The hot new ingredient burning up Sarasota’s restaurant scene? Spam.
During the mid-20th century, the canned pork product became a staple in the diet of American soldiers. People who lived near American military bases, particularly those in Hawaii and South Korea, began incorporating Spam into their own food traditions, and have returned the product to the American mainland, with their own unique twist.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, a popular chain that opened in Sarasota this summer, serves Spam in a couple different ways: in saimin, a ramen-like noodle soup, and in Spam musubi, a sushi-like dish that is made by searing a slice of Spam and attaching it to a small bed of rice with a seaweed wrapper. Smothered with the restaurant’s thick, hoisin-like barbecue sauce, it’s a one-of-a-kind package that costs just $2.50. (You can also get Spam musubi at Pacific Counter in Lakewood Ranch.)
L&L's Spam saimin ($6.95) is also satisfying, if less unique—just springy noodles submerged in a sippable broth and dressed with cubes of Spam.
If Spam isn’t your thing, try the Kalua pork ($7.95-$11.95). Smoky and juicy, the shredded meat is tossed with ribbons of steamed cabbage and served with more rice and macaroni salad. Fried shrimp ($11.95) are also tasty—ultra-crunchy and addictive. I’d avoid the fried fish ($14.95), which has too much breading that obscures the seafood. Stick to Spam and you can’t go wrong.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue is located at 5445 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, and is open 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. For more info, call (941) 315-9008 or visit the restaurant's website.