I am the type of eater who often prefers the sides or the salad to the main entrée. In fact, other than a slice of prime rib around the holidays, my plate is usually filled with creamy goodness and crisp, flavorful vegetables. Luckily, some of the best side dishes in town can now actually be ordered as a meal. Here are four of my favorite:

"Owen's Succotash" at Owen's Fish Camp

516 Burns Court, Sarasota, (941) 951-6936, owensfishcamp.com
The most popular succotash on the planet. Not my mother's canned corn and lima beans, this one features garbanzo beans, fresh corn and dried cranberries. It's healthy and super flavorful.

Asiago Creamed Spinach at Connor's Steak & Seafood

3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 260-3232, connorsrestaurant.com
Connor's offers a choice of traditional steakhouse sides, and I would say the creamed spinach is some of the best in town. The rich white sauce with a hint of nutmeg dresses up the sautéed spinach, leading to flavor nirvana.

"Fleming's Potatoes" at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

2001 Siesta Drive, Sarasota, (941) 358-9463, flemingssteakhouse.com
Old school potatoes au gratin with a kick. Brown and bubbling on the top.

"The Chef's Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese" at The Capital Grille

180 University Town Center Drive, Sarasota, (941) 256-3647, thecapitalgrille.com
If the gooey, rich mac 'n' cheese isn't enough, the chunks of sweet Maine lobster will send you over the moon.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole With Eggnog and Streusel Topping

With the holidays upon us, a newer version of a classic sweet potato casserole will be a table pleaser. Serves eight.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups mashed sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 cup eggnog
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For Topping

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, eggnog, sugar and salt. Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish.
  3. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over top.
  4. Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until heated through.
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