Metro diner dpa4ci

Metro Diner's fried chicken and waffle platter

Metro Diner, a burgeoning chain born in Jacksonville in 1992, recently opened its first Sarasota location in a revamped space inside the Westfield Siesta Key mall. A diner it is, with a row of stools installed right in front of the open kitchen, a boisterous-and-bustling vibe and paper placemats emblazoned with ads for local businesses and nonprofits.

The Guy Fieri-approved menu reinforces the theme, with a variety of Benedicts and omelets and other egg-based favorites, plus lunch and dinner options like burgers, shrimp and grits and chicken pot pie. I attended a lunch celebrating Metro's opening on Wednesday and was particularly impressed by the fried chicken. Brined for more than 24 hours, the meat is juicy and well-seasoned, with a crackling exterior. Drizzled on top: maple syrup pumped up with exactly seven drops of Louisiana hot sauce by our very friendly server. The mix of sugar and heat cut into the salt below, making the whole package tough to resist (even if I'd prefer somewhere between 13 and 17 drops of hot sauce next time).

The mall location is the chain's first in the area, but two additional spots are planned—one near University Parkway and Lockwood Ridge Road and another in Venice. The chain already claims around three dozen restaurants, spread as far north as Pennsylvania and as far west as Las Vegas. The Sarasota location is the first of a handful of new spots opening this year in the Westfield mall, which is in the middle of a large-scale overhaul that will see it add restaurants like Connors Steak & Seafood and Bravo! Cucina Italiana, as well as a Lucky's Market grocery store.

Metro Diner is located at 3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, #1185, Sarasota, and is open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more info, call (941) 315-7886 or click here.

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