Nestled next to a vape shop on Highway 98 in Port St. Joe, the Sand Dollar Cafe serves what I’d call southern hostess fare. Comfort food classics: indulgent but polite, well-crafted but not overly fussed-with, satisfying and civilized.
Meals are attained cafeteria style. If you are a germphobic buffet-frowner, you will love the way service is conducted here. All the food is arrayed in pans and steam trays behind a large glass partition that is sure to prevent any customer’s cooties from reaching it. Peruse what’s there — it ALL looks good — then tell the gents behind the counter what you want. They plate it for you, neat and tidy, always in generous allotments. Pay at the end of the line and carry your tray to a table.
It’s all good. While I’ve yet to have breakfast — which can be shrimp & grits, housemade granola, fritattas and breakfast casseroles, eggs and breakfast meats — lunch is grand. There’s nothing too exotic or overly creative on the menu — that would go against the reassuring spirit of comfort food; the familiar dishes are done right. Buttermilk mashed potatoes are buttery and fresh, all the better topped with from-scratch mushroom gravy. Creamed spinach really is creamy. rutabagas are baked until their edges attain a caramel sweetness that so beautifully complements the essential earthy zest of the root vegetable. Macaroni & cheese is made with four flavorful cheeses and supercharged with nuggets of applewood-smoked bacon. Among entrees, meatloaf is a classic, crowned with sweet tomato chutney. Lump crab cakes come with Cajun remoulade. Shrimp & grits blush with spicy tomato cream sauce and, by the way, the grits are infused with cheddar cheese.
Not everything I’ve mentioned will be available when you visit. There always are daily specials, one of which is chicken broccoli casserole that tastes like home cooking at its finest. The Sand Dollar’s Facebook page lists what each day’s menu includes.