eat here Sarasota
1888 Main Street, Sarasota, FL 34236, (941) 955-7771
Cuisine: Casual American/Seafood Tapas
Price Rating: $10-$15 per entree
Review Date: April 6, 2012
Why We Chose eat here
Friday night, Tamas and I went out to dinner with some friends of ours to a new-ish restaurant in Sarasota called “eat here”. Our dear friends Toni and Brian (and let’s face it, Tamas) are rather picky eaters, so we choose an “American” choice when we’re out with them. This restaurant seemed like a safe bet and I’ve been wanting to check it out for quite some time, as it’s got one of those weird “black hole” locations that seems to suck up Sarasota restaurants in a matter of only a year or two.
We arrived at almost 8 pm on a Friday, but it wasn’t as busy as hotter Sarasota joints are at that time. We entered from the back parking lot and came through “backwards” which was a nice choice because we got a good feel for the restaurant on our way to where Toni and Brian were already seated downstairs. The upstairs has a really nice, rooftop, quaint feeling with a small bar and some tables indoors and out. There was some live music up there that welcomed us as we walked through and took the mirrored stairs to the main floor. We found Brian and Toni and started catching up and looking over the menus. The décor is nice and bright, with some nice wall paintings, but nothing really remarkable. I did like the little signs on the restrooms, however:
Background Info on the Restaurant
The restaurant owner is named Sean Murphy and he owns two other restaurants on Anna Maria Island, one more upscale called the Beach Bistro and a sister eat here restaurant opened about a year before this Sarasota version. The idea of this restaurant is simple: simple food, simple prices, small, tapas sized portions so you can share several things among your table or larger portions if you don’t want to share and they bring the food as it is finished being cooked so as to facilitate the flavors. But don’t worry: there are larger portion meals available, too!
There really is a lot to choose from though, and we were a little intimidated when we got the menu. It’s just a simple paper printout stapled together and given to you to browse on your own personal clipboard, which seems simple, but we didn’t really get the whole tapas or not tapas choice thing, because you could only really tell by the prices, so we just ordered by what we thought looked good. The other thing to me, is that if it takes more than 10 seconds to explain the concept(s) of a restaurant, then it’s too much.
Also, the menu says things like “pasta try mediterraneo’s half a block east…” or something like “barbeque…try nancy’s [other restaurant name we weren’t familiar with]…ringling and pineapple [cross-streets]” so we ended up having to ask all these questions, which was actually supposed to be cute, but ended up just taking up time from looking over the menu and annoying us a bit. And the font: it’s all lower-case, even the name of the restaurant, and to me, it looks messy and unprofessional. I get that it’s supposed to give a “feel”, but I personally don’t think it works and just makes things a bit confusing.
Adding to our confusion might have been the idiosyncrasies of our waitress. I try not to let the server color my perception of a restaurant entirely, and she did say she hadn’t been serving there for very long, so I give her credit there, but she really struggled through reading the specials and wasn’t very knowledgeable about the menu. She also had this quirk where she would never look at our faces – she always looked about a foot or two over our heads across the street while she talked to us. It was a bit strange, but we just let it go and assumed she must be nervous or something.
We tried a couple of the appetizers that were only categorized that way by price on the menu, and we found them anyhow after a bit of searching. We ordered the bruschetta and the fried beets.
I happen to be a very enthusiastic fan of unusual deep-fried veggies, like pickles in particular, so I was excited to give this a try. Okay, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten any “unusual deep-fried veggies” besides pickles so really I can’t say I like that category of foods, but I’m digressing…And since I normally don’t like beets, but Tamas does, I figured that they would probably be at least edible in a deep-fried version. Both appetizers came at the same time and the beets looked really pretty! I tried them and they were actually really delicious. I think there were turnips too, actually, because some of them were purple and the others were closer to beige. They were served with some sort of crème fraiche, which was a perfect compliment and they were not too greasy at all – they had a very light tempura batter. I’d definitely order these again. Tamas, a big beet lover, said that he thought they were just okay.
The bruschetta was a yummy garlic-buttered, thick focaccia, and the mixture of olive and tomato bruschetta was a nice compliment, though not as flavorful as it could have been. I don’t think I would order that again.
Our meals came out at almost the same time, despite the “bringing food out the second it’s done” policy.
Toni ordered the fried chicken special and it was very juicy and breaded in a crispy, thick batter – not too greasy, and seasoned with something slightly smoky and a bit spicy – I’m pretty sure it was chili powder. I wasn’t enamored with the flavor, but if you like chili powder (Tamas and Toni both really liked it), it was a great choice.
Tamas ordered the island-style ribs and was thoroughly not impressed. He felt they were a bit fatty and tasteless, but that they were cooked perfectly, however. He likes ribs to be really thick, meaty and juicy. I liked the flavor, myself, as they had this papaya jam, but Tamas said he would have liked them to be saltier. He was not really impressed with the portion size here.
I ordered the fish tacos and I was glad I did. They were lightly seasoned, tender, juicy and perfectly cooked and served in a little fish taco holder, which made them super easy to eat. I drizzled a little lime juice over top and ate them in about 3.6 seconds. Exactly what I was in the mood for.
But Brian was definitely the winner of the meal choice category. He got the panko-crusted gulf shrimp that was served over some awesome mashed potatoes. The shrimp were absolutely perfectly cooked and juicy and the panko breading was light enough not to overpower them; they weren’t greasy at all either. And those taters…yum, so flavorful and smooth!
True to form, I made certain to order dessert for journalistic integrity. I ordered the crème brulee, which was a special that day and Brian ordered the Key Lime Cheesecake. What is with my luck with my meal guests always ordering my favorite (key lime pie) and me getting to order something else and also try some of theirs?? Lucky I guess, or maybe it’s all the subliminal messages I put out, but whatever. I was actually not that impressed with the Key Lime Cheesecake. The only key lime part, we deduced, was the drizzle over the cheesecake and we thought it would have been better with more key lime. But as a simple cheesecake, it was still really good. The crust was different as well, but we couldn’t quite put our finger on it. I think it might have been molasses or brown sugar.
But the crème brulee. Now that was a different story. Light and creamy, the sugar top was just thin enough to compliment the amazingness going on underneath. I was glad Tamas was full by the time he’d eaten a third of it, because even though he said it was really delicious, that left the rest for yours truly and I all but licked that bowl clean.
Go to my Flickr account to check out my eat here Restaurant Review images set to see the rest of the pics I took of all the food we had that night.
This is a good restaurant, but lacked in the customer service and “ease of use” sort of concept. We liked most of the food, but weren’t completely impressed. I would love to know what you thought!
If you find yourself here, let me know what YOU thought down in the comments section!!