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Dec 11, 2013 10:52 AM

Visiting Relatives in Sarasota/Bradenton in Feb

need ideas for where to in when we are there. Local is best! no chains. Last time we were there went to Pop's-maybe not the greatest in the world but loved the vibe. Went to O'Leary's-had to, since it's my last name. Ate at Yoder's, Mom's family is Mennonite, loved the buffet. went to really cool ice cream place but not sure of the name. I'm wanting fresh seafood for one meal. What sort of eclectic, hole in the wall places are there? I'll eat anything once. My aunt who we will be with says that i find the strangest things on the menu and order them. I consider myself an adventurous eater. Any local brew pubs? I would also love to go to a farmers market. i appreciate the help!

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  1. Great hole in the wall: Sofrito Mama. (935 N. Beneva Road). I discovered this when I missed a turn off and pulled into the shopping center on Beneva which houses the restaurant, (the one with the Publix). When I saw the name, I decided to give it a try. After all, sofrito is the signature mixture in Latin cooking. Any restaurant with that word in its name ought to be worth a try. Success! This is a true gem.

    I ordered the Cuban sandwich with the assurances that their version was the best in FL and could outshine the version at Cuban places. I won't disagree; the pork in the sandwich was thick and juicy, cut from a house-made roast, the same meat that shows up in roasted pork platters. The fellow behind the counter, the pleasant owner and husband of the chef, also opened some take-out containers to show off the roast pork accompanied by stewed beans and a chicken stew accompanied by yellow rice with peas.

    There is little eat-in space-- only two stools inside the restaurant -- but there are approximately four tables outside under an overhang.

    Slightly upscale from Sofrito Mama's -- but hardly glossy -- is Marisco Azteca (1100 N. Tuttle). This place serves the expected Mexican dishes but offers lots of seafood Mexican seafood preparations, too. Their Mariscada Azteca is a sublime Mexican version of cioppino.

    Finally, I have a recommendation that doesn't even rise to the level of hole in the wall. On Friday and Saturday, for sure, but often on Sundays, too, food tents will appear in parking lots of Latino churches and near Mexican grocery stores. The person who recommended this to me added the words "If you aren't afraid to try these..." He then went on to describe lovely hand-made flour tortillas and over-stuffed tacos for $1.50 each. He particularly recommended one such tent on Tuttle, north of Fruitville, near the Hess gas station. (I can't remember whether it was north or south of the gas station.) He added that these may move around a bit but to be brave and just try one.