West Coast Eats
If you are looking for a comprehensive breakdown of all that Sarasota and Tampa has to offer, this isn't it. I spent a quick weekend away indulging a dear friend in some much needed R&R time, and I don't wish to bore you with all the details of how we shared an elevator ride with a rappers entourage or got addicted to watching The People vs. O.J. Simpson in our hotel room. However, we did have a few amazing meals so for reference for any trips you take towards the gulf, I'm sharing what nourished our journey. Wild Ginger Sushi
Main Street in Sarasota is littered with restaurant options, but we were on the hunt particularly for good sushi. After much research, I picked Wild Ginger. Sushi is not the only thing they serve, as they dabble in other Asian dishes so I was a bit apprehensive but I put my fears aside and hoped for the best.
The restaurant is dark with deeply tinted windows which didn't exactly settle my nerves on a street where bright relaxed al fresco dining was around every corner. I sat near the window hoping to get some of the gorgeous lighting outside while peering at the leisurely posh beach town that surrounded me. I ordered the Chirashi bowl with a price tag of $22 for 18 pieces of fresh fish.
The first taste of salmon actually took me back to my one and only visit to Kappo here in Orlando, where the fish was incredibly fresh and had almost a velvety buttery texture to it. I was in love and tried to enjoy each piece slowly.
The prices are comparable to Kabooki here in Orlando and the freshness was definitely a reason to return if I'm ever in the area again.
In the mood for American comfort food, I searched my handy Yelp app and found Made Restaurant also located on Main Street. It was a casual spot with a great patio to enjoy the cool Spring weather, and the 90's music that gently pumped through the restaurant added to a great vibe for a laid back dinner.
The restaurant boasts it's many accolades on the menu, but the one that caught my eye was "Best Fried Chicken". After an appetizer of fried green tomatoes, which was probably some of the best I've had in recent memory, it was time to see if the chicken was worth the hype.
I'm glad to say it was indeed possibly the best fried chicken I've had. Sadly Orlando is severely lacking in soul food joints, and most people are satisfied with Publix to satisfy their fried chicken craving. While I have nothing but love for Publix and let's be honest, Popeye's; this chicken which was prepared with both buttermilk and brined in Cholula, was hitting all the high marks. The crispy outer layer crunched loudly with gratifying bites while the meat remained extremely tender and juicy. It was actually more like Nashville Hot chicken without the trendy name. Served with the hot-n-honey crust you get an added pot of honey to drizzle on the hearty helping. Despite being brined in Cholula hot sauce it didn't have too much of a bite which for my sensitive palette was a good thing, but those seeking more heat may want to add more hot sauce.
I actually ignored the black pepper gruyere waffle not just because it was egregiously over cooked and fit the description of hockey puck-like texture, but because the chicken was just so good on it's own. Each bite was so satisfying and filling I wouldn't have had room for the waffle anyways. Although they may want to fix that piece or eliminate it altogether.
We stayed at the Aloft Sarsota which while being on the mainland was within walking distance to most of the areas shops, restaurants and thankfully a Buddy Brew coffee that was hiding in plain sight.
While many visit the shops and bustling restaurants lining St. Armands Circle I was actually glad we ate inland. With the exception of a quick stop at Kilwin's for an after sunset ice cream, our spots were very low-key and a less laden with tourists.
Endlessly photographed and brimming with urban millennials, the Oxford Exchange is the type of place you love to gaze upon and then chuckle every time you pick something up and look at the price tag. $18 for one napkin holder! Ah, excuse me, artisanal circlet blacksmith-to-table linen partner. But chic hipster nonsense aside, the restaurant has good eats, so on our way home I wanted to bring my friend there since she had never gotten to experience "The Ox" as I can only assume the cool kids call it.
Despite having reservations we still waited about fifteen minutes for our table, allowing me the pleasure of coming up with the hipster name for the napkin holder. We watched as those without reservations were given fourty-five minute waits, so definitely make a reservation if you go on the weekend.
With my very own pot of TaBella Matcha tea I opted for full breakfast gluttony and ordered the Lemon Poppyseed pancakes. The stack of five was more than I could handle, however I was successful in eating a good 60% of the portion.
Truth be told, eating a fried avocado appetizer before this stack didn't help, but it as was worth it.