Not quite sure why we hadn’t gotten around to visiting Simon’s Coffee House on South Tamiami Trail, because I knew going in that I was going to love it. On this particular Saturday, Jill and I were on our way to do some work on a new listing nearby when the stars aligned our schedule, and we could enjoy a leisurely brunch there and catch up with Simon on how things were going.
Since Simon moved his restaurant out of Siesta Village about twelve years ago, it was obvious that things were going swimmingly, as the place was always buzzing with an upbeat energy, with a distinctly Bohemian vibe. Another excellent example of when a place feels right, looks right, and is operated by a skilled 3rd generation restauranteur (soon to be 4th generation, once Simon and Michelle’s kids take over completely), resulting in the positively wonderful dining experience that awaits.
Like the menu states on its cover, the promise of “Eclectic Whole Foods” is in evidence on the numerous blackboard offerings and specials, using nothing but freshly prepared ingredients, and combined in intriguing and delicious ways. As Simon explained, he doesn’t profess to being a “health food” restaurant per se , but he knows exactly what goes into each and every dish on the menu, because everything, and I mean everything, is prepared in house, with the exception of breads, which are baked daily — right next door! Combine that with the fact that Simon’s Coffee House’s kitchen has no exhaust hood, (hence no fried items), and you can’t feel anything but good when ordering from Simon’s menu. Throw in friendly, attentive staff that clearly enjoy working here, and you can’t miss. Way to keep it simple, Simon!
Right when you enter, you’ll pass through a small deli area where take-out orders are handled. Immediately you’ll see the Boar’s Head chalk boards and the ‘vibe’ is established. There’s a counter in the middle dining room, which tends to fill up quickly and turn over often. The servers behind are often a blur of activity, keeping up with the folks there.
Pass the dessert case and you’ll land in the third dining area, if you don’t count the curb side seating outside. And believe me, this place is busy. We just missed the breakfast crowd — breakfast itself being added to the menu at customer demand. Without an exhaust hood, there’s no fried foods or pancakes on the menu, so if you’re wanting a traditional breakfast, Simon’s Coffee House isn’t the place to go. But you can get a delicious crepe, a croissant sandwich, a British banger, or one of Simon’s “Power Porridges” made with Chia, berries and walnuts.
Being in the mood for one of Simon’s famous Panini sandwiches, Jill goes for a favorite – the Rueben. Now Simon’s offers two different options on the Rueben . . . one is the classic Reuben with corned beef or turkey, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut, and the other is the “Ruby” Reuben Panini, made with tempeh, avocado, sauerkraut, Swiss and Russian dressing. Jill goes for the half Panini with corned beef and a side of the carrot coconut salad. She grades the Reuben with 5 stars for the balance of meat to bread — each bite of the crispy grilled bread forces the meat to shift and the sauce to ooze a little out the back of the sandwich. It could get messy here, but she doesn’t care.
What really gets her attention is the carrot coconut salad, one of three cold sides offered on the menu. This, she says, is so delicious we HAVE to make it at home. What’s in it, she asks the server – aside from the obvious shredded carrot, raisins and coconut? “I’ll ask the chef,” our server says, and off she goes, to report back only moments later that there is just a hint of rice wine vinegar in the salad. “Brilliant in its simplicity” was Jill’s response. Again — keeping it simple, Simon. . . the recipe for success!
Me? I’m going for the Spicy Saturday Panini, constructed of Sausalito turkey, three chili Colby jack, onions, peppers, tomatoes, peach cilantro salsa and guacamole. Seriously? This is not a simple sandwich at all! But boy, oh boy! Do I love the taste. The spiciness promised in the name isn’t that hot ‘catch your breath’ kind of heat. It’s the robust flavor of all these ingredients working so well together I have to wonder why they save this sandwich for Saturdays only?
I pair my full sized Panini with a side of Greek cucumber salad, which offers just the right amount of vinegar zip to counter the cheesy, peppery goodness of the sandwich. Again, everything is made in house, so what’s supposed to be crunchy is crunchy, what’s supposed to be hot and gooey, is just that. So — we’re back to a simple business concept. Deliver on your promise! I wouldn’t change a thing about this sandwich or the salad.
Not being a wagering man — except in a friendly college football pool between friends — I am willing to make the claim that Simon’s Coffee House will be here for a long time to come. Seeing the chef, Simon’s son Tyler, step out of the kitchen to make sure a customer at a neighboring table was content, is testament to this family’s dedication to serving food you’ll want to come back for time and again.
Way to go Simon!