Spice Up Your Life

Good Bite

Pictured: The Rainbow Bowl, a favorite at Florence and the Spice Boys, is a colorful dish packed with flavor. Photo courtesy of Florence Schmitt.

For the last five years, husband and wife team Florence and Steven Schmitt and their longtime friend and business partner Carl Kolber have been spicing up the Sarasota food scene with their innovative take on Middle-Eastern-inspired street food. Initially billed as The Spice Boys, Carl and Steven hit the streets of Sarasota in a food truck designed by Florence who sometimes joined them to take orders. Locals quickly fell in love with their lively dishes that were packed with flavor and bursting with color. In late 2022, they put the truck in park and opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant in The Landings that they called Florence and The Spice Boys. Now, the trio will open a second Sarasota location of Florence and The Spice Boys at the University Town Center (UTC).

“Moving into the permanent location was incredibly fun and exhilarating but it was also a steep learning curve,” says Florence. “I’ve worked in plenty of restaurants and hospitality is my absolute jam but I had never managed one or run a team or made schedules or done ordering and all the things that goes along with it.”

Diving into the deep end has worked out well. Florence and The Spice Boys flagship location in The Landings has quickly become a local hotspot, thanks in large part to its inventive cuisine which has been inspired by the journeys undertaken by the well-traveled trio.

“Carl was really committed to research. When we were talking about opening the food truck he flew over to Lebanon and went around asking little old ladies how they made their hummus and what’s the best way to make all falafel and did all this market research,” Florence says. “Then on our last trip to Tel Aviv Steven was so blown away with what the young chefs are doing there because it’s all of these traditional flavors prepared in very untraditional ways. The creativity was off the leash.”

That dichotomy is evident in the menu. While the chefs have a deep knowledge of and reverence for authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, they are pushing the boundaries and doing it in a way that feels right to them--and creating completely unique cuisine along the way. Florence’s favorite dish is Bhel Puri, which is traditionally a savory snack in India. This interpretation features green apples and coriander chutney and is dressed with tamarind and yogurt, transforming the dish into one that is tangy, sweet, and savory all at once. One of the most popular dishes amongst patrons in the Rainbow Bowl which is packed with colorful ingredients like purple pickled slaw, golden banana peppers, and blue coconut rice tinted with natural butterfly pea powder. The atmosphere at Florence and the Spice Boys is as eclectic and vibrant as the menu. The stylish space has a laid-back, Bohemian vibe featuring lush greenery and cozy rattan furniture.

Slated to open in late 2024 or early 2025, Florence and the Spice Boys at UTC will have a distinct identity from the location at The Landings.

“Everything about the new space will be similar, but it will be elevated,” Florence says. This includes the menu. While all of the old favorites will be available in the new location, the bigger kitchen will give Steven the opportunity to explore more complex dishes as well. Get ready. Things are about to get even spicier.

Pictured: The Rainbow Bowl, a favorite at Florence and the Spice Boys, is a colorful dish packed with flavor. Photo courtesy of Florence Schmitt.

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