Lately, I have been trying to focus on me a little bit more than usual. I’ve been working out, watching what I eat, trying to get enough sleep and focusing on building and expanding friendships. In the past month, I have gone out with friends TWICE! This might be normal for most people but for me…..I’m kind of a homebody. If given the choice, I’d rather stay home and cuddle up on the couch with my laptop and Mad Men episodes.
Anyway, before I get carried away with my own issues, I should write what I came here to write about. The location of our Night Out, Sarasota’s newest and most unique new restaurant: Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar. (They also have locations in Tampa and Clearwater).
Carmel is hip. Don’t let the fact that it is located in a mini mall fool you. The interior makes you feel transported to a urban hot spot. It actually reminds me of a tapas place I went to last time I was in Washington DC. As we walked in, they sat us on these cool red couches and handed us an iPad.
The iPad is their thing. Each group of two is given an iPad as they come in and you keep it with you through the entire meal. You can order drinks, meals, and desserts all through the use of the iPad. It can get you on the internet as well so if you really feel like checking email or Facebook during dinner–you can. If you are dining wth kids, the games loaded on the device will keep them happy and distracted.
If you are a little afraid of technology, don’t be. Everything is very user friendly and the staff are happy to come around and help figure it out. Like I mentioned, you order all of your food and drinks through the iPad. Every item is shown with beautiful photos and you can click on the photo for more information. Once you select something to order, you are asked about portion sizes, and you can specify any modifications (i.e., no onions). Very cool.
The iPad ordering really works with small plates style. You can order a few things–try them out–and when you are ready, can quickly place another order for more small plates. There is no waiting around trying to get the attention of waitstaff. The only thing I didn’t really like about it was that you lose your connection to the waiter or waitress. They are around–passing out plates, cleaning up, and bringing wine–but the casual conversation between them and us–just doesn’t really have a chance to happen. Normally, I like chatting with the wait staff but if you don’t or don’t care either way, you likely won’t even notice.
Carmel Wine Bar has 73 different wines and a fairly good selection of beer. They did have a organic beers including IPAs but I know that Aaron would have been disappointed by the few micro-brews on their menus.
The Food: There is definitely something for everyone. To me, that is the beauty of small plates, everyone can order what they want and everyone else can get little tastes to expand their palates. Although it is not really a kids restaurant (I don’t think there was a kids menu), I would love to go with the kids when they are feeling adventurous and give them the chance to do the ordering for the table. I think they would get a kick out of it and would likely end up trying things they might not normally try.
There are lots of vegan, gluten free and vegetarian options and all are well noted on the iPad menu. Some of our favorites were the chick pea fries with curry aoli (I may have to try to recreate this at home), scallops, strawberry pound cake dessert, and the seasonal flatbread.
Unfortunately, we didn’t try the lamb lollipops, the salmon or the sliders that I saw delivered to other tables–but they looked fantastic.
Carmel has more than the novelty of the iPad going for it. It is cool, comfortable and has a diverse menu–the perfect place for a group of us to get away. We were able to drink some nice wines, enjoy good food and fun conversation. What more can you ask for from a night out?
Have you been to Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar? What did you think?
Disclaimer: Thanks to Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar for hosting our dinner. All opinions and thoughts are my own.