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Eating with Emma

Five must-try rice bowls in Sarasota

Some sports fans might be disappointed by who won the Super Bowl, but all local foodies can agree that these Rice Bowl Champions deserve the title.

Fresh Kitchen offers an abundance of 100% gluten-free variations that you can construct to your tastebuds' delight.
Fresh Kitchen offers an abundance of 100% gluten-free variations that you can construct to your tastebuds' delight.
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I hate to admit this, but I can’t stop scrolling and feeling incredibly influenced by TikTok.

My most recent searches include #traveltok, rescue pets, and my most frequented and double-tapped search: rice bowls recipes.

These recipes have not just inundated my own social media feed, but bowl recipes, similar to the infamous go-to taco night, are also becoming part of the weekly menu for families (because buying rice, a protein, one or two few veggies and a sauce at your local Publix won’t force you to take out a second mortgage — except if your protein is eggs, of course).

But when your husband says, “Let’s order take out,” it’s a nice surp-rice — especially when restaurants of all culinary backgrounds are adding this healthier (depending on what you add into the mix) and often allergy-friendly option to their menus.

We aren’t talking about the basic Chipotle, foodies. 

Our own community chefs are cultivating flavors within a bowl that capture the hearts and mouths of each patron.

So when you aren’t wanting to cook at home, be rice to yourself and order a bowl from one of these menus.


128 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota; 941-330-1795;

Whether you choose ramen or rice, you are the eye of the bowler and Fushipoke has you covered.
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Rice, rice baby: I could live off these poke bowls until my last bite — I mean breath. Since its opening in 2018, I’ve consumed at least two per month (OK, maybe four or five). For those not familiar with poke, the traditional seasonings are influenced by Japanese flavors — it’s sushi, but in a bowl rather a roll. Slurp green tea, soda, CBD drinks, beer, wine and sake in between bites of your bountiful bowl.

You create the bowl of your dreams, starting at $12.99.
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Eye of the Be-Bowler: Select a base of white or brown rice (or if you prefer to choose from kale or soba noodles), and pick a protein of Hawaiian tuna, salmon, red shrimp, grilled chicken, Kaula pork or sesame tofu. Next up, place a plethora of add-ins ranging from enoki mushrooms to tempura flakes to avocado and more. Top if off with as many toppings as you’d like (I garnish with as much ginger as the staff grants me) and smack on one of five sauces (spicy mayo all the way). If you’re overwhelmed by the options, don’t fret — Fushipoke has their favorite bowls to choose from including the Hawaiian-style bowl with tuna, nori, Maui onion, pickled radish, traditional sauce with white rice ($17.99+) or the Moa bowl with grilled chicken, edamame, corn, kimchi cucumbers, ponzu tamari with brown rice ($9.99+).

Steam buns, the best $5 you've ever spent.
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Time to Impro-Rice: Not feeling like Mr. Rice Guy? No problem, pal. The ramen ($17.99+) served up at this eatery has me reeling in a religious experience of sorts. Go for the Spicy version with shiitake, soy egg, scallions, bean sprouts, kamaboko, garlic and chili oil with chili threads and add either pork belly, tempura shrimp, grilled chicken or tofu. Scared of spice? Snag a pork belly steam bun ($5.65) and you’ll see what the pig deal is about.

Screaming Goat Taqueria 

6566 Gateway Ave., Sarasota; 941-210-3992;

Recently, Screaming Goat expanded their supreme eating spot and added an event venue in Gulf Gate. Here
Emma Jolly

Rice, rice baby: A few rice bowls ago, I was gluten and dairy free and Screaming Goat was my saving grace — everything, except the tortillas used for burritos, is gluten free at this go-to tacqueria. Vegans and vegetarians will also be excited by the Gulf Gate establishment's menu, which is all made from scratch each day.

My husband always adds the chipotle guajillo salsa to his bowl (starting at $11.95), while I crave the cilantro chimichurri on mine.
Emma Jolly

Eye of the Be-Bowler: Batter up, bowler. Bowls ($11.95) start with citrus rice, black beans, your choice of protein, salsa and five toppings. Mouth-watering proteins include pork Cochinita Pibil, beef barbacoa ($2), pollo asado, curried sweet potato, masa-dusted cauliflower, Latin falafel and my treasured pick, the vegan chorizo. Select from all gluten-free toppings such as curtido, roasted mushrooms and guac (it’s extra, duh) just to name a few. Finish your bowl-o-masterpiece with one of seven salsas – this ravenous bowler gets either the avocado-tomatillo or chimichurri.

It's a given that I will always add a bag of chips and queso ($7.25) to my order a glob of guacamole ($2.95) to my bowl.
Emma Jolly

Time to Impro-Rice: The slogan at the Goat should be, “Let’s give them something to taco ‘bout.” SGT signature craft tacos ($4.25) are nacho average corn sandwiches. From the beef barbacoa with Guajillo-chipotle salsa, pico de Gallo radish and queso fresco to the vegan chorizo with Scotch bonnet-roasted pineapple salsa, arugula and sweet corn relish you are ensured to have a fantas-taco foodie fun experience at the Goat.

Korean Ssam Bar 

1303 N. Washington Blvd., Sarasota; 941-312-6264;

Mama's side dishes including kimchi, eggplant, sprouts and more plus rice are served with entrees.
Emma Jolly

Rice, rice baby: After five years of relentlessly relaying to a coworker that this was the best-kept secret in Sarasota, she sat down at the 10-ish table family-owned restaurant and ordered the dish I had been dying for her to dig into. She texted me a photo of the gluten-free bowl with one phrase to follow, “It’s O-mazing.” Like many others, you’ve probably driven by this hole-in-the-wall (that was in Bradenton for 11 years and now in Sarasota for 6 years!) hundreds of times — next time, stop and smell the SSAM and then thank me later.

The Bibimbap (starting at $14) has earned its spot as one of my favorite dishes I've had in Sarasota.
Emma Jolly

Eye of the Be-Bowler: Have you ever had a meal that intensified all your senses? Hearing the sizzle, smelling the selection of seasonings, looking at the love that went into the plate, picking up the spoon (the owner told me to NOT use the chopsticks) and stirring the mixture of gorgeous goodness before you and then BAM!! The experience takes you to a place of comfort and heightened happiness? This meal does that. The stone pot bibimbap ($14) has successfully solidified its spot as one of my favorite meals I’ve consumed in Sarasota. Rice topped with a choice of beef, pork, chicken, tofu or spicy squid ($2+) with a fried egg in a stone bowl mixed with red pepper paste an assortment of Korean sides will blow your bowler brain.

Order sake (starting at $7), egg roll ($2) and the kimchi pancake ($12) to get the party started.
Emma Jolly

Time to Impro-Rice: I often won’t tell you to order one thing and one thing only, but this bibimbap has transformed so many tastebuds since I've spread the word, I feel like it would be disservice to direct you to any other dish (other than the bulgogi which is brilliant). So I say this, order the hot sake with an appetizer, like the Korean Kimchi pancake ($10) that said coworker told me to order next time I go there for dinner (which was last night.)

Food + Beer 

4804 14th Street W., Bradenton, 941-751-2675; 5446 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, 941-444-7823; 6529 Superior Ave., Sarasota, 941-952-3361; 1525 Fourth St. Unit B, Sarasota, 941-444-1101; and 301 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, 941-867-3780;

Gallop of guac and fried onions? Yes please. Cali hot cobb, $13.49.
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Rice, rice baby: Like the feeling that floods our local veins once spring breakers retreat from the sands of Siesta, Lido and Longboat Key, Food + Beer gives food lovers the unexplainable feeling of home sweet home. But unlike Gen-Z spring breakers fleeing to the Gulf Coast in their string bikinis and 4-inch seam swim trunks, I plan on wearing flowy mu-mu or staple sweatpants when indulging in the calories-don’t-exist-here-and-its-worth-it menu at this five-location food haven.

Vegans rejoice! Food + Beer's bun cha bowl, $14.99.
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Eye of the Be-Bowler: Flip to the “Bowls Etc.” part of the menu to find what we’re talking about. From the Cali hot cobb ($13.99) with Buffalo stewed chicken, cheddar, guacamole, bacon, pico de Gallo, black bean and corn salsa, tobacco friend onions on sticky rice to the vegan bun cha ($14.99) with Impossible peanut glazed meatballs, pickled veggies, cucumber, cilantro, peanuts, onion, sesame on sticky rice to the burrito bowl 2.0 ($13.49) with tomatillo stewed chicken, Monterey jack, black bean and corn salsa, cherry tomato, lie crema, honey lime vinaigrette, cotija cheese, lime and sticky rice, the be-bowler wins with every single bite. 

My husband would eat this every night if he could. This Buffalo Mac n' Cheese, $14.99, has stolen his heart.
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Time to Impro-Rice: Comfort food has been taken to a new level here and this hungry gal is excited for the elevation of exciting eats. While the burger selection is un-grill-lievable, I’m a basic babe and crave their classic Caesar ($13.49) with chicken and a side of truffle parmesan fries ($7.49). However, if I were to write about Food + Beer and not mention my husband’s ultimate guilty pleasure, I couldn’t continue this column. So PJ, this weekend I’ll treat you to your dream dish — the Buffalo Mac ‘N Cheese ($14.99) with scratch fried chicken, blue cheese crumbles and Cheez-itz.

Fresh Kitchen 

8491 Cooper Creek Blvd. #101, Bradenton; 941-208-3900;

The holy kale sauce and almond chicken combo is a match made in Fresh Kitchen heaven.
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Rice, rice baby: The Floridian fast-growing (with 12 locations!) build-it-yourself bistro offers an abundance of 100% gluten-free variations that you can construct to your tastebuds' delight. From kids’ bowls ($10.29), to family meals that feed four to a feast meal serving up to eight people, this spot is perfect for all occasions.

Eye of the Be-Bowler: At Fresh Kitchen, you are the head chef. Curate a four bowl ($12.19+) with two bases, one veggie, one protein and one sauce or a six bowl ($15.59+) with two bases, two veggies, two proteins and one sauce. Although there are other bases besides rice, this is the Rice Bowl 2023, so we’ll stick to the big three themselves: brown rice, coconut ginger rice and cauliflower avocado “rice.” Did I mention that not only are all these options’ gluten-free but some of them are also non-dairy friendly, no processed sugar added and vegan friendly? Rack up your bowl with roasted veggies from lemon garlic broccoli, sesame green beans, my personal pick, golden spice chickpeas and more.

Add roasted salmon, that is gluten, dairy and sugar free, for a few extra dollars, to any bowl.
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Place a protein in the mix like chilled caprese tofu, roasted salmon (for a bit extra), the almond baked chicken and others. Slather on sauce from the creamy white ginger, to herb balsamic vinaigrette or the one that my mouth craves, coconut siracha — and the list goes on. While your bowl may be bellowing over the sides of its container, you still have an option to add-on items such as parmesan or feta cheese, kale pesto tomatoes or avocado. 

Time to Impro-Rice: Did you think I really wouldn’t share the non-rice options for you? I know we just met but, I would never leave out food facts! Not ready to rice? Build your bowl off the other base foundations such as kale slaw, crunchy kale Caesar, spinach salad, sweet potato noodles or the cloud-like cauliflower potato mash.

Bowl appetite, besties.



Emma Burke Jolly

Emma Burke Jolly has worked at Observer Media Group since 2018 as the digital fulfillment specialist. Originally from Connecticut, this Gulf Coast transplant loves being by the water, reminiscing about what Longboat Key looked like in 1990, navigating life with her husband and their two Maine Coon cats, and sharing her foodie findings with you.

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