The spiced lamb hummus at Blasé Bistro & Martini Bar.

An appetizer or small dish that stimulates the taste buds is often as appealing or even more appealing than a restaurant's main entrées. I love food too much, and don't always want to commit to one entrée, so I often order two appetizers and a salad as my meal. Selecting the area's top appetizers can be daunting, but I did my best:

Spiced Lamb Hummus at Blasé Bistro & Martini Bar

1920 Hillview St., Sarasota, (941) 312-6850, blasebistro.com
This newish purple café offers French Mediterranean food. The lamb hummus is a bright, flavorful dish, composed of seasoned ground lamb atop homemade hummus, hazelnuts and madjool dates with garlic flatbreads. A bit pricy for an appetizer, but it easily feeds two.

Grilled Octopus at Pino's

3800 S. Tamiami Trail, #9, Sarasota, (941) 366-1440, pinos-sarasota.com
I have tried this appetizer over a dozen times and swear it is the best in town. Slightly charred with garlic and olive oil, it's perfect. Use a squeeze of lemon.

Grandma's Meatballs at Cafe Barbosso

5501 Palmer Crossing Circle, Sarasota, (941) 922-7999, cafebarbosso.com
Great meatballs on a bed of creamy ricotta and a flavorful marinara. Barbosso is known for its meatballs, and anyone trying them for the first time with this dish will come back for more.

Parmesan Beignets at Indigenous

239 S. Links Ave., Sarasota, (941) 706-4740, indigenoussarasota.com
The lightest puffs of parmigiano-reggiano, served with sliced pear, local honey and fresh thyme. A warm, comfortable, simple appetizer that never disappoints.

Pork & Shrimp Vietnamese Pancake at Pho Cali

1578 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 955-2683, phocalisarasota.com
It’s No. 8 on the menu and one of the best Asian pancakes ever. Wrap a piece around a green lettuce top and top the fried omelet-style dish with cucumber and a sweet sauce.

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