Local Is Served: Mattison’s Forty-One

Local red snapper with potatoes from Jones Farm in Parrish.

Local red snapper with potatoes from Jones Farm in Parrish.

Local restaurateur and chef Paul Mattison has completely transformed the former Lonestar Steakhouse on South Tamiami Trail into a beautiful restaurant hotspot: Mattison’s Forty-One. My daily drive home from work takes me past there, and you can bet the parking lot is always busy, in-season or out.

I went on a recent Saturday night to enjoy dinner with my parents, and since Mattison’s was an Eat Local Week sponsor I knew we would be able to select dishes that highlighted locally-sourced ingredients.

Sure enough, not long after we sat down, we were enjoying delicious bread from Bavarian Bread Co., a local bakery located just down the road from Mattison’s Forty One. Before we made our dinner selections, we consulted the staff about which items featured local foods. The server quickly suggested the evening’s specials - seared local red snapper with Jones Farm red skin potatoes and the Cajun lime, blackened mahi-mahi ($23) - and after consulting with the manager on other dishes with local ingredients, he suggested the Roasted Beet Stack ($9). All three were good recommendations.

Cajun-lime blackened mahi-mahi.

Cajun-lime blackened mahi-mahi.

My personal favorite was the Roasted Beet Stack. Thick slices of locally grown red beets were stacked on a bed of arugula, and the dish was lightly dressed with perfectly subtle walnut vinaigrette. While this dish normally is also served with goat cheese, I must confess I requested Gorgonzola, and was glad I did. The dish was fresh and eye-catching, and I would go again just to order that!

For a dessert centered around local food, we went for the staff-recommended Fresh Berry Cobbler, which featured strawberries from Plant City, Florida. My parents loved the cobbler’s bowlful of mixed berries and crusty cinnamon-flavored cobbler topping.

If you are on a gluten-free diet, Mattison’s Forty-One is a great place to dine. They offer extensive gluten-free menus for lunch and dinner, and both offer a wide range of choices, including salads (the Roasted Beet Stack is on there) and delicious-looking appetizers and entrees.

Vegetarians also will be able to find a selection of dishes, including a Grilled Veggie Stack ($9.95) with grilled summer squash, zucchini, portabella mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and fresh mozzarella with basil beurre blanc.

Berry cobbler with strawberries from Plant City.

Berry cobbler with strawberries from Plant City.

Vegans will have more of a challenge here. All of the dishes that did not include meat seemed to incorporate cheese or dairy products. While they may be able to accommodate you by removing certain ingredients from the dishes, it will require detective work on your part to figure out what dishes you can enjoy. I did find the staff friendly and accommodating, so I am sure they would be happy to oblige. Also, there was no indication of organic ingredients in the dishes, so if this is important to you, be sure to ask.

I hope Mattison’s Forty-One will not only continue to offer amazing, locally sourced foods but also expand to offer a greater selection of them and make them more prominently featured in the menu or pointed out by the waiter. It is a very good restaurant that would benefit from a few enhancements that would appeal to a larger audience.

Mattison’s Forty-One is open for dinner seven days a week, and they serve lunch every day except Saturday. They also feature live music most nights. The hours vary, so you will want to call (941) 921-3400 or visit their website for more detailed information or to make a reservation.