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Summer is upon us--and with it comes more ideas about where to dine during those late-afternoon thunderstorms.

Soon there will be plenty more to choose from near the mall, especially when Newk's, Keke's and Oak & Stone open after a long build-out process. But recently Rusty Bucket opened on Cattlemen Road near Benderson Park, and I decided to check it out. 

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Rusty Bucket is a sports bar--but I didn't expect that it would have a cool rustic vibe with a big selection of craft beers, martinis, whiskeys and lots of shared plates. The food is good and so is the service--and there are no blaring TVs or people dressed as referees. 

We opted for a mix of menu items. I wouldn't order the sweet chili wings again, but the mini-cheeseburgers on potato buns were tasty and cooked to the requested medium rare. 

The patty melt is also a hit here, and for good reason--it's juicy and crispy on the outside, with buttery grilled bread and lots of melted cheese.

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The barbecue chopped chicken salad was good, too, but it needed more flavor. However, we loved the mac and cheese, and the meatloaf dinner was a solid dish that came with fresh carrots and mashed potatoes.

If you're from Boston, then you know the term "pub pizza"--it's flat pizza with a no-edge crust topped with good quality ingredients. Rusty Bucket's Sicilian pizza fit the bill and seemed to be popular at many other tables, too. 

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All in all, I'd go back--while some local sports bars have been cutting down on their portion, Rusty Bucket's are generous and filling, especially after a UTC power walk. That means I can have the cinnamon bun bread pudding, right?

Rusty Bucket | 257 N. Cattlemen Road, Sarasota (941) 355-6666

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