Every town has dining venues revered for reasons that may be far separate from the menu, including a building's location, history or appearance. All three factor into the appeal of The Bank: Barroom & Eatery, one of three new restaurants in Sandpoint's small-but-dense downtown core.
The Bank is one of the first Sandpoint eateries seen when entering town from the south on Highway 95 and the Long Bridge. It occupies the ground floor of a two-story, turn-of-the-century brick structure that's housed a succession of restaurants, including Sand Creek Grill. Most recently, it was Beet and Basil, which is now operating out of a food truck at the Bonner Mall. (Meanwhile, its owners Jeremy Holzapfel and Jessica Vouk are building a spot nearby, slated to open in 2023.)
The Bank's name was inspired, in part, by its history, according to owner Nicholas "Nick" Nizzoli.
"I wanted to do a little nod to its origin as a financial building," Nizzoli says. Some still refer to it as the Fidelity Trust building.
The Bank also relates to the restaurant's location on the banks of Sand Creek, he says.
The current menu is modest with a handful of shareables, entrees and rotating specials, though Nizzoli plans to expand it in 2023, starting lunch service in January and brunch in June. The Bank Board ($19) varies seasonally and currently features focaccia from Bluebird Bakery and Selle Valley Creamery cheese, as well as hummus, toasted nuts, assorted raw veggies and pickles.
Nizzoli, who grew up in Sandpoint and worked at the iconic Ivano's Ristorante (now the Blue Room) as a teenager, is partial to The Bank's warmed citrus olives ($9).
"They're really high-quality, Italian imported olives and olive oil and herbs that marinate and then we heat them up and it's just an awesome little bar snack appetizer," he says.
Also try the arugula salad ($16) with local Pack River Farms' greens or dig into a heartier entree like short ribs ($32) with rosemary demi glace and cheesy polenta.
Nizzoli opened The Bank in July 2022 following a remodel that included adding a second full bar to serve the back patio. Outside, he repainted the walls, an unusual river rock door, and window trim in two-toned gray. Nizzoli also relocated the First Avenue-facing ingress to the building's north side so patrons enter into the bar, versus the dining area, which parallels his focus on craft cocktails.
"It's been something I've been really passionate about since I started in this industry," says Nizzoli, whose hospitality experience includes bartending and managing busy clubs in Boise, where he earned an economics degree at Boise State University.
On visits home, however, Nizzoli realized Sandpoint's craft cocktail scene was lacking. When he moved back to Sandpoint during pandemic-related shutdowns, Nizzoli spent two years nurturing plans for his own place while working at another iconic Sandpoint spot, Eichardt's Pub and Grill, which Nick's father, Jeff, founded in 1994 and still owns.
Nizzoli's cocktail menu emphasizes scratch-made ingredients — bitters, shrubs, syrups, juices— with a twist. For someone used to Jack Daniels and Coke, says Nizzoli, he'll suggest "another cocktail that might use honey and bitters with your whiskey and get some of those flavors that you're comfortable with, but in a new platform."
The Bank also offers options for the alcohol-averse.
"In my generation, there's a lot of people that have decided that drinking isn't for them," observes Nizzoli, who adds that "maybe they went a little hard in college, or it just doesn't align with their lifestyle."
The zero proof Health Food ($7) drink features a carrot-ginger shrub while the Sunset ($9), which contains 3 percent alcohol, has sloe gin, lemon juice and herbal tea.
"Everyone deserves to experience and have something that's beautiful and exciting and tasty," Nizzoli says.
105 S. First Ave. • Open Tue-Thu
4-8 pm, Fri-Sat 4-9 pm •
thebanksandpoint.com • 208-946-2952
BEET AND BASIL
775 Bonner Mall Way, Ponderay
• Open Wed-Fri 11 am-3pm •
beetandbasil.net • 208-627-7715
100 N. First Ave.• Open Sun-Thu
10 am-7 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am-8 pm •
barrel33sandpoint.com • 208-920-6258
113 Main St. • Open Tue-Sat
3-9 pm • 208-255-7558
Next door to The Bank is another of two new Sandpoint watering holes. Barrel 33 opened in October, featuring a mostly local drink menu and a small, thoughtful food menu. Patrons can find local beers from MickDuff's, No-Li Brewhouse, and Paragon Brewing, or local wines from Spokane's Barrister, Moscow's Colter's Creek and Sandpoint's Cabin View wineries.
The menu includes shareables like baked brie ($12) with fig jam and crackers, a pretzel ($15) with beer cheese and mustard, and assorted flatbreads ($13-$16), as well as toasted sandwiches ($13-$15) and desserts like classic chocolate lava cake ($10).
A third new spot in Sandpoint is still a work-in-progress, according to owner Justin Dick, a current Sandpoint City Council member and longtime restaurateur. In addition to co-owning Jalapeño's, Dick created Trinity at City Beach with wife Shaunavee inside the Best Western Edgewater in 2009. Anticipating changes to the hotel where Trinity is currently located, however, the Dicks purchased a single-story brick building at 113 Main Street, which they recently opened as a bar and restaurant, for now called 113 Main.
"We have a full bar, beer and wine with some small plates while the last of our kitchen equipment is being installed," Dick says.
He hopes to offer a full menu by January 2023 with entrees like crispy skin-on halibut over house-made gnocchi with white wine-butter sauce, fennel and capers.
Similar to The Bank, 113 Main incorporates local history into its brand.
"We worked with the Bonner County Historical Society to pull historic photographs from the building's past and will eventually work with the public to rename the establishment," Dick says, noting 113 Main was formerly a trolly station, dry cleaner and most recently, Truby's Health Mart.
"I'd like to incorporate the building's past and preserve the history through the various businesses that inhabited the space [so] that Sandpoint, new and old, will remember or receive a history lesson," Dick says.
Because 113 Main will likely be renamed, it doesn't yet have an online presence or even a phone. Instead, Dick directs people to contact Trinity at City Beach with questions or, better yet, just be adventurous and stop by in person. ♦