We’re in the midst of a surge in the number of Sarasota restaurants specializing in vegetarian and vegan items, and Leaf & Lentil is the newest kid on the meat-free block. Opened by chef Michael Schoening and Sheila Siegel two weeks ago, the café serves a mix of salads and “small” and “main” plates that rotates frequently.
On one recent afternoon, Schoening was plating up a lentil salad, a warmed spinach salad, chana masala, a muffuletta made with fried eggplant and grilled zucchini, a po’ boy with fried zucchini instead of shrimp and a mess of other items. A small beet salad ($7.75) featured tender cubes of purple roasted beets, dressed in an orange vinaigrette spiced with a touch of Indonesian chili sauce. Delicious, but not enough to fill you up on its own. A platter of zucchini fritters ($6.75) completed the meal. It came with four big hunks of shredded zucchini fried until the inside turned creamy and accented with a spread of remoulade.
Leaf & Lentil is situated in a corner of Indian Beach Plaza, right on North Tamiami Trail near Ringling College of Art and Design. It’s a cozy, adorable spot, with just eight table seats and nine elevated bar seats inside, plus a small patio. It seems well poised to cater to Ringling employees looking for a healthful midday pick-me-up, as well as Ringling students, who are part of a generation that has driven a six-fold increase in the number of vegans in America since 2014. Will Leaf & Lentil last longer than previous restaurants have in this spot? I’d bet on it.
Leaf & Lentil is located at 2801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, and is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more info, call (941) 413-5685 or check out the restaurant's website.