Where to begin with Boca Kitchen? The arresting pastoral décor, complete with a living lettuce wall and suspended etched glass jar lights that subtly undulate like faint yellow stars? Or perhaps the main event—the food, whose ingredients come together in piquant harmony like the community of farmers and purveyors from which they are sourced? Either way, you’ll likely come to the same conclusion: Boca proves unlike any other local eatery with a one-of-a-kind ability to synthesize atmosphere with culinary pluck.

Open for both lunch and dinner along with weekend brunch, the Lemon Avenue brick-walled restaurant supplies a multitude of eclectic alcoves for sitting and standing, with the square wood-slab bar the centerpiece of the space. A lofted mezzanine ascends from twinkle-lighted stairs, exposed Edison bulbs glowing on the way to a semi-private dining nook for around 10 lucky tables, several seatbacks set in burlap canvas painted with odes to the local farms that provide the kitchen’s bounty. “We’re a little bit more refined here than any of our other locations,” says Executive Chef Matt Mangone.

Fried green tomatoes.


The open kitchen shows Chef Mangone and his staff busy sautéing, sous-videing and slicing, occasionally popping out to the Uriah’s Urban Farm living wall to grab handfuls of red leaf lettuce, lemon basil, Rex Bibb lettuce, sage, red sorrel and delicate mint, used in salads, craft cocktails and the signature OMG Burger. Sit in the space’s token couch booth smack-dab in the middle and watch as the chefs compile the leafy elements for the Local Farmhouse Salad, overflowing with crisp veggies (zucchini, yellow carrots, heirloom tomatoes), feta cheese crumbles and rosemary fig balsamic.

Take a group of friends and perch at the communal table surveying the entire crowd. Share the fried green tomatoes, soaked in buttermilk then lightly fried and topped with thick pimento cheese, red tomato jam and in-house smoked Boca bacon. Order a Broodie flatbread for the table, a skinny sweet pizza, slathered in a melted combo of the nutty, caramel-tinged manchego and Midnight Moon-aged cheeses, sticky apricot chutney, charred red wine onions and local heirloom cherry tomatoes.

Among centerpieces of blooming lettuces and basil plants, diners take their pick from the ample seafood, meat and vegetable boon from Myakka’s Dakin Dairy Farms, Bradenton’s Two Docks Shellfish, Summerfield’s Florida Fresh Meat Co. and St. Pete’s Urban Canning Co. among other local producers documented in each table’s pamphlet edition of Local Dirt. “Farm to table for us means we source everything locally and we promote local vendors,” says Chef Mangone. “We bring the products to all of our restaurants. It’s a big opportunity for smaller businesses.”

Boca, Kitchen Bar & Market, 19 South Lemon Ave., Sarasota 34236 941-256-3565.