Gulf Gate, Downtown, St. Armands, Siesta Key and of course Southside Village. There are so many great restaurant hot spots here in Sarasota. We’re pretty lucky that way.
Lots of cities our size can’t make that claim. A good amount of places have all of their best restaurants bunched up all in one area. Go there and get it all. Not here! You can cruise through most parts of the Sarasota community and find clusters of dining delight.
Our adventure today takes us to one such spot, Southside Village. In an area that has one traffic light and one small roundabout there are no less than 13 places to catch a breakfast, lunch or dinner. That’s a lot of choices.
And, when I say choices I mean it. Traditional breakfast place, check. American fine dining or casual, yes. Deli food, got that. Indian cuisine, times two. Sushi, of course and why not just throw in an amazing gourmet market just for the heck of it. Most people would kill for these kinds of choices for their entire town, not just in one little neighborhood.
I’m looking for lunch and a Southside Village mainstay is just the place, The Hillview Grill. Since 1986 (why does that seem like such a long time ago?), The Hillview Grill has been serving fantastic casual dining fare to eager, hungry customers. The menu ranges from soups and sandwiches, to the “Fish Delish” which is about as made to order as it comes. You choose the fish, the cooking method and the topping. Now, that’s having it your way!
No “Fish Delish” for me today, although the salmon and mahi are both great (see how easy it is to get off track). Today it’s the Half Sandwich Combo. Listed on the menu for a great price of $7.95, it should make for a nice lunch and a nice value.
I like soup, we’ve been over that before. And, half of a sandwich makes the perfect partner. There was no doubt which soup would make the cut. Hillview Grill has a great Black Bean Soup. The only real question was what would occupy the other half of the plate. They give you five options including a Cuban, which would seem to be the obvious choice. But, casting aside the traditional combo, I opted for a Turkey Club instead. Ready for action!
Here’s the only problem (at least that I see) with the soup and sandwich combo. If you order a sandwich that is best served hot, you are faced with the dilemma of which to eat first, soup or sandwich. Your gut tells you, “Go for the soup, you gotta get it while it’s hot”. But, your brain tries to reason it out to determine which item would be the best in its cooled down state. I decided not to use my brain. An easy choice for me. Soup first.
Making this “which first” choice even easier was the fact that I already knew that the Black Bean soup would be awesome and a great way to start. Besides it would have made eating the sandwich tough knowing that the soup was calling my name and sitting right there. No disappointment here. The soup was as good as expected. Rich, thick black bean topped with just the right amount of Bermuda onions. Score!
Thirty seconds later (OK, possibly least a minute), I was on to the Turkey Club. The soup was a slam dunk, but, this would be a little tougher. Sandwiches can be complicated. They shouldn’t be, but, sometimes doing something simple seems to be so hard.
This club had some meat to it. Loaded with turkey, avocado, bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and topped with mayo. WOW! Glad I only had the half. The entire thing comes on grilled bread. Not grilled like toasted, but, grilled like a Reuben. A fantastic carrier. That touch made that sandwich for me. It would have been just as easy (no wait, even easier) to make that club with white or wheat toast, but, the extra step really made the dish. Score again!
The bottom line: There are lots of great places to eat in the Southside Village neighborhood. Some of them have been around for years, others are just getting started as Southside traditions. The Hillview Grill is still on its game after 24 years. It’s good to see that time doesn’t change some things.