Within a week of moving to Key West with his girlfriend of eight years, Lindsey Johnson, André Amador had already found a job as a bartender and server at Sandbar Sports Grill, at 511 Greene Street just off of Duval Street, in an area famously referred to as the “200 block.”
This end of town is known for its alcohol-induced raucous behavior that comes with crowds of thousands, particularly when it’s New Year’s Eve, Spring Break or Fantasy Fest. The poor guy had never worked in a bar or restaurant a day in his life. This is a party for the professionals and yet, with no previous experience, he still managed to get the job. I’m guessing it must have been his very energetic and charismatic personality, which he displays when he is hopping around town saying hi to his friends after a long, busy shift, that more than likely sealed the deal for the eager André. But it also didn’t take him long to figure his way around the bar. Though he says he never in his life thought he would be bartending, judging by his enthusiasm it seems he is right where he is meant to be.
“The only person I knew when I moved into town was the owner of Tattoo’s and Scars Saloon. I was looking for a job and he pointed me across the street and told me they were hiring,” André explains. “So I went and filled out an application and the next day I was called back in and they hired me on the spot.”
“So how do you like bartending?” I ask.
“I’m loving every minute of it. It kind of came naturally,” he says before describing his style of bartending as “fast paced, yet attentive.”
This kind of “throwing you to the wolves” hiring tactic could be intimidating for some people, but for André it was simply the matter of a smile and busting a move. During our conversation, he makes sure to tell me a couple times that he often likes to “bust a move” whether it is behind the counter or as a patron himself.
“I love to go dancing,” he says, “drinking and dancing till the sun comes up. It doesn’t matter what it is, I could dance in 1,000 places.”
André and his girlfriend have been living and working in Key West for 20 months and he has become a gregarious part of the Sandbar family, and at times the life of the party. Believe me, I’ve seen the videos where he makes moves like Michael Jackson and easily convinces others to join him. It’s very contagious, and it’s very happy.
Of course, at this end of town, those who you play hard also have to work hard. Thus, André is at Sandbar every Monday, Thursday and Friday starting at 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays during the day. That gives those seeking something a little more off the beaten track plenty of opportunity to try the best Bloody Mary, which he makes by generously seasoning a touch of Zing- Zang with jalapeño, A1 steak sauce and fresh lime juice and a couple other secret ingredients. He is not afraid to admit that one of his managers taught him the recipe but he has been able to perfect it.
The restaurant is known for its low-key vibe with plenty of TVs and crowd-pleasing daily specials such as $5 nachos on Mexican Mondays, half-price tacos on Taco Tuesdays, and half-price wings on Wing Wednesdays. On Thursdays the special is half-price, loaded mac and cheese that includes toppings such as bleu cheese crumbles, bacon, steak and garlic. On Fridays you can get a 10-inch pizza for just $6. The regular menu includes a range of dishes from fried alligator tail to baby back rib baskets to stone crab chowder. It’s also worth mentioning that happy hour is every Monday through Friday from noon until 4 p.m., and includes half-priced hurricanes, margaritas, well drinks, house wine and domestic drafts. The whole operation is run by a group of people like André, who want to make it “the perfect piece of paradise to start your day” in a “come-as-you-are establishment.”
“Not one customer I’ve ever served has had anything bad to say. They are coming back on Facebook, TripAdvisor and Yelp with rave reviews,” André says. “We are a tight family here. It’s a great place to work and a great sports bar. Overall, I’m really glad I found these people.”
Before discovering a
passion for the hospitality industry, the Miami-born-and-bred André pursued a degree in show production and touring at Full Sail University in Winter Park and worked with video engineering and sound techniques for live music performances. Since moving to the island, he has worked on such events as the Songwriters Festival and at venues like Smokin’ Tuna Saloon.
The things that he loves about Key West are felt by most people who call this place home, such as “the smalltown feeling,” “that everyone looks out for each other” and his belief that “the locals are just really nice.” André is now one the locals and a person who genuinely enjoys meeting new people, having conversations with them and making people smile and feel welcomed. ¦
Sandbar Sports Grill 511 Greene Street 305- 916- 5530 www.sandbarkeywest.com