Bar Tab: Knick's Tavern & Grill
I relax with my glass of red wine and admire the smartly designed, laid-back surroundings. I’m at Knick’s Tavern & Grill in the Southside Village neighborhood of Sarasota. It’s just after 5 p.m. on Friday and I’m greeted by a friendly bartender who seems to know everyone in the place, including the lady next to me, who does not bother to look up from her electronic book reader even to take a sip of wine, which I find impressive. Then again, I am probably more prone to spill than most, especially when multitasking. I take another sip of my recent vintage El Portillo Malbec from Argentina that costs $7 a glass.
There are no happy hour deals, I’m told, and given the old line about every hour being happy hour. It always puzzles me when a place doesn’t offer some kind of happy hour special, but especially here. Knick’s Tavern is a very short walk from Libby's Café + Bar, which has one of the best happy hour deals in town.
I keep these thoughts to myself, drink my wine and study the appetizers. They range from crab cake, mussels in garlic butter sauce and blackened calamari to spinach artichoke dip, chicken wings and potato skins. The appetizers all cost around $10. I order the Black & White Bean Cake ($8.50) that comes served on a bed of chopped lettuce, with diced tomatoes and, the part that has me really excited, jalapeno remoulade. My order arrives quickly. The bean cakes are fine but the jalapeno remoulade is a bland disappointment. It tastes like a poorly flavored mayonnaise.
I see that Knick’s, like most bars in the area with any beer sense, has hooked up with Tampa-based Cigar City Brewing and put its flavorsome and strong Jai Alai India Pale Ale on tap. I order a “large.” For $5.50, it’s a good deal. Probably as good as most happy hour deals in town.
Cold, tall glass of quality craft beer firmly in hand, I look at the sandwiches, which, like the appetizers, are in the $10 range but seem more appealing, both in terms of taste and bang for buck. The burgers all look impressive as do the chicken sandwiches. Salmon, pulled pork and a veggie burger are also on the menu. I order the Blackened Chicken Sandwich that comes with cheddar, bacon and a side of hot sauce. It’s served on a garlic hoagie. This sandwich, $9.95, hits the spot. The chicken is tender, the bacon is crispy and that hoagie has some fun kick.
By this point I’m full but the photos I’ve been clumsily taking with my smart phone have aroused courteous curiosity. I tell the bartender what I’m up to and the gentleman seated nearby at the corner bar stool, the fellow drinking Busch Light while talking to at least half the patrons in the place like they are old pals, has the bartender bring over a Brunch Burger ($11.75).
I cut the sandwich in half and split it with the guy next to me. I take a big bite and the combination of beef, bacon egg and cheese on pita is spot on. Turns out, the Brunch Burger is the creation of co-owner Knick Barger – the Busch Light drinker – who also happens to be one of the area’s top restaurant renovators.
“I designed this place to be an extension of your home,” he says in between sips of Busch Light.
Knick’s is a cozy hangout for enthusiasts of slightly upscale comfort foods. It is a place for people who enjoy wine and beer but probably do not waste much time swirling and sniffing or feel the need to overspend on a beverage with the basic function of reducing stress. Knick’s might also be the classiest place in Southwest Florida where a fellow can order a bottle of Busch Light.
Knick's Tavern & Grill, Sarasota
1818 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota; 955-7761; knickstavernandgrill.com