- September 30, 2011
Restaurant: Lolita Tartine
Address: 1419 Fifth St., Sarasota, 34236
Lunch guest: Michelle Bauer, founder and chief strategist of Common Language, a St. Petersburg-based communications and consulting firm.
Reservations: Not required.
Parking: Available on the street and in a nearby lot.
One-hour lunch test: Passed.
See and be seen: A wide variety of business leaders have begun to discover the restaurant, which is a little out of the way from downtown and the main spots. Retirees and snowbirds from downtown condos have also come in for lunch.
Privacy: Tables are close together and the space is mostly open. One table in the back is best for private-like chats. There's also a semi-private loft area in the back.
Ambiance: Not surprisingly, there's a cafe-in-Paris vibe to Lolita Tartine. The front entrance is bright, with glass doors and floor-to-ceiling windows. Red and white are the dominant colors. That especially goes for a bold fire engine red that adorns umbrellas for outside tables, placemats, some chairs, bar stools, wine cases and windowsills. Even the espresso machine is red. Track lighting sets a relaxed mood, while the three colorful and expressive paintings that hang near the entrance set a sophisticated tone.
The stylish restaurant represents somewhat of a contrast to the neighborhood it's in, the Rosemary District, which is gritty over grand. Several redevelopment efforts going back at least a decade have tried to transform the Rosemary District, with limited success. Lolita Tartine co-owner Christophe Coutelle recognizes the neighborhood has had an “up-and-coming” label for many years, but he thinks the current momentum might be a long-term winner.
Food: The lunch menu, while wide, is built around a tartine. That's an open-faced sandwich, the restaurant says, that's made with “refined ingredients or fancy spreads.” A tartine in France, adds Coutelle, is usually served with toasted country bread and a sweet or savory spread.
Lolita Tartine offers 10 varieties of tartines, with names like Manet, Renoir, Picasso, Dali and Matisse. Ingredients are refined and fancy, from the onion marmalade and smoked duck breast on the Dali to the tuna tartar and avocado on the Cezanne. The lunch menu includes salads and paninis. Prices for tartines, paninis and salads range from $8.90 to $13.90.
Ownership: Coutelle opened Lolita Tartine with his wife, Geraldine, late last year. The couple moved to Sarasota in 1995 and opened their first restaurant, C'est La Vie, on Main Street in downtown Sarasota, in 1997. Like Lolita Tartine, C'est La Vie offers outdoor seats in a cafe setting.
Lolita Tartine, says Christophe Coutelle, was a move to go a little deeper menu-wise than the bakery-centric choices at C'est La Vie. “This is a new concept,” Christophe Coutelle says. “It's a little different than anything else in Sarasota.”
Coutelle says the first year of Lolita Tartine has exceeded expectations and people have responded well to some of the more exotic menu choices. Says Coutelle: “We are super, super happy.”
Review date: October 2014
Power Lunch columns are occasional reviews of restaurants recommended by executives in cities on the Gulf Coast, from Tampa to Naples. To read reviews of other restaurants, visit BusinessObserverFL.com.