Imagine a place where you can enjoy your pick of over 180 ice cold craft beers and superior bar food while playing a game of table tennis or bocce ball on the front lawn. Now stop imagining, because that that place now exists! (Maybe some Kan Jam please?)
Welcome to Mandeville Beer Garden, just north of 4th Street and Lemon, next to Station 400, and around the corner from Darwin’s on 4th and The Blue Rooster.
We dropped in on Mandeville Beer Garden soon after construction was completed, and let me tell you, I was truly impressed. While there, I met proprietor Rebekah Mandeville-Gelvin, and told her how excited the SarasotaFoodies were for her new venture. Luckily for us, Rebekah responded with an invitation to stop by during their “super-soft pre-opening tasting night” to sample the food. Sweet! Soft openings take place before the official opening of a restaurant, and allow the chef and staff to practice their service while fine-tuning the menu presentation before the restaurant officially opens.
While it’s daunting, and even scary, to open a new restaurant, Mandeville Beer Garden has a unique “it factor” when it comes to food and drink. First off, they deliver on the beer garden concept, with 30 craft beers on tap, and some 150 (!) bottled selections. I defy any beer aficionado to turn up their noses at the choices.
And from the foodie side, we applaud Rebekah’s decision to bring in local Chef/Culinary Consultant Christian Hershman to help design the menu and elevate what could have been standard bar food into true gastro pub tastes of art!
The entire restaurant features a “rustic-urban-chic” décor, fronted with huge garage doors that open the front of the building to a spacious lawn and picnic area overlooking Lemon Avenue. That so delivers on the Garden concept as well! That, alone, gives Mandeville Beer Garden a very inviting “got to check this out” vibe.
Opening nights, even if they are a soft opening, are always exciting, and there was certainly an enthusiastic buzz coming from the staff and patrons that evening. Everyone who walked in was “oohing and aahing” at the room, before settling in to select their choices from both the food and beverage menus.
We decided on ordering from the 30 choices of beers on tap, and had a good time reading the descriptions of the craft beers offered at Mandeville Beer Garden. Jill ordered up a Fat Heads Bumbleberry, essentially a fruit beer brewed with fresh honey (“stolen from some very angry bees”) and blueberries. I went with a strong American ale called Smuttynosed Durty Mud, which was as fun to say as it was delicious to drink!
Mandeville Beer Garden realized that such an impressive selection of brews deserves an equally compelling menu, and that’s where the inspired creations of Chef Christian were spot on. Knowing that we wanted to sit back and enjoy the atmosphere for a while, we ordered a few items to share.
First up was the fried pickles with a harissa-ranch dipping sauce. A perfect trifecta of dip-nibble-sip! Fried pickles can be tricky to eat when they first come out piping hot from the kitchen. The juice of the pickle retains heat longer than the crispy coating, so you may want to cut the first few in half before you dig in. The harissa-ranch dressing was a great paring with the pickles. In fact, I was dipping our other menu choices in it as our meal progressed.
When looking at the menu, we decided to try something that you won’t see just anywhere — in this case it was a venison sausage with grilled onions and deli mustard. Another excellent choice. Cooked in lager beer and finished on the grill, I can’t think of anything that’s more enjoyable than a good ol’ “beer and brat.” And, if you’ve read our blogs before, you know how important really good bread is to us. Happily, this was a really delicious bun! Yum!
Our third selection was a generous basket of fresh fried, totally crunchy pork rinds, served with a side of Sriracha sauce. It may sound like a humble offering, but these were absolutely the best pork rinds we’ve had anywhere. Move over (insert name of anyone else that serves them), Mandeville Beer Garden has the Blue Ribbon in the Pork Rind category!
And how cool was it to discover that Mandeville Beer Garden’s beer muffins – featured in their delicious Fresh Baked Pretzel Bits and Beer Muffin Bread appetizer – is baked from our local Boardwalk Beer Bread — a mix we used to make beer bread over the holidays!
In talking to Rebekah and Christian, I was delighted to hear that Mandeville Beer Garden wants everyone to know they’re family friendly. Which is a pretty cool combination. While the adults are noshing on a burger, salad or scrumptious appetizer, the kids can play games on the front lawn. There are a few picnic tables out front, and when the weather is nice, Mandeville Beer Garden throws open those three garage doors on the front wall, so you can sit comfortably while keeping an eye on your kids. . . or your buddies. Fenced in, no less. The lawn games are there for everyone to enjoy.
So next time you want to get out and enjoy Sarasota’s perfect “Chamber of Commerce weather” consider a stop at Mandeville Beer Garden. They are open for lunch and dinner, and will surely remind you that we’re living the good life here in Sarasota!
On a final note. . . Watch out for this logo. I suspect you’ll be seeing it around town, obviously on the ‘coolest’ of the cool!