It’s both a curse and a blessing that we can never get to all the amazing places to eat here in Sarasota, let alone go back again and again. But when it comes to Sofrito Mama’s, located in the Sarasota Commons Plaza, we can’t wait! And apparently, neither can anyone else! Believe you me, there’s a reason TripAdvisor has rated Sofrito Mama’s #1 of 816 restaurants in Sarasota since January of 2014!
Let that sink in for a minute. Or better yet, hop in your car and head over to this 520 square foot (!) take-out restaurant specializing in Puerto Rican cuisine that’s exploding with flavor with every dish that heads out of their kitchen.
Operated by the always smiling, dynamic-duo of Jason and Alicia Bolden, there’s no “secret” to Sofrito Mama’s success. The vibe is clearly relaxed, with Jason seeming to know everyone that enters the door. Their ingredients are as fresh-as-fresh-can-be, with recipes straight from Alicia’s family back on tropical Puerto Rico. Even the prices are super-friendly, which has something to do with all those smiling patrons eating at the 20 or so seats on their outdoor patio.
On our first visit, Jason informed us that two of their most popular items were the Pernil, or roast pork, and the Guisados, a stew with chicken or beef. We chose one of each, with both platters served with a tossed salad and choice of rice or fried plantain. We added an order of Platanos Maduros, or Fried Sweet Plantains, just to cover off on our starches.
This is honest-to-grandma goodness served with love! The meat is perfectly seasoned, melts in you mouth, and if you close your eyes for a moment, you can easily imagine yourself in Puerto Rico.
What can I say about the fried plantains? Side dish? Dessert? The correct answer is probably who cares? After all, my taste buds are relaxing in the Caribbean right now…
Time for an order of empanadas – one of Jill’s favorites. Sofrito Mamma’s has empanadas made with chicken, beef or a spinach and cheese variety. All of them are delicious, with a crispy pastry crust that flakes with each bite. This is the kind of crust that you’ll chase the crumbs for. . . You know what I mean.
On a subsequent visit we took advantage of the Wednesday Daily Special of Pastelón, or Sweet Plantain Lasagna. This entrée is ‘da BOMB!” Seriously, who wouldn’t go crazy over the 3 layers of thinly sliced sweet plantain, ground beef, and cheddar cheese. (Pop quiz: How does that sound? The only correct answer: It sounds, and is, amazing!)
Thursday is Mofongo Day. Our new good friends ask if I’d ever had Mofongo before. I squint and think for a moment when Jason, matter-of-factly and correctly says, “if you have to think about it, then you haven’t had Mofongo before.”
This mountain of fried plantain, mashed with pork rind and serious garlic is served with a side of sherry gravy for drizzling or dipping your mofongo. I have to say this is a perfect example where the sum of the flavors is far greater than its parts! My only quibble is that someone should have yanked the fork out of my hand before I devoured more than a body should. Oh well, it’s like I’ve always said – anything worth doing is worth over-doing, or some such.
And while I’m “over-doing it,” let’s talk dessert. Sofrito Mama offers a luscious, moist Tres Leches that will make the eyes roll back in your head, and a Flan that you’ll want seconds of, even when you’re not hungry. There’s even a Budin de Pan/Bread Pudding that’s worth writing a post card home about!
Back to that #1 rating. Most TripAdvisor users originate from out of town; in this case Jason tells me that they’ve had a summer that rivals “season,” with a large number of Europeans and Asians, (among others) flocking to the doors to savor the only authentic Puerto Rican restaurant between Miami and Tampa!
But here’s some inside advice. . . the photo below is of a sign that sits behind the counter, ready to be used at some point of every day. They ALWAYS sell out of the special, because folks come from all over town to get their favorite Sofrito Mama dish. So if you wait until the end of the day, and they’re sold out. . . don’t say we didn’t warn you!