The SBH Review: Sand Point takes a tough order – seafood in Nebraska – and mostly pulls it off

When you live in the most landlocked state in the country, one of the rarest restaurants you see is the one focused on the upper northeast, where seafood – not beef – is king. 

Sand Point, which opened near 114th and Dodge in fall 2023, has taken a dive straight into the icy Atlantic and is swimming like crazy, serving a Maine-inspired menu of mussels, lobster rolls, clams, crab and fresh fish. Its owner confirmed what I suspected – it can often feel like swimming against the current. It’s challenging to reel seafood into Omaha. It’s more challenging still to get fresh enough seafood to meet a lofty standard of quality.   

During our two recent visits, we found that Sand Point’s seafood tasted mostly fresh – and the one instance it wasn’t, the staff wisely and thankfully didn’t serve it to us. The execution of these dishes is good overall, though fish and seafood both require a light, deft touch, and sometimes the kitchen wasn’t quite up to the challenge.  

The restaurant is probably best known for its lobster rolls. Jonathan Taylor, who owns it with his wife, Brittany, and parents, Bonnie and Christopher Taylor, said the idea for Sand Point came from their sister business. That’s Three Kids Lobster, a food truck that regularly parks at Trucks and Taps, off 108th and Q streets and specializes in the sandwich. They also own the Modern Waffle, a second food truck.

Sand Point has a couple of classic East Coast sandwiches, including a lobster roll, here served with gouda mac and cheese. It’s the same sandwich served at the owners’ food truck, Three Kids Lobster.

The lobster rolls at the truck were so popular, he said, that the family agreed Omaha needed a whole restaurant focused on the classic dishes of the upper northeast, where the family spent summers when Jonathan Taylor was a child. 

“We really spent a whole lot of time and money checking out (the seafood) that is available here in Omaha commercially,” Taylor said. “Finding just the right product took a lot of research and tasting.” 

I could see that research paying off when I tried the steamed mussels, the best version of the dish I have had in town since Dario’s closed. A full pound of shellfish comes served with a light but super flavorful white wine-based broth and a hefty piece of house made focaccia for dipping. I found the mussels nicely seasoned and well cooked; almost every single one had popped open. If you like this dish as much as I do, you should probably visit Sand Point for it alone. 

Crispy fried Brussels sprouts come topped with bright pickled fennel and tossed with balsamic vinegar, parmesan, Old Bay seasoning and cubes of bacon.

Lots of folks online mention the Brussels sprouts, so we tried them: fried until crispy and plenty salty, with both sliced sprouts and individual leaves, they are a nice version of a dish that’s become wildly popular. What set those sprouts apart for me was pickled fennel, which appears on several dishes, and which I admire for its crunch and bright flavor. We picked through them until we reached the bottom of the bowl. Always a good sign. 

Also on the appetizer list are the crab cakes (a personal favorite.) I could detect filler in the cakes – some sort of bread product – among the chunks of crab, and I wished for a bit more of the red pepper remoulade that came spread on the plate. Without enough sauce, they got a bit dry. 

Sand Point’s crab cakes come served with a roasted red pepper coulis and cole slaw.

The swordfish we ordered that same evening also read a bit dry without sauce, cooked a bit past flakiness and without that fish’s signature juicy meatiness. Worth noting: when you added the sauce over the top, it balanced the dish, though I still wish the kitchen hadn’t overcooked the protein. We tried it with a side of mushroom risotto, which was good: earthy and cheesy, a winning combination. 

Sand Point’s fish selections rotate regularly. When we visited, swordfish was on the menu, served with a manzanilla tapenade.

Both times we visited, the dining room at Sand Point was mostly empty, and we saw just a handful of other diners. Staff busied themselves folding silverware and napkins. Another night, a couple of customers came in to place takeout orders and waited at the bar, which was empty during both visits. 

“We are trying to get the word out,” Taylor said, “but it’s always a challenge.”

I also ran into some issues with the restaurant’s phone going directly to a company-issued message; Taylor said the restaurant’s phone service has been an ongoing issue.

Sand Point has a big menu of craft cocktails, both classics and a few twists, like the Elderflower Old Fashioned, a balanced, more summery version of a cocktail that I mostly enjoy in the fall and winter. The same went for a classic margarita amped up with the hue and flavor of tangy hibiscus. 

Sand Point regularly rotates its cocktail menu, which includes the Elderflower Old Fashioned made with St. Germain, rye and Angostura bitters.

The cold brew martini (yes, whenever I see one, I try it) is made with both cold brew coffee and coffee liqueur, plus vodka. I prefer my espresso martini more on the “coffee” side versus the “creamy” side and this one fits that bill. It’s balanced and not too strong. 

Taylor said he worked closely with a former front-of-house manager on the cocktail menu, and the drinks on the list rotate quarterly. He said the focus – which I definitely saw – is on cocktails “familiar but different.” 

One night, we ordered the whole belly clam roll. A few minutes after we ordered, two staff members from the kitchen came out and told us that the clams that day were not fresh enough to serve, and asked us to order a different dish. The menu has two different lobster rolls: a cold Maine roll or a warm Connecticut roll; we went with the latter of the two. 

I asked Taylor about that later, and he said being in a landlocked state can cause some hiccups.

“If it is not going to be really quality seafood, it defeats the whole purpose of what we are doing,” he said, while adding that the restaurant is careful to manage inventory so that the seafood stays fresh almost all of the time.  

The lobster roll, filled with plenty of hunks of seafood and drizzled appealingly with warm butter, is good, and so is its toasted brioche roll. For $25, you get a lot of meat but this isn’t a large sandwich. You do get your choice of side dish, and we ordered the mac and cheese, fragrant with the scent of Gouda. 

Sand Point’s open faced seared tuna is, in my mind, tuna toast, served on a toasted piece of focaccia spread with avocado caper spread, tomato slaw and pickled red onions. The tuna, seared rare, is coated in “everything” seasoning.

Do not sleep on one of the menu’s sleeper hits, which is called “open faced seared tuna.” I would rally for this to be renamed tuna avocado toast, because that’s what it is. All the ingredients here seem quality, and everything is well-seasoned. I’m not a huge fan of avocado but I liked it here, mixed with capers and topped with seared rare tuna coated in “everything” seasoning and topped with tomato slaw and pickled red onions. 

I hope you’ll allow me to reminisce for a moment: When I was a kid, my dad used to indulge me by making me not a grilled cheese sandwich, but a grilled peanut butter sandwich. It was delicious, probably awful for me and a sign that my dad knew what kind of a human I was even then. 

Listed on the menu simply as “fluffernutter” the dessert is a take on a grilled sandwich stuffed with plenty of creamy peanut butter along with marshmallow fluff on two slices of grilled white bread.

Sand Point’s “fluffernutter,” on the dessert menu, took me right back to my childhood home, feet dangling off a stool at my parents’ counter eating that sandwich, but this time, with the added bonus of a thick layer of marshmallow fluff (why didn’t I think of that?).

Anyway, if you go, get it. It’s worth it: sweet but nutty, sticky and crispy, buttery and rich. My childhood, on toast. 

Sometimes, Sand Point hits its marks. Sometimes it hits bumps. But I admire the effort: Taylor and Co. are taking on one of the most challenging cuisines a kitchen can tackle. The results aren’t perfect, but the tenacity is something I can get behind. 

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