By Ben Olson
When my girlfriend’s parents rented a pontoon boat last week to show their friends the lake, the natural first stop for lunch and drinks was Loaf & Ladle at Bottle Bay Marina.
Located a mere 10 minutes from Sandpoint by water and 20 minutes via Bottle Bay Road, Loaf & Ladle is committed to using fresh ingredients in its range of from-scratch selections. This family-owned business is a lakeside force to be reckoned with.
Now in the second season after moving their restaurant from 124 S. Second Ave. in Sandpoint to Bottle Bay, owners Michael and Sarah Williams said the change has been good.
“For us, we looked at the balance of life and the operation of a 365-day restaurant with two young kids aged 13 and 10,” Michael said, adding that while summers are busier in Bottle Bay than they were in Sandpoint, “the sacrifice of two months [of extra-long hours] allows more freedom the rest of the year.”
Michael said one drawback to moving the restaurant was downsizing some offerings from the menu, including their beloved chicken and waffles.
“We get flak for that all the time,” he joked.
Perusing the Loaf & Ladle menu, it’s instantly apparent this family cares about what they present to their diners. Many items are locally sourced, and each offering carries the Loaf & Ladle brand: “Simple. Honest. Good.”
Our group tried a bit of everything. The fish tacos feature grilled sockeye salmon slabs from local company Thunder’s Catch, which provides Sandpoint with wild-caught salmon from Bristol Bay, Alaska. The barbecue ribs come oven-braised and smothered in a bourbon barbecue sauce. They say the litmus test for ribs is if they fall off the bone. Well, these ribs fell off the bone right into my waiting mouth. They’re served with a tasty potato salad and corn on the cob grilled to perfection. The cioppino was a delicious mix of cod, sockeye salmon, mussels, shrimp and baby red potatoes served in a red sauce with a white wine and garlic kick that makes it unique. The banh mi steak salad was just as good as it sounds — a deconstruction of the famous Vietnamese sandwich with additional greens to freshen it up.
There are burgers and a special menu for the kiddos, but the main entrees and salads are where it’s at. Also, their side dishes are criminally good. The Greek red quinoa salad is a paradox. Healthy and delicious? Crazy.
“My kitchen staff wants to kill me sometimes, because we don’t use pre-cut french fries or burgers,” Michael said. “They prepare four cases of potatoes every day and we hand-patty 20 pounds of burgers every day.”
Finally, if you haven’t tried the fresh-squeezed, made-from-scratch cocktails and juices, you’re not living your best life.
“Sarah and her staff make all the ingredients fresh every day,” Michael said. “Things like that take time and energy and she’s not willing to compromise.”
I’m not mincing words when I say Loaf & Ladle serves the best mojito I’ve had in Sandpoint. Period. You can order the classic like I did, or branch out and try the huckleberry or strawberry varieties. Our group chose the strawberry as the flavor winner. The sky’s the limit with a full liquor bar, but do yourself a favor and stick with the juice drinks, which Sarah and her staff hand-squeeze.
“We’re squeezing a case of lemons by hand every day,” said Sarah. “We always have to have a gallon of lemon juice in case we run out of lemonade. It’s really important for me, and my staff is very proud of what we create. Every single thing we can possibly make — sweet and sour mix, orange juice, lemon juice, simple syrup — you name it, we make from scratch.”
According to Michael and Sarah, the “heart and soul” of their restaurant are their two children, Briar, 13, and Oscar, 10.
“Our kids are here working with us seven days a week,” Michael said. “They put in long hours. Briar has found her place in the restaurant and Oscar has found a spot on the dock helping traffic and helping people bring in rental boats.”
“I don’t know how people run restaurants without children,” Sarah added with a laugh. “But really, the staff loves them and they love the staff. It’s their village.”
Loaf & Ladle, 115 Resort Road (off Bottle Bay Road), Sagle, is open seven days a week during summer, 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. They also operate the dockside gas pumps and cabin rentals – bottlebayresort.com.
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