Tidbites

 

Tidbites

 

Date: September 20, 2013
by: June LeBell | Contributing Columnist

 
 

Rumors abound
Rumor confirmed. The Half Shell Oyster Bar, which has made its home on Main Street and Links Avenue for a little more than a year, is moving.

The restaurant, which has the biggest, best, sweetest oysters in town (raw, Rockefeller and specially grilled) for the lowest prices we have found, is about to shut its doors near Hollywood 20 and take up new quarters (or half shells) at Honore Avenue and University Parkway. Best of all, the whole staff is going: Markus, our favorite waiter; Francesca, the pretty and welcoming hostess; and Greg, the best oyster schucker (you should excuse the expression) around.

Why are they moving? Staff says it’s because the new location will bring in more patrons.

“We get a good lunch crowd,” said one member of the wait staff, “but dinners are pretty quiet. With all the new stuff being built and opened out there (the University Park area), we expect to be packed.”

Location, location, location
It’s interesting how one side of the street has problems while the other thrives. Right across the street from the old Half Shell, Supernova Café, wedged on what's becoming another Sarasota restaurant row, with Eat Here on one corner and Made on the other on Main Street between Links Avenue and Washington, is open and well. We were there for lunch the other day and saw everyone from the Ladies Who Lunch to the Suits Who Work in the nearby banks and brokerages.

Specializing in light Italian fare, including cute personal pizzas, interesting antipasti and well-priced pastas, it's a minimalistic bistro that's conducive to simple meetings over lunch or an easy and inexpensive dinner and movie date.

Open from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week, this eight-month-old establishment serves what our waiter charmingly called “Italian breakfast,” which turns out to be multi-national with a cappuccino and croissant. For those watching their waistlines, there’s a smattering of salads, but watch out for their bread. It’s crusty and tempting, especially with those individual dishes of herbs swimming in silken olive oil.

Carmel Café offers three-course prix-fixe
Carmel Café, the culinary oasis tucked in the back of the University Park shopping mall at 8433 Cooper Creek Blvd., is fast becoming the “in” place for culinary crawlers who love good food in a creative setting. There are couches to lounge on while sipping a custom-made martini, high tops that let you survey the room for friends and friendly faces, trestle-like tables to share, cozy booths and banquettes that let you gossip and graze in privacy.

Every Sunday and Monday, Carmel presents a prix-fixe menu with the chef’s signature appetizers such as chickpea fries or edamame hummus. Second courses may include a choice of salad — such as the black olive Caesar or the special house salad — or a cup of homemade soup. And the third course can be anything from the tender, cooked-to-order steak frites to a tempting ravioli verde: spinach and ricotta ravioli with truffle butter and pea shoots.

The price for all three courses is just $12.99. Yes, the plates are small but just enough. And, for larger appetites, they’ll up the ante — it’s $4 more — and the size of the portion and the plate.

Perfectly picturesque
When the sun is shining and the temperatures moderate, we love polishing our tans and feeding our hunger with a visit to the BeachHouse on Bradenton Beach. We were there a couple of weeks ago and found they were about to embark on a major renovation, inside and out.

But, they plan to stay open throughout the upgrades, and the one thing they’re not touching is that gorgeous view. There’s something about sitting at a table right on the beach with the Gulf of Mexico lapping at the shore just a few feet away while you sip a frozen margarita and enjoy a juicy, rare burger slathered with all the fixings with a heaping of crispy fries. Their salads are crunchy and satisfying, and their assortment of fresh fish, made to order, is perfect for a day at the beach.

According to our waiter, each part of the renovation will take place at different times. They’re getting a big new kitchen. The indoor restaurant is getting a facelift. And the outside patios will be refurbished and spiffed up with two decks that will allow for those who want shade and others who love time in the sun. It will all take about a year.

Itsy-bitsy tidbites
Two favorite restaurants are closing for a short time for renovations.

Mediterraneo, on Main Street near Washington, is shuttered for another few weeks while they modernize their kitchen and dining room. When they reopen — probably sometime in mid- to late October, the menu will have a few new additions, but we’ll still recognize it as an old favorite with a new look.

We had lunch at Crab & Fin on St. Armands Circle a few weeks ago, and, when we got the check, we also received a flyer saying they were closing for a few weeks for renovations. The website and the flyer say they were planning to open about now but it may take a bit longer until they’re ready for their usual lunch and dinner crowds. We’ll keep you posted.

 

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