Choosing a restaurant on Main St. in downtown Sarasota can feel like a gamble with kids. It can take a few loops up and down before finding a spot, and hungry kids never think that’s much fun. We risked it anyway, and amazing! Right in front of the restaurant, in the shade, the perfect parking spot! If this was any indication about how our experience at El Greco would go (and spoiler alert, it was), this was going to be an awesome meal out with my family.
We walked in and were warmly greeted by the hostess. She awwww’d a bit over the girls and chatted with me about how fast it goes as she led us to our table. My first impression was how welcomed I felt, and any worries about potential squeals and ‘outside voices’ from my daughters in an upscale restaurant, quickly washed away.
Crayons and placemats were given to the girls while the staff went to grab a highchair for Dori and a booster seat for Quinn. Our waiter, Kyle, came over to introduce himself and take our drink order. He returned swiftly with cute, sturdy, plastic, cups of water for the kids, complete with yellow bendy straws. He engaged with both girls personally, and I was impressed with how comfortable Quinn was with him because she is usually extremely shy with new people. I put an order in right away for a sampler order of spreads: hummus, eggplant, and tzatiki, served with pita triangles, to tide everyone over while we decided what else we wanted.
As I looked over the extensive menu, I was pleased to see choices for any appetite. There’s a kid’s menu of typical kid-fare like pizza, pasta, chicken nuggets, etc, but we skipped over that and opted instead for a bunch of different appetizers to taste and share. As much as Quinn (like me) could happily eat a bowl of pasta with butter and Parmesan every day, she will eat other foods when that’s the option in front of her, and we welcome an opportunity to broaden her tastes. Dori, also very much like me, will eat pretty much anything she’s offered enthusiastically.
By FAR the hit of our dinner, because all four of us loved it, was the Octopadi. When I ordered it, Quinn asked me, “Why you say octopus?” and Gabriel (my husband) got a pretty dirty look from me when he said, “It’s like Hank!” (If you haven’t seen Finding Dory, Hank is the color-changing, 7-armed (he lost a tentacle), good-hearted, mollusk) Thankfully, she was willing to try it anyway, and loved it so much that after her first tentative taste, she kept asking for more. Dori was making her goofy, little grunt noises between bites- which is her highest-level food compliment. I’ll add that Gabriel and I agreed this was the best octopus we’ve had in a long time- and it’s one of our favorite foods. For the quality of the dish, it was so inexpensive that we actually contemplated ordering another one but then looked at the still-full table and came back to reality.
We also shared the colorful and fresh Village Salad (which Dori grabbed for the second it was in front of her and ended up spilling the dressing all over the plate), Spanakopita, and the Shrimp special- which was outstanding, with artichokes, red and yellow peppers, and oregano, in a light, lemony sauce. All were presented beautifully, clearly plated with time and care, and tasted delicious.
When Kyle came to clear away our empty plates and ask if we wanted to see a dessert menu, Quinn confidently asked him if she could have some vanilla ice cream with strawberries, and I almost fell off of my chair. I have NEVER seen her speak directly to someone she doesn’t know before, and to make eye contact and ask him for exactly what she wanted proves just how natural and kind he was to our kids. He asked my permission and then told her he’d see what he could do. Gabriel and I took at quick look at our options and ordered the Tiramisu to share.
I wish you could have seen how big Quinn’s eyes were when that bowl of ice cream arrived. She was giggling like a loon, anticipating the perfect dessert. Gabriel and I pretty much reacted the same way when we saw our Tiramisu, and it was clear that sugar is the key to my family’s heart. I’m doing the low carb/no sugar thing right now…but some things are worth justifying a little cheat for, and this was it. Quinn was generous enough to share with her sister, and Dori, who we thought was definitely too full from eating everything else in sight, proved that there is always more room when ice cream is concerned. Before we knew it, spoons clinked against empty dishes, and we were ready for our check.
I made a quick escape to check out the bathroom, and found the only negative in this whole experience. No changing table! Adding one would be such a simple fix that would definitely bring El Greco to the top of the family-friendly, local, go-to list. Hopefully they will consider it since they are so accommodating in every other way. If you’re like me, you have a changing pad in the trunk of your car for exactly this purpose, so it’s not a big deal…but if you don’t, facing options like laying your own cardigan on the bathroom floor to get it done is not an appealing choice at all. Anyway, I’m not going to hold that one detail against them too much since our experience was fantastic. I took of 1 star in my ratings, but almost was willing to just let it slide since everything else was so on-point.
I actually ate here years ago but all I ordered was a salad with grilled shrimp, so I missed the opportunity to realize that a very talented chef runs this kitchen. The prices, for the portions and quality, are totally fair- and maybe even a bit under where they could be. There is no question that this was one of the best meals I’ve had in Sarasota. My family will be adding it to our frequent-visit list, and I hope to bump into some of you there with your kids too!
On a scale of:
“I don’t like that” to ”Tastes like candy”
***** (5 stars)
- SPEED OF SERVICE
On a scale of:
Getting-out-the-door-with-2-small-humans to Pulling-over-when-your-toddler-says-”I have to go potty”
- KID FRIENDLINESS
On a scale of:
The waiting room at the DMV to Disney
**** (4 stars)
On a scale of:
A million dollars to a penny
**** (4 stars)