Do something consistent and appeal to the locals – Frank Zillecks; GM Roast
You know a good menu when you see Bone-In Rib Eye, Bone-In Filet and Bone-In Pork Chop on it.
One of my favorite spots downtown is back in business; Roast Restaurant and Bar, modern American food with a European influence. This two-story historic building on the corner of First Street and Pineapple Avenue allows customers to enjoy several unique dining experiences. The courtyard has an outside bar with seating throughout the narrow space. It’s surrounded by lush trees and an iron gate. Just outside the gate, the hostess stands to greet you.
The outdoor staircase leads you to the lounge area where you can sit at the bar or choose from an array of eclectic furniture. I’ve had dinner both up and down stairs. General Manager, Frank Zillecks tells me,“I want people to try at least two areas in the restaurant,” he encourages people to have a drink at the bar and then have dinner, “Eating at Roast is an experience, I want the customer to feel this.” Zillecks is no stranger to the restaurant business, he ran all the Stonewood Grill’s and recently ran Sam Snead’s until they hired a GM.
As a resident in SRQ for almost ten years, I have seen this restaurant turn hands more often than none. Frank tells me, “Anytime you have a historic building you are going to have challenges. The flow is what makes a restaurant work.” Having a chef with over 20 years experience move into the space, led them to finding creative ways to expand the kitchen and service areas. Sick of the English weather, Chef and Owner of Roast; Anthony Thompson made the move to the area over three and a half years ago from London. He is excited for his first venture in downtown Sarasota.
The menu at Roast will appease any appetite and wallet. With an array of options you can find something light or hearty. I ordered stone crab claws served along with toast points topped with crab for only five dollars each, from the Shellfish and Raw section on the menu. The deviled eggs are one of my favorites and I am not a fan of mayo, but I couldn’t even taste it and my mind was on the crispy pancetta and the caviar topping from local Mote Marine (a must try item). Another favorite of mine, the classic steak tartar prepared perfectly. This is the kind of dish chef’s vary on presentation, but Thompson get’s it.
The barbecue quail is something I have never tried prior to my visit to Roast. Two nice size pieces of quail served a top corn salsa and what looks like little red tomatoes, but chef Thompson tells me, “I discovered these peruvian peppers or sometime referred to as, sweeties, at a food show in Miami, now I get them shipped here to the restaurant.” It’s those little touches that makes the beautiful plate dressing stand-out.
“I learned early on that you need to go to the restaurants and spend money in order to see what people are experiencing,” Thomspson says, “this helps him understand the customers needs.” That he does, aside from working out the bumps that all new restaurants have, he is well on his way to having one of the most successful restaurants in this space. The atmosphere is cozy and warm, the staff is friendly and knowledgable, an affordable menu and wine list, and after only being open for four weeks, seems the word has already gotten out – the restaurant has been full the past five dining experiences I’ve had.
Take a date or meet a friend at Roast, and be sure to make reservations. Valet parking is available Wednesday through Saturday making your experience even more enjoyable. You will have to go back, there is so much on the menu to try. Don’t leave without ordering a glass of Tawny Port to go with the chocolate marquis with black cherries and vanilla creme.
Roast Restaurant and Bar is conveniently located at the corner of First Street and Pineapple Ave. next to the Sarasota Opera House. Reservations and information (941)953-1971, visit their website at roastsarasota.com.
Photography by Dayle Hoffmann