‘Tis the season, friends—the season for eating, that is. We’ve sampled new bites from local spots, we’ve expanded our waistlines in the name of research, and we’re here to report on what we’ve tasted.
DUVAL’S NEW WORLD CAFÉ
Duval’s interior is sleek and open.
A new kid on the block—the “block” being Main Street, in this case—Duval’s, which is housed in a renovated space with sleek accessories and a purple and silver theme, offers seafood-oriented fare with a New Orleans twist. The hands-down standouts, though, are the po’ boys: shrimp, scallop, oyster, calamari, chicken or any combination thereof. The crab and shrimp cake appetizer is a winner, as well, as is the homemade bread pudding.
Left: Shrimp po’ boy; right: homemade bread pudding.
The evening menu (4:30-close) offers items like filet mignon, crab-stuffed salmon, herb-crusted rack of lamb and scallops Rockefeller, as well as a catch of the day. But it’s those po’ boys that we think are going to be a real hit—the kind of food for which you make a special lunch trip just to get your fix. 1435 Main St., Sarasota (941) 312-4001 www.duvalsnewworldcafe.com
LIBBY’S CAFÉ + BAR
The wild mushroom ravioli was a standout for several of us editors at a recent dinner—especially when accompanied by excellent steamed asparagus and those famous Libby’s biscuits (served with garlic, truffle butter and cherry preserves). The small plates—like “Karubi” pork belly ribs, crispy red lentil cakes and the hamachi rice paper roll (with avocado, pickled ginger, daikon, carrots and radish sprouts)—are great to mix and match, and skirt steak over succotash and fried grouper cheeks aren’t to be missed, either.
For the happy-hour crowd, Libby’s has a great nightly one that includes half-price bar-food faves and a weekly Gals’ Night Out, where the Champagne flows and ladies enjoy $2 wines by the glass from 8-11 p.m. 1917 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota (941) 487-7300 www.libbyscafebar.com
Brasserie Belge wowed us from the get-go, but it’s the opening of its new piano lounge that recently piqued our interest. The lounge, which is open from 7-11 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, boasts live music by pianist Joe Yander and comfortable black-leather couches arranged around coffee tables that provide the perfect place to sit back and relax with a martini or Belgian beer from the restaurant’s excellent drink menu.
There’s a dedicated lounge menu, too, that features standard bar fare like calamari but also shrimp skewers, boqueros (anchovy-topped French bread with spicy aioli and balsamic reduction), a charcuterie plate and, of course, those famous Belgian frites (which took the title of best fries in Sarasota in our recent fry-tasting). 1990 Main St., Sarasota (941) 706-1944 www.brasseriebelge.com
It seems like anything Sean Murphy touches turns to gold (see: Beach Bistro), and the downtown Sarasota outpost of his Eat Here restaurant concept is no exception. Located in the space that formerly housed Esca and, most recently, Urban Reef, Eat Here offers a small-plate-centric menu that encourages diners to share—like lobster tacos, smoked salmon and crème fraiche pizza and seafood stew.
We love the cheeky nods to other local businesses on the menu (a listing for bar-b-que, for example, instructs diners to “try Nancy’s on Ringling and Pineapple”), and especially enjoyed sitting outside on a several cool early-December nights. And for those curious about the upstairs space, there’s a full bar, separate menu and great view of downtown Sarasota awaiting. 1888 Main St., Sarasota (941) 365-8700 www.eatheresarasota.com
Where have you been eating lately? Post any great new finds in the comments!
To view a comprehensive list of Sarasota restaurants, check out our Dining Guide!