One of the not-so-secret “secrets” to success is to under-promise and over-deliver. Doesn’t matter if it’s business or personal, when you exceed someone’s expectations, people will speak well of you. So when a colleague suggested, more than once, that we visit the Lido Beach Restaurant, and followed up that suggestion saying “you WILL thank me for this!” we took that as a promise, if not from the Lido Beach Restaurant, then from our friend.
Wait, what? The Lido Beach Restaurant? If, like me, you can’t place the name or picture the place, it’s probably because it’s actually the Seabreeze Concession Lido Beach Restaurant. Seriously. A concession stand that’s getting big raves for their food? THIS, we’ve got to see.
While concession food may conjure up thoughts of carnival food, hamburgers re-heated in a microwave or hot dogs rotating all day on a hot dog roller, it’s an entirely other world at The Lido Beach Restaurant. All the burgers and dogs are made to order, the French fries fresh from the fryer, the sandwiches made on your choice of fresh bread. But it’s the daily special(s) that have created a loud buzz around local Sarasota foodies. Specials that definitely perk up your taste buds and cause you to re-think any preconceived notion on the quality of food to expect from a concession stand.
The man in charge of this combination concession stand and Ice Cream & Gift Shop is Gabe Davila, the man who, upon hiring Chef J.R., made the brilliant decision to turn all the kitchen decisions over to the man actually running the kitchen. And, about two years ago, when J.R. asked Gabe the very important question: “Why can’t we serve food with more panache than the fare normally found in a concession stand?” answered “Why not, indeed?” And that, my friends, is how the legend of The Lido Beach Restaurant began . . .
Jill and I both agree, you can’t visit Sarasota’s beaches often enough, so we planned to make a day of it last Sunday when we headed over to The Lido Beach. And, to our delight, Sundays are “Lobster Roll Day” at Lido Beach Restaurant! J.R. starts with a split-top New England Style roll, lightly grilled and graced with a layer of crunchy iceberg lettuce and big, chunky scoops of sweet, fresh Canadian lobster meat that’s been tossed ever-so lightly in creamy mayo and diced celery, with a few lime wedges served on the side. This robust, classic lobster roll has garnered quite the fan base, from what we saw at the beach. On a typical Sunday, J.R. will serve up around 500 of these babies! We had the “basic” (Basic – ha! ha! That’s funny!) Seabreeze roll, ($8) and for an extra buck, we tried the Lido Lobster Roll, with fresh avocado, cilantro, and lime. Both are equally delicious, and for a $2 upcharge, the kitchen will add a side of Caesar salad, fries or fresh fruit. You can even enjoy a cold adult beverage and grab a table at the restaurant, or head back to the beach to enjoy this unexpected repast! (Cue the music: “There’s something happenin’ here…”)
Normally when I see a long line forming at an order window, I wonder “Just how slow is the service here?” But at Lido Beach Restaurant, you soon realize it’s not slow service, it’s a run on the food, which is exactly the case every Sunday on Lido Beach. The line starts backing up around 11:00 during the summer, and folks just keep coming until they’re sold out of lobster rolls, usually around 1:30-2:00. A word to the wise, it gets crazier at the height of the season, so the Lobster Rolls probably sell out even quicker then — just saying! Not able to get there on a Sunday? The rest of the week’s specials are equally in demand . . . More on those delicious palate teasers in a minute.
While watching the line begin to form at the Lido Beach Restaurant, Jill caught up with a pair of our local police constabulary, who – despite the 90+ degree heat and the fact that they were wearing the obligatory dark blue uniforms – make it a point to stop every Sunday for a well-deserved lunch-break on the beach. I’m guessing that also makes these two of Sarasota’s more savvy officers as well!
If lobster rolls aren’t your thing (I know, that’s crazy talk), then maybe an all American cheeseburger might be more to your liking? One thing is certain – cheeseburgers in paradise just taste better. Hmm, maybe someone should write a song about that! Big and juicy and topped with your choice of fresh tomato, lettuce and onions on a golden, toasted hamburger bun, I don’t know that you even need an order of fries. Something I would consider if dining in a place where bathing suits are expected, not rejected!
As I mentioned, there are more amazing finds on the standard menu, like the Lido Beach Restaurant’s take on a breakfast sandwich! This a Man vs. Food sized two egg sandwich, with a choice of sausage, ham or bacon. If I hadn’t just eaten that entire lobster roll . . .
But Mart, what about the rest of the week you ask?
Happy to oblige, as always. Monday through Wednesdays, J.R. offers up his “Serendipity Days Menu.” On these days you may find a grilled Gulf Shrimp Caesar, a pressed Cuban sandwich, steak sandwich, turkey Rueben, or whatever else he fancies that day. Not knowing what kind of crowd to expect on the beach during the beginning of the week, these specials are made in limited quantities; so it’s get’em while they’re hot, or they’ll be gone for sure!
Thursday are reserved for another highly popular special, J.R.’s take on shrimp fajitas, while Fridays are fish taco day. . . three fresh fish tacos for under $10? Yup. And Saturday? Saturday is another stand-out. Seriously, what other concession stand, be it beach-front or ball park, offers a filet mignon sandwich. Seriously. Filet mignon. . . on a sandwich . . . on the beach . . . Believe me, this is “knock your socks off” stuff. Don’t believe me? Look around. See . . . no socks to be seen!
This can only mean one thing. Jill and I have to work our way through the entire Monday-Saturday beach front menu. You know, in the name of journalism and such. A couple more things before you race to Lido Beach Restaurant; they also serve one of our very favorite cold treats in the gift shop – POP Craft popsicles!. . . .And Wi-Fi is also available – but if that’s what it takes to get you to Lido Beach, then SHAME on you!
To our esteemed colleague that tipped us off, thank you, thank you, and thank you! As requested, you shall remain nameless.