Trending now in Sarasota--besides condo and hotel construction on almost every corner--is a new wave of restaurants. A more “polished casual” theme in both cuisine and decor is hitting the Suncoast.
Early concepts like Shore, Beulah, Owen’s Fish Camp, Louies Modern and State Street started the evolution of changing formal dining into a hustle-and-bustle style of atmosphere, food and service. And I like it--I like it a lot. There is clearly a divide on how noisy a restaurant should be, but many younger residents, myself included, feel the fast-paced energy is comfortable and fun.
Over the past few weeks I have been dining at Lila, Main Street’s newest buzzy spot. The décor gets an A for its rustic, comfortable style. And the menu is very good. Yes, there could be a little more coarse salt on a few of the finished dishes, or slightly bolder seasoning here and there, but Lila delivers.
Small side plates include a perfect poached farm egg served with olive oil, sea salt and brioche toast. It's feels like a comforting breakfast dish, but with a modern take. You should also certainly should try the trio of Mediterranean spreads: charred eggplant, haydari and muhammara served with fresh, warm pita bread. Grilled romaine with farro, herbs and lemon could use a little more lemon for brightness, but overall it's a wonderful dish and a top seller.
Duck-fat-braised pork belly comes with a mustard-pickle condiment, and it's a succulent and indulgent dish on a mostly vegetarian menu.
As a dedicated omnivore, I was a little wary of trying the quinoa-vegetable burger, which is served open-faced on a spelt bun with a kohlrabi slaw. But I'm in love--I think this is the best veggie burger in town.
And while I often prepare zucchini noodles at home (the spiralizer is my favorite kitchen toy), low-carb lovers will love Lila's version of this dish, too. A tasty pesto flavors the zucchini noodles, and I dare you to shut your eyes and not almost believe you're eating pasta.
And yes, there is a Three Suns Ranch buffalo petite filet with Bordelaise sauce for that hardcore meat eater, but I encourage you to walk on the lighter side and dabble in Lila's veggie offerings, which also include soba noodles with house-made tofu, miso broth and pickled chilies (love that kick of flavor from the chilies).
Desserts are delicious, but hopefully will become more seasonal. I'd love something with apples or pears to keep that fresh-from-the-farm theme going.
And while Lila offers beer and wine and a fresh array of drinks, cocktail lovers should try one of the signature vermouth cocktails.
In short: Lila is a welcome new addition to downtown’s lunch and dinner scene, and I'll be back many times.
Lila is located at 1576 Main St. in downtown Sarasota. The restaurant is open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday from 5-10 p.m. Reservations are encouraged.