“I lost 50 percent of my typical business during the Zimmerman trial,” Moire Wisdom explains as she pours a 16-ounce Unibroue Éphémère cherry beer from the tap at her Sanford bar, Little Fish Huge Pond (401 S. Sanford Ave.).
The Pond served as our first stop on a Friday evening DIY pub crawl through downtown Sanford, and we soon learned that Wisdom’s not only the owner of the funky watering hole, a neighborhood joint branded by its eclectic decor and laid-back sofa vibe, she’s been an uplifting voice within a recovering Sanford – not to mention she’ll talk your ear off with historical facts about the town, and serves up an ample selection of beer and wine in between comical limericks about Rick Scott and George Zimmerman.
Wisdom offered a friendly farewell as we walked across Sanford Avenue to Belgian beer bar Buster’s Bistro (412 S. Sanford Ave.). A newer denizen of the downtown Sanford bar scene, the open-air concept and courtyard ambience of Buster’s comes second only to their lengthy craft beer menu (18 taps and 50 bottles, including large-format beers).
We took a seat at the bar and ordered a beer flight (four beers for $8): an Abbey-style quad, a Belgian amber, a Bavik pilsner and a Petrus Aged Red blended sour ale. Add in a cheese-and-prosciutto plate, plus a homemade Nutella crepe prepared by the bar’s owner in honor of the bar manager’s birthday, and you could say Buster’s furnishes a prime gathering place.
A few short blocks north, we landed at the main downtown Sanford strip along First Street and stepped inside Sapphire Cocktail Lounge (301 E. First St.) for a $5 margarita, which was that night’s special. I’m not sure if it was the neon blue ultra-lounge lighting or the face-melting Judas Priest soundtrack, or perhaps the overload of sour mix in my cocktail, but we weren’t feeling the vibe at Sapphire.
So we booked it down First Street to Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café (205 E. First St.), a German beer hall that’s pretty much a staple in these parts, offering authentic German cuisine with a side of live polka music and plenty of cheerful beer-chugging.
But by that time of the night the place was already closed (they’re open until 10 p.m. on weekends), so instead we sat down for a late dinner and sipped Dogfish Head IPAs and a Berry Delicious mojito with fresh muddled berries across the street in the outdoor patio environs of the Breezeway (112 E. First St.).
The seafood restaurant with both indoor and outdoor bar areas hosts a lively weekend drinking crowd – although, admittedly, the place might deserve less praise for its food and more props for its easygoing atmosphere, comprising cool breezes, twinkly overhead lights and a live acoustic guitarist.
After a night out in downtown Sanford, the remnants of a reeling neighborhood seem to gradually be mending together, especially when it comes to the small town’s active nightlife scene. With such a diverse selection of watering holes in the area, there’s really no reason not to return to Sanford soon for another round (or three).
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