Southside Village is the “west of trail” neighborhood that stretches from Hyde Park Street north to Prospect Street and from South Tamiami Trail west to Osprey Avenue. Its culinary nexus is the intersection of South Osprey Avenue and Hillview Street, a cluster of diverse eating options, all casual, and a marvelous market.
This week’s tour covers the two blocks on Osprey Avenue from Hyde Park to Arlington. A future story will travel Hillview Street from Osprey to the Trail. Bring your appetite, and come along …
Libby’s Café + Bar
1917 S. Osprey Ave. | 487-7300
The idea of Libby’s is for diners to create their own dining experience, choosing from an array of small plates and/or conventional entrées. Menu items are priced from $3 to $36, with more than two dozen choices under $15. Early diners enjoy a three-course, prix-fixe menu with lots of options (all smaller portions of regular menu items). Including a glass of wine, beer or cosmopolitan, it is $15 per person. The prix-fixe menu is available from 4 to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Signature dishes here include a Kobe beef meatloaf, on the menu at lunch as “new style grilled” and at dinner as sliders, but always available to those in the know.
1825 S. Osprey Ave. | 388-7235
Serving Spoon is the neighborhood’s long-time favorite breakfast-and-lunch place. Craig and Natasha Menke bought it from the original owners in 1998, sold it in 2007 and repossessed it in 2011. They closed it in July of that year for renovation and renewal and re-opened, much to the relief of loyal customers, five weeks later. Things have been going along swimmingly since then with signature menu items, including waffles, huevos rancheros and Popeye’s omelet. The Serving Spoon is a go-to place for healthy options and gluten-free dishes — and, surprisingly, one of Sarasota’s best brownies. Its website will be online again soon; in the meantime, use Google.
Lucia’s Pizza Italian Grill
1812 S Osprey Ave. | 954-5400
Directly across Osprey is Mike Santa Lucia’s Lucia’s Pizza Italian Grill, what New Yorkers would call “local Italian.” It is a favorite of and typically packed with customers from the immediate area. The food here is homemade in the restaurant from fourth-generation family recipes. It includes the full array of conventional pizza toppings; nine gourmet pizzas, including the signature Jersey cheese-steak pizza; and “sauceless pies,” including another Popeye, this one topped with mozzarella, diced tomatoes, garlic, basil and black olives.
Knick’s Tavern & Grill
1818 S Osprey Ave.| 954-5400
Knick’s is another über-local eating spot, a joint venture of YouBar Builders owner Knick Barger and his daughter, Knickole. How, we wondered, does a builder (a renowned one, at that) end up in the restaurant business? Knick explains that he has “built half the restaurants in Sarasota, beginning with Café L’Europe in 1972.” In the process, he decided he wanted one of his own, and the result has become a Southside Village favorite for its certified Angus beef burgers and other made-from-scratch menu options.
1830 S Osprey Ave. | 906-7771
Sam Snead’s American Grill also sees itself as “where the locals come to eat.” The Sarasota location is one of few in the small chain in a neighborhood location, making it perhaps a little less about golf and more about food and service than its kin. Frank Zilleckis, a veteran of Carraba’s and Stonewood Grill, became operating partner in November. His emphasis on hospitality and staff training has made a palpable difference. Signature dishes here are the flatbread appetizers and the ribs entrée. The restaurant is accommodating to large parties and boasts perhaps the neighborhood’s largest TV — a 70-inch one in the bar.
Morton’s Gourmet Market
1924 S. Osprey Ave. | 955-9856
New York City has Dean & DeLuca, the Fairway, Grace’s Marketplace and more. Sarasota has Morton’s Gourmet Market, which measures up remarkably well. Morton’s specialty is ready-to-eat food, which it offers in various forms: hot as “grab-and-go” meals; pre-packaged in microwaveable containers; and by the pound from sparkling cases that friendly, knowledgeable staff tend. The food variety is impressive and constantly changing; one case alone contains barbecue ribs, grouper, seared tuna, mahi-mahi, Brussels sprouts, black-bean burgers, asparagus, grilled vegetables, pine nut chicken and Moroccan meatballs — and it’s only a tiny portion of what’s available on any given day. Displays of fresh meat and fish, baked goods and produce are equally impressive. If only it would tackle the bagels-and-lox problem.
Morton’s has been serving Sarasota for pushing a century. It was founded as Slee’s Market in 1928 and became Marable’s in 1941. Ted Morton joined the company in 1952 and acquired it in 1969. Ted ran it with his son Eddie until they sold it in 1997 and reacquired the business in 2007. Ted Morton died in 2011; today Eddie and his son Todd run the business.
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