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Cheap Eats: Lolita Tartine

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Lolita Tartine's Delacroix tartine / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

Lolita Tartine's Delacroix tartine / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

What the heck's a tartine? I had to ask. According to the folks behind Main Street's C'est La Vie, also behind the brand spankin' new Rosemary District spot Lolita Tartine, it's an open-faced French sandwich combining crispy rye bread with a variety of toppings. Authentic? I have no clue. Tasty? Oh yes.

My editor Brian and I are noshing together for the second week in a row, and we're both eager to see what Lolita's all about. The space both inside and out is lovely, full of whites and reds and natural light. I've been coming to this place for nine years: It was once home to the Sarasota Olive Oil Company, and before that to the Sarasota Coffee and Tea Company, both now long gone. That elevated loft in the back? That's the place where I conducted my very first actual journalistic interview, which consisted mostly of questions like, "So what's your thing all about, dude?"

Lolita Tartine's Manet tartine / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

Lolita Tartine's Manet tartine / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

Anyway... the tartine. I order the Delacroix ($10.90) while Brian picks the Manet ($10.90) — yeah, there's an art theme going on at this place. When the sandwiches arrive, they immediately allay my most pressing concern, which is the sturdiness of open-face sandwiches. I've never quite grasped the purpose of open-face sandwiches — why not just close them? — because in most instances, the bread gets soft and floppy and you end up with just a handful of mushy mess.

But not at Lolita, where the rye bread that serves as the tartine base remains a crisp and sturdy platform for the toppings. My Delacroix features pear, blue cheese, mesclun and raisins atop cream cheese-smeared bread, and it's a lovely mix. Perhaps a bit too sweet, but the creaminess of the (duh) cream cheese rounds out the sugar with a delightful lactic touch. The blue cheese supplies a tart note, while the salad mix makes me feel as if I'm getting something somewhat healthy. The roasted side potatoes are tasty, but not exceptional. Healthier than fries, no doubt, but nothing worth writing home to ma mère about.

Brian's Manet tartine, meanwhile, is piled high with prosciutto, tomato, asparagus and feta, and slathered with an olive tapenade. Saltier than my selection, it's still got a terrific balance of flavors. Yes, I wish the asparagus was featured more, because it's the most unusual ingredient (and I love asparagus), but I've got little to complain about. The side salad is nice and fresh, the vinaigrette a touch on the sugary side.

I hear a lot of folks complain about the service at C'est La Vie, and while there's no excuse for poor service, I've always felt the lamentations a bit overblown, perhaps a result of the fact that the restaurant serves French food, and French servers are less aggressively friendly than their American counterparts. But Lolita's service is admittedly a bit hit or miss, I must say. Brian and I are alone in sitting outside, and it seems more than once like we've been forgotten about.

In addition to tartines, Lolita offers panini (get that, people, no "s" needed!), as well as a variety of quiches and feuilletés, croissants stuffed with either goat cheese and spinach or pork sausage. The restaurant is open for both breakfast and dinner, offering C'est La Vie fanatics a French destination after dark, at last.

One thing Lolita isn't is cheap. With Cheap Eats, I generally try to keep the prices of places I eat at under $10. Brian and I fail that test today, but three of the tartines fall under the Hamilton limit, so if you're on a budget, steer yourself in that direction.

 

Lolita Tartine's Delacroix tartine / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

Lolita Tartine's Delacroix tartine / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

Lolita Tartine
1419 Fifth St., Sarasota
952-3172 or lolitatartine.com
This is the umpteenth entry in a weekly column dedicated to eats that are cheap. If you have an idea for a place to feature in Cheap Eats, comment below, email me at cheapeatssrq@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter:@LeveyBaker.

Last modified: November 26, 2013
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