Archive for March, 2011

03/16/2011

Michael’s on East

(2006) There it sits in an unfashionable part of town, no view of water, nature preserve or even a golf course. Its neighbors are a food market and drug store, and it shares parking space with a behemoth medical complex on the other side. Who would think from just driving by that Michael’s On East […]

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03/16/2011

MoZaic

(2009) In mid-December, a superb little restaurant and wine bar debuted quietly on Main Street in downtown Sarasota. Those foodies whose radar was working (count international cooking teacher Giuliano Hazan among them) enjoyed a rare treat: a table at a moment’s notice at one of the best new restaurants to open here in recent memory. […]

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03/16/2011

Melting Pot

(2009) Fondue is a food trend that came and went and is now back again. Home sets are appearing on bridal registries, and Target has a great- looking Michael Graves-designed fondue set for only $40. But if you want to eat your fondue in a restaurant with all the work done for you, investigate the […]

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03/14/2011

Mattison’s 41

(2008) Chef Paul Mattison, a veteran restaurateur with a reputation and a following along this stretch of Florida’s Gulf Coast, seems to have done it again with his latest venture. Even a mere five days after opening, when most new restaurants are just beginning to find their legs, Mattison’s 41 was running as smoothly as […]

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03/14/2011

Marina Jack

(2008) Marina Jack has always been about the view. In fact, it sometimes feels as if the Sarasota bayfront fixture has been around as long as Sarasota Bay itself. For years it’s been the first place many of us have taken visitors for a taste of coastal living, as well as for that staple from […]

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03/14/2011

Mangrove Grill

Mangrove Grill is located in Palmetto, but with its casual island décor, relaxed waterside setting and breezy menu, it might as well be Margaritaville. Mangrove Grill is a friendly neighborhood hangout for the upmarket enclave of Riviera Dunes Marina Resort, a burgeoning community of estate homes and high-rise condominiums on the Manatee River. I can’t […]

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03/14/2011

Maison Blanche

I like Maison Blanche on Longboat Key almost as much for the theater of the place as for the ambrosial haute cuisine it serves so beautifully six evenings a week. Think of it as a play. Act I: Setting All the machinery of this fine restaurant is offstage. The kitchen, for example, is the sanctum […]

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03/14/2011

Lido Beach Grille

The makeover that turned Christopher’s on Lido into Lido Beach Grille was, in the main, a success. And if views figure prominently in your plans for an evening out, you’ll swoon over this restaurant’s lofty perch on the eighth floor of Lido Beach Resort. The bar, staffed by affable pros, looks north through a wall […]

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03/14/2011

Libby’s Cafe + Bar

(2009) First came the beloved and long-running originals, Fred’s and its trusty sidekick, The Tasting Room. Next was the new Fred’s, which was pretty good but didn’t last long. Now Libby’s Café + Bar holds pride of place in the block opposite Morton’s Market in Sarasota’s Southside Village, and the good times have returned. The […]

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03/14/2011

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse

(2008) Red and lots of it is the right shade for a steakhouse, as anyone who has made the pilgrimage to Bern’s in Tampa, the Bay area’s reigning homegrown, over-the-top exemplar of the form, knows full well. Hyde Park Steakhouse in downtown Sarasota (the mother ship is in Cleveland) employs a more subdued and varied […]

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03/14/2011

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

More refined than Outback and less price intimidating than Ruth’s Chris, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar is upscale, but not haute extreme. Wine is important at Fleming’s; it’s used as part of the decor at the bar and displayed in racks in the upper and lounge-level dining rooms. Look for an open kitchen (notice […]

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03/14/2011

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

(2008) Five Guys Burgers and Fries built its cult following in the Washington, D.C., metro area and has been spreading the mania far and wide, including—thank heaven!—to two locations here. How good is the chow? Well, Michelle Obama treated her staff to a Five Guys luncheon not long after she arrived in Washington, which just […]

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03/14/2011

Ezra

(2006) The wait staff at Ezra wears blue jeans with white dress shirts, neckties and bistro aprons. Such counterpoint of high-low, casual-sophisticated makes this Bradenton cafe work as both a relaxed neighborhood hangout for locals and as a destination for Sarasota foodies. The biggest surprise here is how ambitious the menu is and how reasonable […]

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03/14/2011

El Warike

(2008) On 26th Street West in Bradenton, a short block north of Cortez Road, look for a down-at-the-heels strip center anchored at its south end by a diamond in the rough. The name above the door is El Warike, and its secret is superb Peruvian cuisine with a strong accent on seafood. The quality of […]

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03/14/2011

El Greco

(2009) A facelift and name change have brightened up this downtown stalwart considerably, but the best news is that there now are sidewalk tables under a shade canopy. El Greco built its rep on its gyro, that meld of thinly sliced lamb and beef on pita bread with raw onion, tomato and yogurt-y, cucumber-y tzatziki […]

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03/14/2011

Derek’s

(2006) When we arrived at Derek’s, there seemed to be an overabundance of neatly attired waitstaff standing about in black pants and shirts with long bistro aprons tied trimly around the waist. But it wasn’t long until they were bustling around the restaurant, shuttling from open kitchen to table, shouldering a constant stream of interesting-looking […]

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03/14/2011

Currents

(2005) It once was called Scalini’s and before that Pompano Cay. Now the restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota is called Currents, but much more than the name has changed. Both the decor and the menu have been thoughtfully updated and streamlined. The dining room’s design is now ultra-clean, relying for its punch on the […]

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03/14/2011

Cosimo’s

(2007) It used to be that mall food was associated with fast food, not fine dining. That’s changed in a big way. Nowadays, you’ll find many chain and independent restaurants either incorporated into the array of retail at a mall or saddled up next to it as free-standing eateries. In Sarasota, we’ve been ahead of […]

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03/14/2011

Chutney’s

(2007) Chutney’s, in the foodie’s mecca of Southside Village, is a “nabe.” At least that’s what we would have called it when I lived in Chicago, which abounds in small restaurants serving what once might quaintly have been thought of as “niche cuisine,” usually a style of cooking and foodstuffs associated with one particular patch […]

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03/14/2011

C’est La Vie

(2007) For the adventurous diner with eclectic tastes, the restaurants, bars and cafés that line Sarasota’s Main Street between Palm and Orange avenues constitute the mother lode. Tapas or sushi or pho, Peruvian or Italian or Mexican cooking, cheap or dear, clubby or utterly unpretentious: It’s all right there in three gloriously mixed-up blocks. On […]

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