COMMENTS

Bar Tab: Clásico Cafe & Bar

/
Clasico Pizza

Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower Flatbread with The King's Blood (left) and Cucumber Cocktail in the background at Clásico Cafe & Bar in downtown Sarasota. STAFF PHOTOS / WADE TATANGELO

When I lived downtown about a decade ago, Sarasota News & Books, at the northeast corner of Palm Ave. and Main St., easily ranked as one of my favorite spots. Fresh out of college and still not embracing the whole Internet thing, I spent myriad mornings and lunch breaks reading newspapers and magazines from across the country and abroad over bagels and coffee there. I’m a nostalgic guy and when I returned to Sarasota and noticed my beloved book store had been replaced by a restaurant – albeit an inviting-looking one with tables on the sidewalk and ivy-covered window alcoves facing Palm Ave. – I shook my head.

Clasico Drinks

The King's Blood (left) and Cucumber Cocktail

On Friday, though, with rain threatening, my amazing wife Kristin and I finally made it inside Clásico Cafe and Bar to give it a chance. Featuring high ceilings and chic fixtures, the spacious room is washed in natural light, with pillars of white tile and matching floors. We took a seat at the long marble bar. Clásico manages to look at once cozy and trendy; a winning combination also reflected in the menu of clever, modern American cuisine and daring craft cocktails.

Gin is a mixologist’s best friend. It plays well with all sorts of stuff and, in most contexts, at least, appeals to the masses. Vodka, rum and bourbon are also common choices for the main ingredient in popular cocktails. Scotch, on the other hand, is tougher to partner with and is typically reserved for sipping neat, on the rocks or maybe with a splash of water. So after briefly surveying Clásico’s new specialty drink menu I immediately ordered The King’s Blood ($9.50) because, one, it has an awesome name and, two, it’s made with Great King Scotch. The liqueur Cherry Heering and blood orange shrub – a blend of fruit, berries, sugar and vinegar – are the other ingredients in The King’s Blood.

Clasico Bloody Mary

Nelson Hulbert's Bloody Mary

It’s a terrific cocktail that breaks from the norm while still retaining the oak-y flavors of the blended whisky, complemented by nice touches of sweet and bitter. I just wish it came in a more manly container, like a silver chalice. Instead, thanks to the cherry coloring and martini glass, it looked like I was having a cosmo.

Meanwhile, Kristin enjoyed a nicely balanced and refreshing Cucumber Cocktail ($11) made with Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka, cucumber juice squeezed in-house, lime juice, simple syrup, fresh mint and tonic. Yeah, her drink managed to look less girly than mine.
Our mixologist, the outstanding Nelson Hulbert, also makes a signature Bloody Mary, which he insisted we sample. I didn’t manage to scribble down all the ingredients and could never memorize that much, especially at a bar, but I do recall it included pickle and cucumber juice as well as Italian dressing. I made a Bloody Mary at home the other night and goosed it with Italian dressing, which, by the way, I am now convinced.

Clasico Caesar

Kale Caesar

As for the food, everything we ate ranked somewhere between fabulous and splendid. We split the Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower Flatbread ($9) featuring mouthful after mouthful of delightful veggie and straight-out-of-the-oven bread freshness augmented by homemade garlic aioli and parmesan cheese. Next, we split the flavorsome truffle fries ($3) while I started noshing on the French Dip ($11) made with Boar’s Head London Broil and Swiss cheese on a French baguette, served with basically a bowl of yummy jus.

Kristin had the Kale Caesar with a carefully blackened and spot-on-tender breast of chicken ($15). The zingy dressing and shaved parmesan and garlic breadcrumbs provided plenty of fun, yes, but I really liked the way the tomatoes mingled with the strawberries and white anchovies. To top it off, we had the fish tacos ($9), a deftly constructed comfort food containing lightly battered haddock with homemade cabbage slaw and a not-too spicy aioli, wrapped in warm corn tortillas.

Don’t get me wrong. I still miss Sarasota News & Books. But at least it has been replaced by an establishment worthy of the gorgeous location.

Clásico Cafe & Bar
1341 Main St., Sarasota
957-0700; barclasico.com

Clásico Cafe & Bar
1341 Main St., Sarasota 957-0700; barclasico.com

Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo created what would eventually be called Bar Tab while working as a correspondent for the Herald-Tribune in 2003. He would continue writing about bars for Maxim, Tampa Bay Times, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, OC (Calif.) Weekly and The Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune as a staff writer in 2013 and has happily returned to writing our weekly column Bar Tab. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: February 26, 2014
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published without permissions. Links are encouraged.
COMMENTS