Featured on WTSP’s Flavors of Tampa Bay, El Lago Ranchero serves Mexican fare amidst warm yellow walls and mission-style tiled archways. Waiters shuffle tamales, shrimp tacos, and fajitas—each paired with rice and beans—to tables inside the eatery or on a patio shaded with umbrellas. Guests can quell sweet cravings with fried ice cream and flan or sangria and margaritas as they try to find the courage to tell their date their second, secret middle name.
Bill Shumate's career as a restaurateur began in 1964 when he opened a small burger shack that catered to the hearty appetites of University of Oklahoma students. After spending the next several decades opening and operating eateries, Shumate decided that his next venture should somehow honor his burger roots. He partnered with Joanie Corneil in 2006 and developed a concept choosing the name Square 1 Burgers to reflect this full-circle journey. Unlike that original restaurant, though, Square 1 Burgers grew over the years, eventually expanding to several locations throughout west central Florida.
Although the concept was intended to be a return to basics, Square 1 isn't constrained by traditional conventions. Patties of Meyer's all-natural red Angus beef, Kobe, lamb, ground buffalo, and portobello mushroom caps all appear between the buns, providing a wealth of options to consider before even thinking about toppings. This eclectic spirit is also apparent in the menu's selection of appetizers, which includes everything from sun-dried tomato and artichoke hummus to homemade double-dipped onion rings. Even the milkshakes made with Blue Bell ice cream seem like faithful renditions of an American classic at first. However, the grown-up versions with Baileys, vodka, and Kahlua or brandy, cr?me de cacao continue to demonstrate Square 1 Burgers' playful spirit.
“I believe that if you’re not cooking with all five senses, you’re not cooking,” declares Derek Barnes in his feature for Sarasota’s Hot Chefs. It’s this maxim that earned him a lifetime of culinary achievement, starting with a four-year stint under the expertise of Emeril Lagasse and leading to a Zagat rating for his own restaurant and the title of semifinalist in the 2009 James Beard Awards. Derek channels these achievements into the innovative dishes he creates at his eponymous restaurant, which specializes in what he calls progressive American cuisine. That “progressive” moniker can mean a lot of things, whether it’s anointing a dish of foie gras with hazelnut honey and walnut streusel or braising a savory lamb shank in the tart flavors of lime and cilantro. Unlike a time-traveling Byzantine explorer, the chef doesn’t obsess over his plentiful spice cabinet, as the menu’s simple-grill selection serves up fresh cuts of steak, fish, and poultry in a simple, unadulterated form. Each flavor note finds its ideal complement in a wine list that features 100 bottles, many of which are available by the glass.
MoZaic's head chef Dylan Elhajoui learned how to cook in his native Fes, Morocco surrounded by a family of chefs and restaurant owners, flavorful foods and fragrances, and bustling markets brimming with fresh produce. He infuses the recipes of his youth with abundant herbs and spices, organic meats, and fresh fish, depending on what can be found in that week's farmers' markets and fishermen's nets. The results are flavorful dishes, such as the seven-vegetable couscous spiced with ginger and lemon confit. Chef Elhajoui and his team also craft delicacies such as the sage-smoked duck breast, which they serve with a sweet side of poached pears, a goat-cheese polenta, and star-anise aigre-doux jus. Guests can conclude meals with one of the house's eclectic desserts, such as the Tangier—a flourless pear-and-walnut cake topped with a dollop of vanilla-bean crème anglaise and toasted-coconut ice cream.
Inkanto's chefs embrace the diversity of Peru's culinary traditions, crafting eclectic dishes from staples such as potatoes, peppers, and corn. Seafood entrees, including corvina fillets in a creamy saffron sauce, channel the flavors of the country's Pacific coast. The stir-fried filet mignon and onions in lomo saltado bespeaks the influence of Asian immigrants on the region's cooking styles. Other dishes are more ubiquitous: parties can start by slicing towers of causas, which clasp fillings of chicken or tuna between two disks of spiced mashed potatoes.
Stone walls adorn the entrance of the restaurant, and Peruvian guitar and flute music fills the air. In the dining room, menus accompany crimson napkins that bloom out of glasses or nearby magicians' sleeves. Framed abstract paintings adorn the walls, surrounding the dining room in jewel tones.
Each morning, Word of Mouth Downtown greets the sun with a breakfast of homespun comfort food. Everything from homemade corned-beef hash with sliced tomatoes and eggs to buttermilk pancakes topped with fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips joins a mountain of freshly baked scones and croissants. "Go for the muffin and order it grilled," recommends Sarasota Magazine. "Sounds odd, tastes delicious."
When lunch rolls around, orders shift away from omelets and coffee to soups, salads, and sandwiches. BLTs appear alongside specialty snacks such as a Cuban-style panini and the 8-ounce WOM burger. The best setting to enjoy these bites if you're a dog owner? On the canine-friendly patio, where dogs can munch on a handful of treats, drink a bowl of ice-cold water, and wear a napkin folded up to look like a little hat.