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Dining Out: The Year in Review

An eater’s guide to what’s hot and what’s not and what to eat in 2013.

2012 showed us record numbers of new restaurants and food specialty stores. Some were great, some were a bit disappointing and some were outright snotty. (Let’s just forget about them). So, if you are a snow bird  flying in for the winter or a year rounder that needs an updated list-here you go.

In Sarasota, Food trucks came and went- no luster in these here parts-more the poor location I suppose. For stand up and dribble dining- check out the grass fed burger stand at the Farmer’s Market. Try the bacon and cheddar stuffed burger and buy a few to take home. Craft Pop opened on Bee Ridge next to Renaissance video so you don’t have to just grab on at the Farmer’s market
anymore. Tip- wait 10 minutes before eating so you get the dribble juice.

Bradenton has better food trucks- with late night tacos- unfortunately I go to bed by 10 though - my younger sources rave however.

Good Chinese food finally came to town. Yummy House may not be perfect, skip the white rice and yummy Szechwan chicken—(not so Yummy, too much batter). Dim Sum is really good and the chive dumplings superb! Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce and pork lo mein are keepers as well as shu mei and Chinese greens with mushrooms.  Hint, they almost never answer their phone- too busy so go in person for a reservation, two days in advance. Honest there is FINALLY good Chinese in Southwest Florida!

Other Chinese food news- P.F. Chang’s finally started building.  We couldn’t wait for them to come and now we don’t need it. Rumor has it there is another Chinese restaurant opening up in Brandon this year. 

#79 with grilled pork at Pho Cali is still my favorite- 4 years running.

If you are at Beach Bistro and they have the prosciutto wrapped sea bass with saffron beurre blanc- order it and thank Sean Murphy for a perfect dish!

Mozzarella Fella brought Staten Island to Sarasota and also brought me five pounds of weight gain from those delicious breaded veal with fresh mozzarella and broccoli rabe sandwiches.

Fresh Market opened a second store in Bradenton- the meat department is terrific so what are you waiting for? Tuesdays are the best day to shop with buy one get one specials…

Trader Joe’s opened near Chili’s and you are best to go on a Monday or Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. to find a parking space. Good for dried fruit and a few snacks- beware of the recent recalls.

Sad to say I think Andrea’s has lost their fast ball and hope they can reel it in. Food has been lukewarm both in temp and flavor. Get your focus back Andrea-you were after all restaurant of the year 2 years ago.

The Crab cakes are what they say at Coyne’s Pier 28. (Next to Cosco)

Eat here- brainchild of Sean Murphy opened yet another on Siesta Key. Next to The Sun Garden-a favorite spot of mine for breakfast and lunch, Eat Here is what a friend describes as “food you want to eat.” Voted this spring as Restaurant of the Year”, I insist you try the adult grilled cheese, Titanic Salad and veal meatloaf—spot on! (hint- they have a mashed potato of the day)

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar really does have the best happy hour and they now open at 4p.m.—grab a Prime burger at the bar with that crispy bacon- insider scoop-pile the onion rings on the burger and pour the sauce over. Enjoy with good Cabernet. (p.s. also love their Prime Rib Sunday special)

Philippi Creek Oyster Bar has a new tiki style and perhaps the freshest fish in town. Their new salads at lunch are extremely bountiful and fresh- exotic and creative- dare I say more without drooling? This is not just your family’s peel and eat shrimp joint-this place is deemed one of the Best by Coastal Living Magazine and I agree. The ceviche is amazing and those fish tacos on the weekend-insanely juicy and abundant. Why did I wait 15 years to go back?

Where the heck did all these frozen yogurt shops come from? Best flavors—pumpkin spice at White Berries and coffee flavor at Orange leaf (though a little too pricey).  Starbucks $7.00 premium coffee is just silly- save your money and but a meatball parm sub at Piccolo’s in Gulf Gate- I REALLY like the eggs benedict at Breakfast House, (real hollandaise) and Blueberry Pancakes at Station 400Drunkin’ Poet on Main Street is killer good- from lobster sushi rolls to seafood curry served in a whole coconut-

The hot dogs at Doggin’ It on Fruitville are really good. Dare I say get the one with pulled pork and coleslaw?

Savory Street lost their fastball and their chef- was making a splash with a new fresh Mexican dinner menu- BYOB, Then they lost (or got rid of) a great chef and now both food and service is –BORING!!!

The Table Creekside-award winning dining by Chef Pedro opened for Sunday brunch on Jan.20.  Consider that they are waterfront dining, an award-winning chef and freshly crafted cocktails from the bar chef- I think this will be the real deal. (BTW they have a REALLY GREAT Happy hour too.)

Carmel Café on University opened and is rocking the Cooper Creek BLVD location. Known for its menu pad, (but they have brought back paper menus as well) Carmel is insanely wonderful for chick pea fries with tomato jam, pumpkin cannoli’s and flat bread pizza. Could be THE “hot Spot” in that area- great Mod Med vibe and food, seasonal plates, craft cocktails.

In other news-

Cosimo’s left Southgate Mall and will re-open in January some time on Clark ROAD.

Taste of Asia will finish out the season on Siesta Key and then move late spring to their newer location on Tamiami—you know I will be in line for that one!

The Viking Cooking School is a goner- shame they never ever had it together did they?

J-pan on Lakewood Ranch expanded and continues to be hopping.

Brooklyn Water Bagels is opening in University Park soon- is it really the water or is it just that we prefer to eat them in N.Y.?

Edible Sarasota now has a wonderful food centered newsletter- check it out! Farm to table, fresh ideas and some creative recipes.

Ritz is going seafood and cool- stay tuned for a review on Jack Dusty.

Where are your favorite dining spots for 2013 snowbirds to follow?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lori Hultman January 26, 2013 at 04:34 PM
What about Derek's on Central Ave? Interesting flavors and lots of delicious small plates-calamari is one of my faves, and the moules &frites are great.
Jim Galiano January 26, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Love Phillippi Creek and The Table. Both restaurants remind me of old Florida (back in the 70's). Relaxed atmosphere, great food, and great places to unwind with family and friends.
Charles Schelle (Editor) January 28, 2013 at 02:01 AM
I don't find Orange Leaf to be too pricey. There's a bit of built-in encouragement to spend more via those very large cups to fill. Gotta have a good eyeball on your true desired portion and make sure you don't load up.
ted halloran February 03, 2013 at 12:44 PM
Arts and Eats in Bradentons Village of the Arts is an excellent meal and an entertaining experience each time. we really miss Maximo's in downtown Sarasota. Will he open somewhere else?

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