An overall pleasant dining experience all because of Instagram
On a recent trip to visit family in Sarasota, Florida we were looking for a restaurant that we hadn’t tried before. I suggested Clayton’s Siesta Grille because they follow Southwest Wine Guide on Instagram (it pays to be active on social media). Decision made, we set off to find it.
Clayton’s is on Siesta Key but is set back on a side road on the corner of Old Stickney Point Road and Sabal Drive, so you have to be on the lookout for the street if you’re traveling on Midnight Pass Road or you might miss it. From the outside, it looks like a touristy restaurant with a sign that makes you think you’re going to a very casual seafood place, but inside it is low-lit and nicely appointed with booths around the perimeter and cloth-draped tables in the center. There’s also a large inviting bar on the opposite side of the room as well as patio seating with overhead fans. We had made reservations (recommended during high season), and were promptly seated. It was a Tuesday evening and just off- season, but there were a few parties in the dining room – always a good sign.
Proprietors Diane and Clayton Thompson opened Clayton’s Siesta Grill in 2004. The menu is small and primarily seafood but with a sufficient variety of beef, pasta and vegan dishes to please just about anyone. For lighter fare, they serve brick oven pizzas and burgers. You can also bring in your own cleaned catch of the day and the chef will prepare it for you to your specifications.
Appetizer and Entrees were Excellent
We ordered the fried calamari appetizer with pickled chiles, marinara and caper remoulade ($12). The batter was lightly fried, not at all greasy, and the calamari tasted fresh. The portion was generous and more than enough for two people to share.
For an entrée, Paul chose the pan roasted diver scallops with crispy potato gnocchi, wild mushrooms, leeks, wilted spinach, blistered tomatoes with a lemon brown butter sauce ($32). The scallops were juicy, flavorful and cooked to perfection. I chose the boneless beef short ribs that were slowly braised in Madeira jus with wild mushroom risotto, carrots and crispy leeks ($28). The beef was fork-tender and lean. The Madeira jus added a lot of rich flavor but did not overpower the beef. There were a few too many crispy leeks on top of my short ribs for my liking but they were good.
Wine List Needs Help
The wine list was a bit disappointing for us with mostly run-of-the-mill wines and somewhat pricey if you’re ordering a bottle. It’s hard for me to justify paying $52 for a grocery store bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. We chose a bottle of an old standby, Cline Cellars Zinfandel for a just little less.
Clayton’s chef is Chef Ryan, a Florida native who started out in a career in law enforcement but decided to turn his true passion for cooking into his profession. In the few months that he’s been in charge of Clayton’s kitchen, Chef Ryan has made certain that his entire team is certified in food safety handling. He insists on only using the freshest ingredients available and loves experimenting with different herbs and spices to create interesting flavors to his food. He listens to his local, regular customers and adds their favorite dishes to Clayton’s offerings including sea bass which now frequently appears on the menu. When speaking to Chef Ryan you can sense his passion and it shows in the style of the dishes he creates.
Our server, Jay and Mavis, the Maitre'd were both very engaging and attentive.
We were not offered bread with our dinner but we saw bread on other tables. Perhaps it was an oversight.
Servers should be better trained on serving bottles of wine. It’s best practice for a server to stop by the table at least once and offer to pour the wine during dinner. We poured our own.
The food will come out fast if it’s not busy. We ordered the appetizer first then once we were finished, we ordered our entrees. The entrees came out fairly quickly. If we had ordered everything at once, we would have been rushed.
Clayton's should invest in a social media strategy, especially on visual platforms like Pinterest or Instagram, showcasing Chef Ryan's culinary talents. When I checked their Instagram feed before writing this review, I noticed that the last post was in March, 2019. Seriously, it does pay to be on social - that's where I get a lot of ideas for articles and reviews.
We Will Go Back
Despite some minor observations, this is a restaurant to try. You won't be disappointed by the quality of food, service and atmosphere. We've put Clayton's on our list of favorites when we return to Sarasota.
1256 Old Stickney Point Road
Siesta Key, Florida 34242
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