all photos Alexis Santos/Catalyst
The budget: $20. The mission: Get the most bang for our lunch-buying buck at a local restaurant.
The Catalyst wandered around downtown Sarasota on a safari for a restaurant to provide a filling, yet affordable lunch for $20 or less. For a few seconds, the Catalyst seriously considered how much frozen yogurt $20 could buy at Whiteberry, but reevaluated its lunchtime priorities while it perused restaurants such as The Drunken Poet, Pho Cali, C’est La Vie, Yume Sushi, Maemi and others that line Main Street. Sangria Tapas Bar stood out from the crowd for its focus on tapas, appetizers in Spanish cuisine, that would allow the Catalyst – in theory – to have a little of everything and keep the cost manageable.
A Spanish guitar hummed through the restaurants’ speaker system and posters advertising spring fairs from the 1930s in Cordova, Seville and San Fernando adorned the walls, setting the tone for a meal on the Iberian Peninsula. Above each red-cloth-covered table sat a bottle of 2010 Carchelo red wine, a stack of plates and a cup filled with utensils, signs of the social experience around buying and sharing tapas with your party.
As the Catalyst sat somewhat stiffly in a booth with a back rest at sharp angle, a small loaf of french bread and butter was delivered to the table. Though a sandwich-laden lunch was available with prices hovering just below $10, we eschewed it for similarly priced and hardier dinner fare.
For $6.25, the Catalyst ordered patatas salteadas picantes, or spicy sautéed potatoes. The garlic and parsley seasoned potato wedges arrived piping hot and were served with a sun-dried tomato aioli. We also ordered pincho de solomillo, or sirloin skewer, served with some of the sweetest caramelized onions that have graced the Catalyst’s collective taste buds and a smattering of creamy horseradish sauce on the side. The pincho de solomillo is a sweet and salty combination that most certainly receives the Catalyst’s recommendation, especially at only $4.25.
In addition to the traditional sit-down experience, Sangria has a fully stocked bar which the Catalyst did not venture to put through its paces at noon. While the service could have been faster, the delicious food was a thorough consolation. In total, the Catalyst spent a modest sum of $14 – that’s including a 20 percent tip for the meal.
Evaluation: Strong Sat