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State Street Eating House: 1533 State St, Sarasota FL

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state st clam chowderstate st grilled lettuce state st grilled cheese

I was excited to finally visit State Street Eating House with my dad for lunch last week. I’ve walked past it a bunch of times and am always intrigued by the menu, the minimalist/industrial atmosphere and the young, hip crowd dines and drinks there. When we met on a Wednesday at 1:30, we were greeted by the owner- who I was sure (and turned out to be wrong) must be from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It felt so familiar in a New York-y way, and everything about him from his persona to his plaid shirt and bow tie made me think of the Brooklyn hipsters I left behind when I moved to Sarasota last year.

We sat at a table and were brought menus and asked if we wanted tap or bottled water. We asked for tap, which we quickly realized was not going to cut it. The water was notably bad, as it often is in Florida, and we ordered a ($6!!) bottle of Evian instead. This turned out to be the ONLY thing about our experience here that we didn’t both love. We did, in fact, chat with the owner about it after our lunch and he was very open to hearing the criticism. He explained that they were expanding into the space next door and planned to add a filtration system. We also discussed his ideas about charging for bread and filtered water, which my father and I cautioned him against. We both agreed that we’d rather see price increases on the menu items to cover his costs there rather than charging extra for things that our society definitely expects to be included.

Anyway, back to the meal. We decided to order a bowl of soup, a salad, and a sandwich. We asked the waiter if he would ask the chef if he would split our three choices for us to share. When our food arrived, we were both pleased to see that the splits had been made. The portion sizes were STILL so large that I was surprised it was only ‘half’ on my plate and in my bowl. I liked the simplicity of the presentation and felt that it coordinated well with the decor of the restaurant. The way the ambiance, menu, staff and food all went together showed clear attention to detail and sophistication.

Our clam chowder had whole clams, chunks of potato, celery, little puffed crackers, and a creamy, smooth, not-too-thick base. It had a wonderful flavor that could only come from the fresh clams. The semi-thin consistency made it a lovely first course instead of the heavy, filling, appetizer that most chowders are.

Our salad and sandwich came out next, looking amazing. The salad was wonderful; Grilled lettuce hearts topped with ricotta salata and fried hearts of palm. It came with a side of bread, but I chose to leave it behind since the bread on the grilled cheese was already carb-indulgent enough. Well, ok. I did have one little bite of it, but it wasn’t different enough from the sandwich bread that I could justify it. The salad was tossed in a grainy mustard dressing that added texture and a little sharp bite to this creative salad. It was my own fault that I didn’t ask for the dressing on the side. I almost always do, but forgot this time. It was overdressed for my taste, but I still ate every bite and really enjoyed it. The classic grilled cheese sandwich was served on crusty sourdough, with thin slices of tomato. It was grilled perfectly and adorably topped with a green olive. Some creamy coleslaw came alongside of it, but was also a bit overdressed for my taste. I love cabbage, so too much mayo is always a disappointment.  The cheddar cheese was awesome; gooey, sharp and exactly the comfort food I’d expected.

Overall, aside from the bad tap water and overpriced bottled water, I thoroughly enjoyed this meal and restaurant. I would love to go back some evening after work for cocktails (they use craft liquors that add to inherently artsy quality) and snacks like the housemade pickles and mini lobster rolls on their snack menu. If you need a cool spot to meet a date or some friends, I think State Street Eating House makes a great choice.

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Dumont Burger: 314 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY

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Every eight weeks, my boyfriend I have what we call ‘blood donation and burgers day’. We try to eat pretty healthfully most of the time, so we REALLY look forward to our iron-replenishing meal and often decide well ahead of time where our next burger will take place. This time, we were VERY excited to try the famous burger at Peter Luger’s Steakhouse in Brooklyn. I’ve had the steak there and was dying to try the burger. Well, silly me, I totally didn’t think we’d need a reservation for a Sunday mid-day burger and I was very wrong. When we arrived and were told in a fairly snotty way that it would be at least 45 minutes, we decided to leave to go to Dumont Burger instead. I’ve had this burger before- but it had been a few years, and I remembered it being one of the best I’ve ever had. I also remembered the staff being super friendly and laid back, not at all like the hoity-toity Luger’s people.

When we got to Dumont and were warmly welcomed by the waitress, we had our choice of seats in the nearly empty restaurant. I should mention that by the time we left, the place was totally full, so I suppose it’s just hit or miss regarding wait times. We each ordered a burger (mine with a side of onion rings, and topped with gruyere and mushrooms and Gabriel’s with a side of fries, and topped with caramelized onions, bacon and gruyere) and a half and half (vanilla and chocolate) milkshake to share. The burgers came out quickly, with some of their housemade pickles on the side. I’d ordered my burger medium rare and it was more like medium well, or even well done. There was no red or pink anywhere in sight and I was a little annoyed but didn’t want to send it back because I was starving. Other than that, I have no complaints at all. The burger is on a delicious brioche bun, with melty cheese and meaty mushrooms and was totally delicious. The onion rings were perfect, not too greasy, but hot and crisp. The fries that came with G’s burger were also awesome. Our milkshake, though not quite as out-of-this-world as I’d remembered, was quite good and creamy- but not very sweet. I did LOVE that it was so thick that the straw could stand straight up in it. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t get light-headed trying to suck up a milkshake with a straw, it’s simply too thin.

As good as the food was, with a bill over $40, I felt this was really overpriced. I’d be happy to pay that much in a nicer, more comfortable setting, but to sit atop bar stools in a dark, drafty, small restaurant seemed a little ridiculous. I think their prices should be much lower than they are…or the seating should be much more comfortable.

After lunch, we stopped by Dumont-to-go next door intending only to get a hot cup of coffee. When we realized that they make homemade donuts to order, we felt it was really quite important that we fill in any remaining empty spots in our stomachs with fried dough and sugar. On the suggestion of the cashier, we ordered the cinnamon donuts with dulche de leche sauce and the plain donuts with chocolate sauce. They are tiny and polishing off 2 each took about 30 seconds. We both preferred the cinnamon/dulche combo over the others. The chocolate ones would have been about a million times better if the sauce had been warm- but a piping hot donut with cold chocolate sauce seems somehow wrong to me and left a bit to be desired. I’d recommend stopping by for these anyway, especially on a chilly day when a little extra fat and carbs will feel like a big hug. Enjoy!