During a recent trip to my home town of Sarasota, Florida, we only went out a few times, spending most of our time eating at home with my family. Here are my reviews of the few places we did visit while we were there.
Red Elephant Pizza & Grill - Nothing special. We had the Red Elephant Special and BBQ Chicken Pizzas. The crust was lacking in flavor and was not yeasty like traditional pizza crust. The BBQ sauce was more tangy than sweet. The Red Elephant was pretty good, with plenty of toppings and just the right amount of sauce, but the boring crust just made the entire pizza a bit boring.
Sweetberries Frozen Custard and Eatery - Excellent custard! I actually have never eaten their regular food, but always just go for the custard. Flavors change daily so check their online calendar for the flavor of the day. They also make "Concretes" (think DQ Blizzard) with their regular custard (choc or vanilla) which are quite a treat. They offer daily concrete flavor mixes which are alway fun and interesting.
Gianni's Pizza (Venice, FL) - Their Italian Sandwich was quite good with nice variety of meat and served on a toasted hoagie with a light Italian Dressing. My husband and I shared a calzone, which good, but nothing special. The pizza by the slice was sitting under a heat lamp so I passed on that. Just a short jaunt from the Legacy Trail.
First Watch (Lakewood Ranch) - Always a good bet for breakfast. Good variety with healthy option and local themed favorites. I recommend the Floridian French Toast, Banana Granola Pancakes, the Key West Crepe, and any of their Skillets.
Panera Bread (Tamiami Trail) - Great salads, sandwiches, and soups. They have their standards (Fuji Chicken Apple Salad, Asiago Roast Beef Sandwich, Creamy Tomato Soup) then they have their seasonal offerings (Orchard Harvest Chicken Salad). They also have yummy breakfast sandwiches and, of course, bakery sweets. Their bakery sweets are my least favorite item from Panera - it tends to be hit or miss - but you can't go wrong with anything on their regular menu.
Carrabbas's Italian Grill (Tamiami Trail) - I have been to Carrabba's many times before and have always had good food. This time was no exception. However, I was a bit disappointed that they changed their bread recipe, which is not as good as it used to be. The food is very heavy (don't go there is you are counting calories) and ladened with butter and oil. For an occasional treat I would go back, but there are so many other good restaurants in Sarasota they would be towards the bottom of the list.