available on our visit, but milkshakes and ice-cream sandwiches will be added to the menu soon, Polyoka said.
Backstory: Foodshed partners Spike Gjerde and Corey Polyoka worked with Beatty Development Group, which is leading the development of the 27-acre mixed-use Harbor Point, to introduce people to the restaurant group’s local sourcing ethos as well as the growing area. The result was Sandlot, which opened in June.
Signature dish: The spit-fired chicken
TVs: No TVs
Where: 1000 Wills St., Harbor Point
Contact: Facebook.com/sandlotbaltimore; @sandlotbaltimore on Instagram. There is no public phone number. The restaurant uses social media to communicate about weather delays, events and other information.
Open: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily
Credit Cards: All major; it’s a cashless venue. Reservations: Does not accept
Handicap accessible: Yes
Bottom line: The affordable, carefully prepared food showcases the sourcing we’re used to at Gjerde’s other Foodshed restaurants, but in an outdoor setting that is fun and novel.