Tag Archives: groupon

Roessler’s Restaurant: 2033 Vamo Way, Sarasota, FL

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I am a huge fan of living social/groupon type deals. I often buy too many at one time, and then realize that at least one of them is getting close to expiring. I bought the Roessler’s deal a while back when my honey and I were still trying to find a venue for our wedding. I had heard that Roessler’s was a really pretty setting and worth checking out, and then a few days later, I saw a $40 for $20 offered online and scooped it up. I figured it would be a perfect way to check out the setting and the food at a fair price. Roessler’s is known for being on the pricey side, so a Living Social opportunity made it a lot more doable for us.

We made our reservation for the exact day the coupon was going to expire because we literally could not find any other day that would work being the busy X-mas/New Year’s season. We arrived to find a really lovely restaurant in an unexpected place- along South Tamiami Trail among Target, Walmart etc. It was sort of off of the main street in the back, where you’d really never expect to find a pretty restaurant hiding.

We were led into a large dining room and seated by a window with a view of a garden. If we weren’t already totally thrilled with the beach front wedding venue we’d chosen, I could totally see having it here. Our waiter was a bit on the schmaltzy/theatrical/cocky side, but more or less entertaining none-the-less, and definitely efficient at his job. He brought us menus and water, and went over the specials for us. After seeing that the entrees were in the $30-$40 range, we decided on sharing a bunch of appetizers instead, and with a list of many appealing ones, the choice wasn’t easy. We settled on 2 salads; an excellent caesar and an iceberg wedge- which was described to us as having smokehouse bacon, fresh tomatoes and a buttermilk blue cheese dressing. When it came out, smothered in way too much dressing, and having one, lonely, halved, grape tomato, we were a bit disappointed. The dressing was really outstanding with it’s chunks of aged blue cheese- even though it was pretty much drowning the lettuce, but the one skimpy tomato, two sad croutons and tiny bit of crumbled bacon was sort of a let down.

Next we thoroughly enjoyed the smoked salmon appetizer. It was served with toast, cream cheese, capers, red onions and sliced hard boiled egg. The quality of the fish was clearly very fine, and we polished this plate off quickly.

The scallops in citrus sauce were probably my favorite dish. Huge scallops, cooked perfectly without a hint of chewiness. The sauce was buttery and fragrant and I admit to using bread to sop up some of what was left behind. The escargot were prepared in the classic French manner and were good, but not particularly exciting in their garlic herb butter. Again, however, the sauce made me want to ask for a refill on our bread basket, which I did.

For dessert, we decided on the chocolate mousse. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most daring or creative sounding option, but we saw a few go to the next table and it just looked so darn good. It arrived quickly and totally met our expectations. Rich and chocolatey and as light and airy as a heavy cream based dessert can possibly be.

The atmosphere (mainly the outdoor atmosphere)  is definitely the highlight at Roessler’s, even though the food is surely very good. It would probably thrill a ton of people, but my tastes tend to sway more toward very creative, original foods instead of the classics. The crowd here is definitely older and a bit stodgy, making this an ideal restaurant to take your grandparents for a fancy occasion. As far as coming back as a couple, I would doubt it.

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Station 400: 8215 Main St. Lakewood Ranch, FL

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Apparently my friends are always slightly nervous when they are the ones picking the restaurant we are meeting at. It made me laugh to hear that, but I guess I can see why since you never really know what I’ll think of a place. Luckily for this particular couple that Gabriel and I were meeting up with for lunch, they pretty much always pick winners.

Station 400 is a couple of miles from where we live and we’d been meaning to try it. We met up for lunch and I was immediately impressed with the cute, train-themed atmosphere, complete with a model train periodically circling the ceiling in full view. The menu was full of great sounding choices and I knew it would be a tough decision being that brunch is my favorite meal of the day (unless you include dessert as a meal). It seems a shame when a restaurant only offers breakfast and brunch and overlooks the more lucrative meal of the day by closing before dinner time, but I suppose they know what works for them. Before I even ordered, I’d already assumed everything would be great and was thinking about what I’d pick the next time we came in. It was 1pm on a Sunday, and we’d woken up fairly early, had breakfast, and taken a yoga class, so by the time 1:00 rolled around, I was ready for lunch type foods. I was tempted by the truffle eggs benedict, the blueberry stuffed, almond crusted, croissant french toast (WOAH) and the salmon caesar salad, but wanting to stay on the healthy side, I ultimately ended up choosing the portobello sandwich (YUM) with a side of cucumber/tomato olive salad. Gabriel had the open faced roast beef sandwich with blue cheese, caramelized onions, horseradish and parmesan fries on the side and my mouth watered as I convinced him to share both meals. Both were excellent with fresh ingredients, perfectly paired ingredients and manageable portions. Our friend’s dishes also looked awesome, and I had to sample Rachel’s amazing sweet potato fries. Neil’s fried green tomato BLT also looked amazing and I made a note to myself to order that one on another occasion.

 

The incredible looking homemade muffins (with flavors like maple/bacon, strawberry/lavender and peach/ginger), cake and pastries looked too lovely to ignore and we decided to share a cinnamon roll to finish off the meal with something sweet and special. The icing on top was a rich, cream cheese based gooey treat, and the bun itself was crisp, cinnamony and clearly fresh-baked. Just like the entrees, this was wonderful and left us wanting more- even though we were totally full.

Clearly, we’d have to return frequently to try all of the tempting plates they offered. Good thing they are close and super reasonably priced with almost everything under $10. We will absolutely and positively be back soon.

 

Brasserie Belge: 1990 Main St. Sarasota, FL

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When we lived in NYC, Gabriel and I used to use Groupon-type deals ALL the time. It was a way that we could go out to try new restaurants without spending a fortune- and the opportunities were endless as we got new offers at least daily from Groupon, living social, yelp deals, buy with me, KGB deals etc. When we moved to Florida, it was one of the things I knew I’d miss- in fact, we even included it on our ‘will miss’ list on our blog: byebyeny.wordpress.com . The offers here are few and far between, and usually for activities and spa services as opposed to dining.

Imagine my excitement when, after our first month of living here, we finally received a Groupon offer for a restaurant we’d been wanting to try called Brasserie Belge in downtown Sarasota. Most of the offers I see are up near Tampa or St. Petersburg, so I was really happy to get a local one, for a great deal, just 20 minutes from where we live. I jumped on it and called for a reservation. My father, who had strongly recommended the mussels here, also gave us a great tip that if you sign up for emails on their website, you can print out a coupon for a free crepe dessert. Score!

We went for date night last Saturday and were seated right away outside, as requested. Our waiter came out right away to offer sparkling or flat water, tell us the specials and take our drink orders. I decided on a ‘Hot and Dirty Martini‘ which was absolut peppar vodka, dry vermouth, olive juice and blue cheese stuffed olives and hot peppers (which were AMAZING) I loved my cocktail and could probably have really spoiled my dinner with a few more of those delicious olives. Fresh, soft bread and butter was brought to us soon after. It was fine- but nothing special and fairly unremarkable. This was actually a good thing since we had lots of food coming and I’ve definitely been known to fill up on bread before the meal arrives.

For our apps, we shared the Salade Brussels; Iceberg lettuce, shredded parmesan cheese, hard-boiled egg, croutons, Caesar dressing. I was fairly disappointed with it, but it was really my own fault for not noticed the ‘iceberg lettuce’ part. I was expecting a classic Caesar, but it was really boring. The dressing had almost no flavor, and the personality-less lettuce didn’t help things at all. The thinly shaved parmesan was plentiful, but couldn’t really support the rest of the salad. Even the croutons were sadly bland and I really would have really liked some anchovies or lemon to make it come alive. Oh well. Our other app totally made up for the first one. We ordered the special which was sauteed calamari and shrimp with olives in a creamy tomato sauce. It was outstanding. The shrimp were huge and cooked perfectly and the calamari was fresh and not at all chewy as it often is. The kalamata olives still had a nice bite to them and the sauce was creamy and warm and served as mature comfort food. Total winner.

For our entrees, we shared the Mussels Tomate and the Meatballs “simmered in a sweet liège sauce of reduced fresh apples and pears”. It, like the mussels, were served with Belgian fries. The fries were served with a mayo-y sauce that was delicious and the twice-fried fries were awesome- super crunchy and just the right amount of salt. The meatballs were amazing- the sweet sauce they were served in reminded me a bit of Swedish meatballs– but were uniquely seasoned in way that was both sweet and savory. The mussels were fresh and cooked perfectly- and the portion was very generous. It’s understandable why most of the menu consists of different flavors of mussels and meatballs- they know what they do well and have made a great niche for themselves doing it.

For our complimentary crepe dessert, we were brought a thin, hot crepe topped with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar. It was tasty, but kind of boring. The chocolate that topped it was fantastic though- a dark, semisweet chocolate that was obviously of very high quality

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal. Our waiter was friendly, knowledgeable and very attentive. The prices were reasonable, made even more so by our Groupon and our free dessert. The atmosphere, including a talented pianist/vocalist, was lovely  and sophisticated. We’ll definitely plan to go back!

 

Ichiban: 2724: Stickney Point Rd. Sarasota, FL

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My new job is about 3 minutes from Ichiban and when I saw that they offer all-you-can-eat sushi for under $20 (if you pay cash. It’s $23 with credit cards) I couldn’t wait to check it out.

Gabriel picked me up from work yesterday and we headed straight over. We were seated right away and given paper check lists on which to make our choices. One menu included teriyaki and tempura options and the other was all sushi, maki rolls and hand rolls. There were 5 specials also included on the list and the waiter also informed us that we could also add salad and or soup. Wow. I was already impressed. The lists were very extensive. We are used to AYCE sushi in NYC that has only the most simple and basic choices and were really excited to see how far our $20 was going to go here.

We both started with a salad. The dressing was awesome, but the iceberg (blah, boring) lettuce was not fresh– brown pieces everywhere. We were both happy enough with the dressing that we ate it anyway, and I would quickly come to see that this first course was the ONLY negative thing about the whole meal.

Next, the waiter brought out our tempura and teriyaki choices. The tempura was pretty good- though not super light and flaky like it should be…but it was hot and fresh and the flavor of the sauce was perfect. The teriyaki beef was surprisingly good- tender meat with tons of sweet and tangy flavor. It’s cool that when you order from that hot cooked food list, you order by the bite sized piece, so it’s perfect for just having little taste samples of whatever sounds good without committing to huge portions.

Next we got our first plate of sushi. (I actually completely and totally forgot to photograph round 2 of our teriyaki, tempura and sushi choices..OOPS!) We had about 10 total rolls and 5 pieces each of very tasty fish. Some of the standouts were the scallop roll, the Sarasota roll (tempura shrimp topped with lobster and eel sauce, YUM. This was my favorite) and the alaska roll. The sushi here is very good. It is not the ultimate, top quality fish you find at some restaurants, but it IS definitely fresh and very very good. If you want to spend triple the amount for fresher fish, than by all means go for it. I’d personally MUCH rather spend $20 for ridiculous quantities of very good quality fish here.

When we were full-as-can be, we got our check and realized that we didn’t bring enough cash. My bad. So, we got one of the $19.95 deals but had to pay $22.95 for the one we used a credit card. Including tax & tip, we spent around $50 for this awesome meal, and calculated that we’d most likely eaten WELL over $100 worth.

We will definitely, positively, absolutely and certainly be going back. Frequently. Soon. Yay! BRAVO.

 

Salute!: 23 N Lemon Ave, Sarasota, FL

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My family and I went here for dinner tonight after our first attempt had an hour long wait and our 2nd attempt was closed. Salute has a great outdoor eating area with available tables and we were seated right away. Our waiter came over with menus and went over the specials. None of us wanted to order cocktails so we just asked for flat water. I also asked if, when he had a moment, he’d bring over some lemon for the water. When he came back to take our orders and to bring us bread and dipping olive oil, I again reminded him that I wanted some lemon. When he came back a third time to bring us our appetizers, I asked him for a third time for some lemon. Finally, he came back with 3 slices of lemon (for our table of 4. Hmmm) and my water glass was, by then, empty. Big fail. The bus boy overheard me complaining about the timing of this and re-filled my glass. Ok. Better late than never.

For my app, I shared an arugula, endive, radicchio salad with Gabriel. It came with a creamy balsamic dressing and shaved parmesan. Very nice and fresh, but kind of on the boring side.

For my entree, at the suggestion of our waiter, I ordered the chicken parmesan with penne. It was a great portion sized- very manageable and not overwhelmingly large which I appreciated. The chicken, however was totally overcooked, stringy, dry and unimpressive. The sauce and cheese on top were mediocre at best. I’ve had better chicken parm at a diner.

For the prices here, I would not return. Just a few nights earlier, we went to Cafe Baci for the same price and MUCH better food. I guess you’re really just paying for the lovely outdoor seating here and not much more.

Oh well, they can’t all be winners.

New Pass Grill & Bait Shop: 1505 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL

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Gabriel and I stopped here for a quick lunch today before our fun day of going to see a waterski show and then to the Mote aquarium (both just down the street). It’s a great setting, right next to the Longboat Key bridge at the water’s edge. Tons of boaters dock here for lunch, beer and bait, and it was cool to see them coming and going as we ate outside under an umbrellaed table.

We stood in line for about 15 minutes waiting to place our order at the takeout counter. We decided to share a cheeseburger and a clam basket (which consisted of clam strips, fries and cole slaw). I was happy to see that they had malt vinegar– something I really love on fries that not a lot of places have available. We sat at a gulf-side table and waited for our name to be called over the loudspeaker that our lunch was ready to pick up at the side door. About 10 minutes later it was ready and we picked it up. The burger was basically cafeteria quality. The bun was better than average, but the meat patty was pretty poor. Not juicy, not flavorful, not really any better than a frozen grocery store cheapo one or one you’d get at a fast food joint. The clam strips were very good, not greasy, just super crunchy and a generous portion. The fries were also better-than-average. Super crunchy and tasty. We also shared a large, unsweetened ice tea that hit the spot.

I wouldn’t recommend coming here for great food, but for a lovely, casual setting and fun people, bird and boat watching, this is a great choice. For just under $20, I think next time we’ll choose to make sandwiches and sit at one of the many waterfront park picnic tables.

Cafe Baci: 4001 S. Tamiami Trl, Sarasota, FL

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From the street, Cafe Baci looks like it’s from 1960. The sign as well as the outside of the restaurant is dated and falling apart, and does nothing at all to represent the excellence that happens inside.

We were welcomed very warmly by the hostess and quickly led to our table. We saw right away that the clientele of this establishment is pretty much the over 65 crowd, and we felt slightly out of place and underdressed. The hostess assured us that people come in wearing just-off-the-beach clothes sometimes and that we were totally fine. Our waiter came over with menus and ice water and went over the specials, all of which sounded great. Shortly later, he brought over a basket of foccacia, delicious garlicy/parmesan breadsticks and some herbed olive oil. You see from my picture that we had all dived into those before I remembered to take a photo, and the basket is already partially empty.

This restaurant came very highly recommended by my friend and duo partner Mike (please visit mikesolomusic.com and careyyaruss.com com for more info ) and one of the things he mentioned to me was how accommodating they are to their patron’s requests. Knowing that, I asked if it would be possibly to add some grilled shrimp to the cappellini primavera, to which the waiter happily agreed.

When my entree came out, I was very excited for my first taste. It was loaded with huge, gorgeous, grilled shrimp, tons of fresh vegetables and homemade cappellini with a creamy, tomato sauce. It was seriously delicious, rich and indulgent. I was totally happy with it, even though I was expecting a nice, light pasta dinner and it was definitely on the heavy side. The portion was extremely generous and I happily shared it with Gabriel and my mom and step-father, who all agree that it was super tasty.

For dessert, we decided to order one tiramisu for everyone to share. When it arrived with an old looking strawberry on top, we assumed it must have been made much earlier and was just sitting in the fridge waiting for someone to order it. It was covered in a 2 inch thick layer of whipped cream on top and the espresso soaked cake was kind of overwhelmed by that. The flavor was good and if there had been less whipped cream I think we all would have really enjoyed it, but as it were, I pretty much was the only one who ended up eating it.

Overall, I was very impressed with Cafe Baci and would definitely go back. I would love to see some younger people in there, but unless they update the outside and make it look a big livelier and hipper, I doubt anyone under 40 will be going in anytime soon. With nearly full tables, it seems like their business isn’t suffering because of that, and maybe that’s really the crowd that they are aiming to attract. With it’s rustic, Italian interior, it has a classic feel that’s sure to please an older (and wealthier) clientele. The food is really top quality and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a hearty meal. Enjoy!