Jun 30, 2016

Scotty's Sandbar on the Middlegrounds: A sunny spot along the river; no sand or Manhattan, but who cares?

Scotty's Sandbar from the parking lot
The hairy guy's report:

Three summers ago, we set out to find a beach bar in town. The closest we got was Malickey's Pub on south Madison, which has since closed but was rumored to have the best Sex on the Beach -- not what we had in mind.

This year, on a nice summer afternoon, we did much better. One hump over the Lafayette Bridge, onto the Middlegrounds, past the new Michigan Sugar Trails and down a driveway across the road from a Superfund landfill site, we found it: the old Sand Bar, all cleaned up and recently reincarnated as Scotty's Sandbar.

We even found Scotty, who seems like such an easygoing, sensible guy that you wonder why he went through all the hassle of fixing up a long-abandoned bar that had smashed-in windows and a caved-in roof.

"It gives me something to do other than going up and down the river," he said.

It turns out that Scotty, whose real name is Scott Causley, runs barges and tugboats on the Saginaw River. A few years back, he bought land on the island to store his equipment. And with
Owner Scott Causley
it came the remains of the Sand Bar, a popular music spot years back.

There is no sand. But if you use a loose definition of sandbar as a place on the water where you might get stuck, the bar's name makes sense. The Sandbar would be a good place to be stuck.

Causley's renovation work continues. He put in a large dock to attract boaters. An existing deck looks out at the water, but plans for next year are to make a much larger one extending over the water's edge, complete with an outdoor bar and stage. He also plans to put a tug at the end of the dock to serve as a maritime museum.

If you're looking for a spot to sit with a beer and watch the water, as we were, your choices are slim. In the center of town, there are Hooters (where distractions could be a problem) at the foot of Midland Street, the new Black Pearl (once called the Blackhawk, then an assortment of names) at the foot of Third, and the bar at Real Seafood Co. in Uptown, where you can get fried Brussels sprouts (hey, they're good) with your beer. And there's Castaways up on the much smaller Kawkawlin River.

Nobody is likely to describe the Saginaw River as a grand waterway. But it's the best we've got. And the Middlegrounds (well, almost all of it) is still within the city though you'd never know it
View of the river, with cruise boats
from the wooded surroundings.

At the Sandbar, a wall of large windows gives a broad river view, even from inside the black-and-white blockhouse structure. The landfill is nowhere in sight. And a visit to Scotty's will set you back less money than any of the waterfront alternatives.

On tap are Bud Light, Bell's Two Hearted and Oberon ales, All-Day IPA (from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids), Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, Stella Artois, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy and Miller Lite. Prices vary, with Bud Light and Lite at $2 a pint, Cherry Wheat and the IPA at $5. Assorted cans (no bottles) also are available.

Big sellers, according to Nancy the bartender, are Captain Morgan and Diet Coke ($3.50), and Hot Damn. A young guy working outside asked for a glass of water with "all the fixins," which meant ice and slices of lemon, lime and orange.

The hairy guy wondered what would happen if he asked for a Manhattan. "Well, you'd have to tell me how to make it," Nancy said. So he did. But when she grabbed a bottle of dry vermouth
Life on the deck
instead of sweet vermouth, we halted the proceedings.

Harry isn't a stickler when it comes to Manhattan recipes, but you can only go so far. Turns out there was no sweet vermouth, so that ended that. (Scotty said he'll get some.) Instead, Harry ended up with a fine $2.75 gin-and-tonic and took it out to the deck to relax in the sun.

The deck is big but nothing fancy. The chairs are plastic, for instance. But really, it's better this way. You don't have to worry about putting your feet up. And you know what can happen: One day those plastic chairs can turn into expensive designer things, and those $2.75 drinks will suddenly turn into $5 drinks or worse.

The Sandbar, by the way, isn't a place to shoot pool or anything of that ilk. There are no games. UPDATE: A pool table, dartboard and jukebox have been added. A TV is behind the bar, if you need it. This is a place to come and watch the river or, at night, for music -- classic rock, country and blues on various nights, polka on Sundays. And it's the place to find the Princess Wenonah and Islander, the river cruise boats, which dock right next door. 

It's not, at least so far, much of a place for food. There are the usual bagged snacks, with subs on weekends. When we showed up, there was chicken salad (available on a bagel, croissant or onion roll); it was OK.

The Sandbar is open 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday-Friday, noon to 1 a.m. Saturday and noon to 11 p.m. Sunday.

The men's room (look for the "King Fish" sign) is clean and includes a handy step-by-step posted explanation of "How to wash hands." Soap is involved, it turns out.

See Doc’s report: You won’t stumble upon Scotty’s Sandbar by accident

  The particulars:
  Scotty's Sandbar
  1201 Evergreen Drive


Anonymous said...

It was a great place back in the day . My friends and I spent a lot of weekends there. Hope you can bring it back. We had a lot of fun there. Good Luck with it.

Anonymous said...

That place was The To Go Place every Thursday was mug nite n a band. Banzi. Went there. Danced and drank every weekend for at least 2 yrs. Everyone knew eachother n rarely ever. No fights!!!! Hope it does well Again. I'll be visiting n checking it out the New Scottys Sandbar...maybe our new sandbox to play in. ;)

jason sherman said...

I have never been to Bay City (and of course, never to this bar). But, after reading this great piece, I wanna go! Perhaps see a band and visit the museum in a year or two. Nicely done, Patrick and colleagues.

Barb Ploechl said...

My dad (Bernie Ploechl) built the Sand Bar in the 60's. What great times my family had there. I'm sure my dad is looking down from heaven with a big smile on his face. Thank you Scotty for bringing the Sand Bar back to life.