The infamous Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar has been around for as long as I can remember. But today, expect something a bit different. The days of plastic baskets piled high with fried seafood are replaced with eloquent presentations on glassware. But not to worry – the old-creekside ambience remains – complete with newspaper menus, paper towel rolls on the wood bench tables and your usual nautical décor. As does the fresh seafood people have been flocking to for years.
I joined ABC 7 Chef Judi Gallagher and a handful of other media foodies to experience a progressive dinner and drink roll-out the other night and was delighted with the new offerings at both The Table Creekside and Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar.
We started at The Table, the Creek’s newer, upscale global cuisine destination, that was once a fish warehouse fewer than five years ago, transformed to an elegant destination. Seriously, if you want to just drink the night away on the most exotic infusion drinks around, this is the spot. We sampled mango peach sangria, white strawberry sangria – the latter my fave – and explored with Daniel, the adorable waiter, other interesting concoctions and details on how they’re made. A fall favorite still on the menu due to its popularity is Ol’ Smokey, made with honey apple bourbon, black walnut and applewood smoke. If you can dream it – they can mix it – but there’s no need since most of the drinks on the menu are beyond your wildest.
The aged meats and cheeses served on a wood serving board were not your average meat and cheese trays – cheese lovers should be ecstatic. Some Chef Pedro said are aged up to 22 months. Included on the Artisan Chacuterie Options, imported from Spain, are: aged serraro ham, Barcelona smoked ham, Cantimpalo Chorizo, dry aged sausage, pork loin dry aged sausage, Spanish drunken cheese, semi-ripe Maho’n cheese, smoked manchezo cheese, creamy calbrales bleu cheese and a 12-month manchego cheese. The Chacuterie Options are currently on special for $5 at happy hour, along with Tapas and selected house liquors, sangria, wines and mojitos, with $2.50 draft beers.
After the early evening rain storm luckily subsided a bit, we left The Table and traipsed through the parking lot (which was full) to the Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar to sample yet more drinks and their latest fresh fish sandwich creations. Note – ladies – if you want to try this progressive apps-to-dessert thing – wear flat shoes. The uneven terrain we crossed could prove tricky in high heels. Besides, it’s Florida – be casual.
It was the middle of July and there was a waiting list. Gotta be a good sign I thought. Families, locals, summer tourists of all ages spilled out of the waiting room to the casual spot outside poised for their prize catch of the day and delectable drinks.
Chef Pedro appeared as soon as we sat down and ordered our drinks. He presented salmon fish sandwiches topped with delightful, textured sauce, pickled cucumber and accompanied by scrumptious crunchy onion rings. The bread and rolls are baked locally and this hearty sandwich was truly among the best salmon I’ve tasted. The portion was generous, the toppings/sauce and moist texture of the salmon a winning combination.
Next, grouper and fried snapper with fried plantains and Portobello mushrooms, completed the new fish sandwich options that are yet to be printed on the newspaper menu. If you’d rather avoid the bread – the salmon salad was also incredible. And don’t forget the drinks – yet more to choose from here at the Oyster Bar. I chose the Caribbean Colada – a twist on a traditional Pina Colada with blue curacoa swirl and toasted coconut and fresh pineapple on top – a dessert drink worthy of the grand finale.
Mart, food blogger and co-owner of sarasotafoodies.com, said, “This is what people come to Florida for,” pointing to the old-school nautical ambience, cold drinks, and fresh catch fish sandwiches at the Oyster Bar.
According to Chef Judy, “The last four years at The Table and Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar have been an evolution of creativity. Pedro and Raphael have brought this to a whole new level.”
The Table Creekside Restaurant and Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar are located in Phillippi Creek Village at 5353 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information visit www.tablesrq.com or call 921-9465; www.creekseafood.com or call 925-4444.
Photos: Patti Pearson & Facebook