You’ve seen a menu like this before, most likely in Manhattan, N.Y., or the outer boroughs, or perhaps on the east coast of Florida. It has an array of deli sandwiches, including corned beef, pastrami and whitefish salad, which, like most items, is made in the restaurant. There’s a patty melt built around a huge burger and a pâté melt that’s a similar treatment of liverwurst. Entrées include roasted chicken, classic stuffed cabbage rolls, smoked brisket and a slow-braised spring lamb shank. There are also matzo ball soup and latkes.
It reads like a deli, smells like a deli, and, in spite of the somewhat incongruous name, “Jimmy’s Sand Trap,” aspires to be a great deli — a niche that its owners think is open for conquest in Sarasota.
One pays attention because the proprietors have done their time-in-grade in the local restaurant business. Bill Davis is the Bill of “Barnacle Bill’s,” the more than slightly successful fish specialist with locations on Main Street and North Tamiami Trail. Since his arrival in the 1980s, his tours of duty have included chef at Longboat Key’s The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort and The Buccaneer, “when it was good,” he says.
Jimmy Galanis grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Queens, N.Y., and his deli background is from there and Miami. He and Davis opened Jimmy’s Sand Trap in the strip center on the southeast corner of Webber and Beneva — exactly the spot in which the first Barnacle Bill’s opened 13 years ago. It is in its seventh month — the ideal time to try a new place, because it has had time to work out the kinks.
Though its foundation is established, the menu is continually evolving by the rollout of new dishes as specials and keeping what is most successful. There is even an informal test market procedure — two groups of women who play mahjongg in the restaurant taste the new additions and give the owners feedback. The next anticipated addition? The knish.
Davis doesn’t pull his punches.
“Jimmy is Greek, I’m a Scot, and the cook is Mexican, and we make the best Jewish food in this town,” he says. “People come from Longboat Key for matzo ball soup and a pastrami sandwich, but our pastrami is not lean — if you want lean, get corned beef. Everyone who comes here, comes back.”
Galanis chimes in that Jimmy’s Sand Trap’s egg cream is made with Fox’s U-Bet syrup — the original and authentic flavoring.
The men and the menu beg the question: How did the place get its name? First understand that it started life as a bar with food, though the food quickly took over as its main attraction. Now think “anagram.” The previous occupant of the space was Chef D’s Italian Fisherman. Galanis and a few friends figured out that they could name the place “Jimmy’s Sand Trap” and only have to buy four new letters for the sign!
Whether Jimmy’s Sand Trap will succeed in its ambitions to dominate the deli scene in Sarasota will be determined by the marketplace. But the owners’ forthrightness and sense of humor and a guest check average of $12 to $15 certainly bodes well for its future.
Jimmy’s Sand Trap
Address: 3634 Webber St.
Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday; 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday
JIMMY’S SAND TRAP’s WHITEFISH SALAD
Yield: 12 to 16 servings
Start to finish: 15 to 30 minutes
1 4-pound smoked whitefish
5 stalks celery, strings removed
2 cups sour cream (approximately)
3 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Sprigs of fresh dill and/or parsley for garnish
Carefully remove the bones from the whitefish and place the meat in a mixing bowl. Mince the celery and combine with the whitefish. Add one cup of the sour cream along with the mayonnaise and pepper. Add the dill and parsley and as much additional sour cream as you would like.
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