Tag Archives: florida

Walt’s Fish Market & Restaurant: 4144 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL

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Things I love about Walt’s:

1. It’s literally across the street from my favorite 6:30pm Tuesday night candlelight power yoga class at Family Tree Yoga.

2. The market is full of super fresh, reasonably priced choices.

3. There’s pretty much always a place to sit in their outdoor section- which is open and airy. Even though it’s view is of a parking lot, it still somehow feels sort of beachy, and there is often live acoustic music.

4. Huge cups of ice cold water. (Too bad they are in environmentally unfriendly styrofoam)

5. A reasonably priced menu with tons of options that sound appealing.

6. The yummy, complimentary, smoked mullet starter they bring with loads of saltines.

7. Their blue cheese dressing is AMAZING. Huge chunks of cheese and seriously just so so so so good.

Things I don’t really love about Walt’s:

1. The food is so- so. Although everything is fresh, it’s boring and uncreative. They love to fry stuff and/or drown it in unnecessary amounts of butter and oil. The salads are mostly comprised of iceberg lettuce (boo). The veggies on the side are usually overcooked and mushy, and again, just boring boring boring. I wish they would get a little creative with what they offer, but the couple of times I’ve been there, I’ve ended up feeling like I really should have just bought seafood in their market and taken it home to cook it myself.

2. The waitstaff, though they are friendly, are super slow. It is not a place I advise dining at if you’re in a hurry.

3. Even though the prices seem fair at first glance, it still ends up costing more than it should in the end.

The moral of the story is that I have been there twice, and kind of doubt I’ll go again. If I do, it will just be for the market, which really does have some seafood worth buying. I will learn my lesson this time and next time will be my own chef.

 

 

 

 

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Louie’s Modern: 1289 N. Palm Ave. Sarasota, FL

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I have a new Sarasota favorite! YAY! I met my family here for a goodbye dinner as my parents are heading out of town for the summer. Knowing that it’s run by the same people as Libby’s, (another fav) I knew I was in for a treat. I did go with slightly lowered expectations because of a surprising number of poor reviews on Yelp, but I had an open mind having been misled by Yelpers before.

Pulling up to the cool building/parking lot/outdoor bar area, It looked like a pretty fancy place by Florida standards. We walked inside to find beautifully tasteful decor. A sleek fountain in the front sets the tone of the ambiance which is minimalist, detail-oriented and chic. It is young, modern and hip feeling, but not in a trendy way.

We were seated at a comfortable banquette and looked over our placemat-menus. It has one of the most appealing selections of any restaurant I’ve been to. Even as a non-meat-eater, there were tons of awesome choices and picking one was not an easy task. It was made a little easier when Gabriel agreed to share two different salads as a starter.

The Kale Caesar was exceptional. I happen to love Kale in any form, but for the many people who don’t, I think this salad would be a great way to try it again. It didn’t even need the dressing that it came with, but once I tasted the creamy, delicious version of this classic, I devoured it even faster. The other salad we ordered was the Hawaiian Hearts of Palm with roasted beets, sunchoke, shaved fennel, radish, cucumber, pressed ricotta, and a fancy aged balsamic. It was light but full of flavor with ingredients that definitely don’t find their way into my at-home salads. Although I preferred the Kale salad, this too was wonderful.

For my entree, I ordered the Wood Fired Scottish Salmon served with blood orange confit, hearts of palm,  and pomegranate. I had a delicious side of roasted mushrooms- which sadly, I forgot to photograph. Both were outstanding, cooked to perfection and full of unexpected, complimentary flavors. The portion sizes were just right- and except for a small taste of a homemade cracker and some garlic toast, I didn’t even need to fill up on the awesome (and dangerously tempting) basket of bread on the table. I did, however, fall victim to sharing a glorious slice of Key Lime pie. It’s one of my very favorite desserts and not even wedding-preparation dieting could hold me back from indulging in a shared piece. (This too, I forgot to photograph. Sorry!)

Overall, my experience here was way above my expectations. It’s no surprise that even in the ‘off season’ they were crowded and having a reservation proved to be a good (and necessary) idea. I hope that my 5 star review will help the Yelp ratings, which I am happy to report, are WAY off.  I will surely be back asap. The prices are reasonable for an amazing dinner out, and I honestly loved everything about it. Bravo!

 

Shoogie Boogies, 1919 Morrill St, Sarasota, FL

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I was lucky enough to have a beautiful bridal shower thrown for me at Shoogie Boogies. It was the most perfect setting I could imagine, and everything was flawless. I found the owner to be extremely patient, detail-oriented, friendly and with seriously awesome taste. I’ve read a bunch of reviews of Shoogie Boogies on various websites and am honestly shocked to read anything that’s less than top notch. I’m guessing that some of the complainers are ‘bridezilla types’ who found some way to make it the restaurant’s fault if it rained, or if the strawberry wasn’t exactly the shade of red that they’d requested.

My guests and I were warmly welcomed into the flower-filled garden area with champagne flutes of elderberry water. Yummm, delightfully refreshing! We sat at a long table under giant white umbrellas, and took in the amazing presentations of tea sandwiches on pedestals, cheese and cracker plates, fresh bread and olive oil, and ginger/pear iced tea. The touches on each table setting were adorable, from napkin rings with fresh flowers, to lovely floral arrangements and quirky fairy-tale touches everywhere. You really have to see this place to believe just how girly/romantic/charming the setting is. It’s really a dream.

Soon, wonderful salads were brought out, and we all enjoyed the excellent quality cheeses and fresh fruits and veggies. When the owner noticed dark clouds overhead, she thoughtfully prepared one of the inside rooms for us, and invited us to move under cover for desserts and gift-opening. We took her up on her offer, not wanting to get soaked any more than her staff did, and moved inside to another beautiful setting. Her portrait photography on the walls is exquisite, and everyone enjoyed looking at each one in what felt like a private dining room at a gallery.

Our iced teas were refilled and dessert platters were brought out to share. Each of the sample-sized cakes were delicious, but the total amount for 12 sugar-loving women was a little on the skimpy side. That alone is seriously the only fault I can find in this beautiful day, and really not enough of one to even bother with. I do have to be honest though, and if everything I wrote was gushy, you wouldn’t believe it anyway 🙂

I can’t possibly recommend Shoogie Boogies any higher. If you have a ladies lunch, a girls outing, a bridal or baby shower or even a wedding, it’s a perfect choice. I can’t wait to go back, so please feel free to invite me!

Cracker’s Bar & Grill: 502 NW 6th St. Crystal River, FL

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After an AMAZING experience of swimming with a wild manatee, Gabriel and I found ourselves starving and in a town we knew nothing about. Our boat captain told us that Crackers is the best place around to grab lunch, so we headed straight there.

We walked through the restaurant to be seated out back, and found a huge deck with round tables and umbrellas. It had a tiki bar/casual vibe and there was even the predictable dude-with-guitar playing decent, classic rock, cover tunes.

Our waiter took our order and made a few suggestions. We started with the clam strips appetizer- one of my favorite and very rarely indulged-in snacks. We decided to share the suggested salmon and grouper sandwiches with sides of fries and a salad.

The clam strips came out quickly and looked awesome- if not kind of skimpy. They were hot, crunchy and a little bit more breaded than I like, but we polished them off so quickly that we felt a little shorted. The price was more or less fair, but the portion really could have been a bit more generous.

The sandwiches and the bread they came on were delicious. The fish was simply prepared and fresh, and the ripe tomatoes and crunchy lettuce were refreshing. The rolls were great for the first few bites, but quickly got soggy beyond holding, and ended up on the plate while we used a fork to finish the fish. The fries were exactly as requested- extra crunchy and well-done. The salad, made mostly of iceberg and croutons, left a lot to be desired. I find it especially odd when the sandwiches come with a decent lettuce like romaine, and then they skimp with a salad made of iceberg.

Overall, the setting was what made this a memorable meal. The food was pretty good- but not really noteworthy. If you’re in the area, it’s a fair choice, but I’d be inclined to explore more if I’m ever back there with some time and hunger on my hands.

 

Mattison’s City Grille, 1 North Lemon Ave, Sarasota, FL

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As you may or may not know, Gabriel and I donate blood regularly every 8 weeks. When we moved to FL and continued the tradition we’d started in NYC, we found that the donation center here gives a restaurant gift card after every 3 donations. Score! Everyone wins!

We decided to go to Mattison’s City Grille.  On our first attempt, a loud, not-very-good, cover band was playing and we decided to change our plans. We tried again a couple of weeks later and found a great jazz band playing and we asked to be seated.

We sat at a corner table on the outside edge of the dining area (and didn’t realize until later that the smell of gasoline from the torches would repeatedly waft over to us). The waiter came over and took our order, and at that time we also asked for bread, water, and utensils. We did not see our waiter again until almost 30 minutes later, when he showed up with our bread and entrees all together at the same time. We still had no water or utensils. We requested them. More than 5 minutes later, another waiter walked by and we asked HIM to bring us water and utensils, which he gladly did immediately.

Our food was actually pretty good, and had the service not completely ruined it, my opinion on Mattison’s would be quite different. The bread and butter were both delicious, with touches of rosemary and garlic. The salmon that topped the dinner salad was fresh, and cooked exactly right. The mushrooms that came with the ravioli were meaty and probably my favorite part of the meal. The ravioli and sauce were also excellent.

Overall, well, I’m not really sure. Did we just get one really bad waiter but maybe the others are all good? We still have another gift certificate so I guess we’ll go back eventually. I’ll let you know!

Don Pablos: 5911 Fruitville Rd. Sarasota, FL

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Gabriel and I had a ‘free dip sampler’ coupon for the longest time and finally decided to use it. When we arrived, we found a very casual but cool atmosphere in a huge space that looked like a converted warehouse or fire station. It was busy, and very family/kid friendly. We were seated immediately at a booth and the waitress took our orders for a frozen margarita to share and the dip sampler. We also placed our entree orders at that time for the shrimp fajitas and the portobello mushroom fajitas.

The dips arrived a few minutes later with our massive (way too sweet) margarita, and we enjoyed the fresh, warm chips and super indulgent dips. This is not the kind of food we’d normally order because it was probably a week’s worth of fat and carbs, but we thought it was a pretty tasty treat. Being that this was ‘moving week’ for us, we were starving, out of kitchen supplies, and totally ok with eating junk food for a meal.

The fajitas and toppings were very plentiful and the quality was so-so. Nothing to write home about, nothing to rush to go back for, but definitely filling and tasty. The shrimp were on the salty side and the mushrooms were flavored with seasonings that I didn’t love, but the tortillas were fresh and hot and the guacamole was cool and creamy.

I doubt we will be back- but not because it wasn’t a perfectly decent meal. We just really love Mi Pueblo, and the price, efficiency, atmosphere and food there all trump Don Pablos by a long shot.

Papa Nick’s Pasta & Pizza: 4940 Fruitville Rd, Sarasota, FL

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For 3 months, Gabriel and I lived practically across the street from Papa Nick’s. It wasn’t until the night before we moved to another town that we finally got around to trying it. It was fairly late for dinner (by Florida standards) and there was just one other group there when we arrived. We sat in the main dining room but quickly asked to be moved because it was freezing in there. The waitress was happy to find us a table in a warmer section and we sat down to look at the menus.

The prices are very reasonable, with most entrees around $13 and including soup, salad, bread and pasta. The menu, however,  is nothing special. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect of a strip mall Italian restaurant. We ordered a glass of Chianti to share- but found it to be extremely watery. I guess for a $5 glass, we shouldn’t have expected anything great. The bread was at least a day old already and had a stale crust. The clam chowder was watery and sort of gummy with no real clam pieces and only an occasional bite of potato. It was also sort of luke warm. The salads were mostly iceberg lettuce with a couple of ripe grape tomatoes and a slice of cucumber, and were served with plastic squeeze bottels of dressing. Classy.

Our main dishes were actually quite good- but pretty much everything is quite good when it’s smothered in loads of mozzarella cheese. I should definitely give credit where it’s due however, and the truth is that the tomato sauce is fantastic. It’s exactly how I like it with a slight sweetness to it and a smooth, thick, consistency. The spinach/ricotta stuffed shells were the favorite over the eggplant parmesan, but really both were enjoyable.  The pasta was typical boxed penne- and at that point I was too full to want more carbs.

Overall, for about $15 per person including tip, I guess I would recommend it in certain situations…For instance, if you are starving from packing all day, close by, and with less than $20 per person to spend, give it a shot!