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On a recent trip to Sarasota, my friend and I stumbled across Lila, a delightful, downtown lunch spot featuring fresh, healthy and delicious food.

I have relatives who live in Sarasota, and my parents bought a tiny winter home in nearby Venice when I was in high school (many years ago!) so I am familiar with the area. But my 90-year-old dad's idea of a perfect meal is anyplace that serves fried shrimp, so most of my restaurant meals here have been repeat visits to his two favorite spots near the Englewood beaches.

I enjoy a fried grouper sandwich as much as anyone, but on this particular day, I had had my fill of fried anything and just wanted something light, fresh and satisfying. Lila was the perfect spot for this.

I ordered the Macro Bowl: chickpeas, sweet potatoes, avocado, seaweed and brown rice with a   turmeric-tahini vinaigrette. It was delicious, and the colors were beautiful, served in a large, white bowl. It came with a side of carrot and ginger mash, which, when added to the bowl, enhanced the color and flavor.

Main dishes were divided on the menu into Cool/Cold and Warm/Hot categories. My friend ordered the Winter Bowl from the Warm/Hot section. His bowl contained roasted root vegetables, potatoes, kale, falafel and pistachios, with a tahini-lemon sauce.

The menu is mostly vegan, but non-vegetable sides were offered, including house-made bacon, a smoked poached egg and sausage. Salmon cake or chicken could be added to any main plate for an additional charge of $5 or $6. 

My friend opted for the poached egg, and had it served on top of his bowl. His dish was exceptional. As much as I loved mine, I think his was even better. The egg tasted great with the roasted vegetables, and the fresh tahini-lemon sauce tied all of the flavors together. 

A quick Google search revealed that this is a new restaurant, and that the chef proprietors own another place called Pomona Bistro in nearby Citrus Square.

If you are looking for something fresh and filling in downtown Sarasota, I recommend Lila. I plan to go back and see what they offer for dinner, and I would like to try Pomona Bistro as well.

Pictured here, is the Macro Bowl.


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You know you love a restaurant when you decide to dine there on two consecutive nights, and you are only in town for two. Without a reservation, and with very little knowledge about Indigeneous (except the fact that Chef Steve Phelps earned a James Beard Foundation semi-finalist nomination for Best Chef South in 2014 and 2015) we headed to this charming restaurant in an historic part of downtown Sarasota.

We sat at a high-top table on the patio, the perfect spot on a balmy Florida night. Sipping a glass of champagne, I glanced around at the lovely setting. Our table was surrounded by lush greenery, with soft music playing in the background. White lights twinkled above us, enhancing the exterior of the building, which appears to have been someone's home at one time.

Everything on the menu looked delicious, so it was difficult to decide. Wanting to sample a local fish, I opted for the Hook to Fork selection, one of two fish specials available that night. The dish was heavenly--a perfectly cooked, generous portion of local red grouper in a light cream sauce. This sauce was divine, not heavy at all, and enhanced the rich flavor of the fresh fish.

The other fish special was cobia on a soba noodle salad topped with Sriracha cream. I was tempted, because I like fresh cobia, but the Sriracha scared me away, as I often find it overpowering.

My dinner companion chose the Shrimp Bolognese, with wild caught Gulf shrimp, pappardelle, carmelized fennel and arugula pesto. This dish was interesting in that the pasta was in a Bolognese sauce and the shrimp was lightly covered in the pesto. It sounds like these flavors might compete, but they did not. Instead, they perfectly complemented each other and the fresh, al dente noodles.

Another highlight of the meal was our salad. For starters, we split a cobia tartare and a cress salad. Both dishes were outstanding, but the cress salad, for me, was one of the highlights of our meal. This generous salad featured Dakin Dairy mozzarella, upland cress, proscuitto and broccoli, lightly dressed with basil, lemon and olive oil. If this is on the menu when you visit, I highly recommend ordering it.

The second night we tried an entirely different selection of starters, all delicious, and my dinner companion ordered the red grouper for his main course, because he loved the sample I offered him the night before. To be honest, I wanted to order it again, too, but I did not, opting instead for the fish with soba noodles. Unfortunately, there was no cobia the second night, and an artic char was substituted. There was nothing wrong with this dish. The char was perfectly cooked, but not nearly as moist and delicious as the red grouper. That, combined with my overall lack of enthusiasm for Sriracha sauce, made me wish I'd ordered the grouper again.

We sat inside the second night, which was cozy on an evening that wasn't quite so warm. If the weather cooperates, however, I recommend asking for a table on the patio.

Chef Stevens is a talented man who knows how to balance flavors and create memorable dishes. Both of my meals at Indigenous were lovely and relaxing, and I can't wait to go back the next time I am on the Gulf side of Florida.   




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