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Clásico: Downtown's newest spot for dinner, late-night bites and libations

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  • | 12:21 a.m. March 22, 2013
  • Arts + Entertainment
  • Eat + Drink
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- Andrea Klein is a 37-year-old elementary school teacher in Manatee County. She has lived in Sarasota since 2004. She enjoys food and wine, and has recently developed a fondness for old-fashioned cocktails. When she isn't eating or drinking, Andrea enjoys yoga, Pilates, working out and spending time with her French Bulldog, Martha.

Clásico Café & Bar recently opened its doors at the cozy corner of Main Street and Palm Avenue, a longstanding favorite location for locals and visitors alike. Clásico's chef, Geoff Reyes, offers a twist on contemporary American cuisine (for breakfast, lunch, dinner and best of all ... LATE NIGHT!) along with a full bar. They are only open for dinner and late night now, but the restaurant plans to offer a breakfast and lunch menu in the near future.

I was awestruck by the plethora of clientele when I visited on a late Tuesday evening: singles, couples on a date, groups of friends of all ages (including Ringling and New College students), professionals, downtown locals and northern neighbors---with a varying wardrobe from suits and ties to dresses and jeans. The atmosphere was casual yet sophisticated. Black and white tile adorned the floor, similar to what one may see in a European restaurant. Seating options included more than 18 high-tops, as well as a bar that seats 12, outside seating, and for the adventurous or those without knee problems, a few short tables. By short, I mean about a foot off of the ground (think Japanese). I commented on this to the waiter, who told me that although adults may need time to adjust to them, the kids seem to love it. Nevertheless, no one was sitting there when I visited.We slipped into a booth along the wall with a high-top table and ordered cocktails: a Chopin vodka and club soda for him, and for me a Mint Cucumber Martini consisting of muddled cucumber, mint, Hendricks gin, St. Germaine and Prosecco. The drinks were good, and notably strong. Other interesting drink choices included the Lemon Peach, consisting of peach purée, squeezed lemon, Absolut Peach and Peach Schnapps; and the Rosemary Grapefruit which contains muddled rosemary, fresh-squeezed pink grapefruit juice and Absolut Vodka, which I tried on another visit and enjoyed immensely. There are the standard Cosmos, Mojitos (both regular and blueberry) and sangria, as well as a good selection of beer and wine including a $5 worker's wine. Also important to note is that many cocktails are available for $5 during happy hour from opening until 6:30 p.m.

It was later in the evening, but I still wanted something to go with my glass of Prosecco that I had ordered, so I perused the menu and decided on the cheese plate. The first cheese was Humboldt Fog, a soft, tangy goat's milk cheese made in Humboldt Bay, California and named for the fog that rolls in there; the second was a rich blue cheese made with both goat and cow's milk; and the final cheese, an Upland's Pleasant Ridge. The cheese plate was complemented with toasted pistachios, dried figs and crackers. It was the perfect choice.The menu is packed with a nice variety of food with something to please everyone. The Sweet and Spicy Popcorn Shrimp ($9) is a large basket of deep-fried mini-shrimp, perfectly spiced and complemented with a sweet chili sauce and Sriracha aioli. There are three flatbreads ($8) of which I sampled the roasted broccoli and cauliflower, garlic aioli and Parmesan cheese. It is a vegetarian delight.  Three tacos are served with the Tacos de Gringo ($11), from which you have your choice of a Balsamic Lime Braised Chicken, Beer Battered Whitefish and Chipotle Beef. Entrée choices are Steak Frites, Pan Seared Tuna, Roasted Chicken Breast and Grilled Salmon, all served with accompaniments and priced between $22 and $32.

Those wanting just a sandwich have several choices, from burgers to grouper to a chicken panini. Salad fans are not left out either at Clásico: There are three choices of either Caprese, Baby Kale Caesar Salad and my favorite, the Falafel Salad. Baby lettuce is tossed with carrots, tomatoes and falafel croutons and finished with a tahini dressing, which is out of this world. Those desiring more protein have the option of adding shrimp, chicken or salmon to their salad as well.

A late night menu is served from 11 p.m. until close and has a small selection of appetizers, sandwiches and both sweet potato and truffle Parmesan fries.

Clásico Café & Bar is a welcome addition to downtown Sarasota and sure to be a hit, especially with the late nighters. The location is perfect, the space amply holds a large crowd, the service is professional and efficient and the food and cocktails are winners.


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