Sand on the Beach

After a stormy start (literally), Pepaj Restaurants has another oceanfront winner

Never let it be said that Djon Pepaj doesn’t have a little something for everyone at his restaurants on the South Brevard beaches. Djon’s has been a staple for finer diners for years. Andiamo is a smart, Italian-style bistro. Caribbean-ish City Tropics has become a standby for the after-hours set.

Sand on the Beach Bar & Grill has joined them.

Sand on the Beach is about as aptly named a restaurant as imaginable, as it is located directly on the oceanfront and done in Key West-like colors, with rather whimsical murals of beach scenes painted on the walls.

It is a wonder that the place is painted in anything, considering its history. Pepaj purchased the structure, formerly Boomerang’s, in 2004, and those who remember Melbourne Beach that year have a good idea of what happened in the year of Charley, Frances and Jeanne.

“I was just going to turn it around and not do too much work because it was operational,’ Pepaj says. “Then the hurricanes came through and ripped it apart, pretty much destroyed it. The plans changed.”

It took time to come up with a plan and then receive approval from city officials. Renovations finally got underway in 2008.

Not surprisingly, the result is a highly informal venue with seating on the deck, windows that offer broad views of the beach and the already-popular Bikini Bar upstairs. The music of the islands plays in the background.

Sand on the Beach also serves three meals, unusual in this area for restaurants of such style, and to the credit of its proprietor, it keeps them relatively simple: a full breakfast menu, including omelets, Eggs Florentine and other specialties; 10 “Shore Break” appetizers; New England clam chowder plus four salads; “Sand Baskets,” with 13 choices of wraps, sandwiches, fingers, etc.; and seven main plates. Prices are moderate and choices are fairly straightforward.

Tuna, mahi, shrimp and crab cakes are among the main plates, and they are served with mashed potatoes and vegetables for a home-style touch. Yet the restaurant does not lack for creativity: coconut-crusted shrimp come not with the usual marmalade-like citrus dip, but with a rum pina colada sauce, and the crispy calamari is served with mango sriracha for a little Thai-type fusion.

Not surprisingly, a reuben is listed among the sandwiches. Surprisingly, it is made with lobster. The cheeseburger is a sizeable thing (7 ounces), grilled and served on a kaiser roll with shredded cheese and fries.

Add all of that to the restaurant’s glorious ambiance — the art, the architecture, the waves, the dunes, the breezes, the palms – and it appears that Pepaj has another beachside winner.

“In a sense, it’s much better than it took a little more time,” Pepaj says. “It’s turned out very nice. We’re very happy with the turnout and very happy with the restaurant.”

Sand on the Beach Bar & Grill

Address: 1005 Atlantic St., Melbourne Beach

Phone: 327-8951
Web site: www.citytropics.com
Hours: Breakfast: 7 a.m. to noon Sundays and Saturdays and 8 to 11 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Lunch and dinner are served all day, every day, to 10 or 11 p.m. Bikini Bar is open to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and to 1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The downstairs bar closes when the kitchen does.

Other: Two bars, outdoor seating