Florence and the Spice Boys has opened in The Landings shopping plaza—and it's serving up some of the best food in Sarasota.
The restaurant began as a food truck in 2019, when owners Steven and Florence Schmitt and Carl Kolber teamed up to bring modern Middle Eastern food to town. Inspired by the trio's travels to Israel, Spice Boys serves up hummus, chicken shawarma, falafel and much more.
“It’s a real passion. We love Israeli food so much that when we traveled there, we knew that was it. We wanted to do something using those flavors,” says Florence Schmitt.
While operating the food truck, they amassed a dedicated local following that allowed them to build out a brick-and-mortar space, which opened this week.
The dining room is bright, and with our pleasant weather this week, the front sliding doors of the restaurant are thrown open. Schmitt greets guests and directs them to the kiosk system the restaurant is using in lieu of a cashier. Guests can also order food in advance via the Toast platform, which can be accessed directly or via Instagram, and enjoy the food there or take it to go.
Believe it or not, this is my first time trying Spice Boys’ food. Schmitt orders for me after confirming that I like spicy food: hummus with sweet corn, chicken shawarma and a cookie.
The hummus arrives first, in a plastic half-pint container. It’s topped with a corn salad glazed with a shimmer of olive oil and comes with a side of warm pita. The hummus is rich and creamy, with the deep sesame flavors of tahini at the forefront. It’s not acidic, like grocery store hummus, but instead earthy and comforting.
The chicken shawarma is served as two handheld pitas stuffed with chicken, pickled cabbage, egg, tahini, shug (a Middle Eastern salsa), and amba (a pickled mango condiment). The chicken is flavored with toasty Middle Eastern spices, especially cumin. It looks like it might be too rich, but bright acidity shines through, elevating each bite. The pickled cabbage adds texture but not bulk, and the just-gelled egg yolk is unctuous.
It's difficult to stop eating in time to save room for my golden brown cookie, but I manage some self-control. Lacy brown edges indicate lots of butter and sugar. I anticipate a sweet bomb. What I don’t expect is a mild savory component, which I’m later told is thanks to Florence’s secret ingredient—Goldfish crackers. Genius.
By the time I leave, the restaurant is buzzing with guests, all of whom Florence seems to know personally. She hugs almost everyone who enters, and even me as I leave. I feel loved and taken care of, and I can't wait to come back.
Florence and the Spice Boys is open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at 4990 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information call (941) 405-3890 or visit the restaurant's Instagram.