Friday, July 28, 2006

Restaurant Review: Sweet Tomatoes, State Rd 436, Altamonte Springs, FL (and other locations, too)

Several weekends ago, we ate lunch at Sweet Tomatoes in Altamonte Springs. Sweet Tomatoes is, at its most basic, a soup & salad bar. However, it also has items that can tempt your non-veggie lovers also. So, while BB, my older, almost-a-vegetarian son was happy as a clam, my younger son LB found stuff to eat as well.

It is kind of a strange process to pay for your food at Sweet Tomatoes. You start off at the long salad bar (2 identical sides) and grab a tray and plate. Hubby put LB's plate on his tray and I had BB's on mine. Luckily, BB is tall enough now that he can see what is on the salad bar and instructed me on what he wanted. LB is still too short so Hubby had to carry him down the line, while pushing his tray at the same time. For infants and those toddlers that still like a high chair, Sweet Tomatoes has rolling high chairs that you can push along the salad bar line - very convenient. The salad bar starts off with lettuces and veggie toppings and then moves to prepared salads and dressings. BB wanted to try a little bit of each prepared salad such as the tuna tarragon pasta salad and the chinese chicken salad. I helped myself to a big portion of the chinese chicken salad - it is very yummy, with crunchy noodles mixed in. LB asked for random items that are actually his favorites - black beans, corn, olives, and pickles. Imagine seeing that coming down the buffet line! We then arrived at the cashier and paid for two adults ($7.49 a piece for lunch) and one 7-year-old kid ($4.49 for 6-12 year olds; $1.49 for 3-5 year olds). LB was free since he was under three. Drinks are separate and are $1.69 a piece for adults and kids. Be sure to ask for a kid's cup for your little ones or the cashier will just give you the tall plastic glasses they provide for the adults. The kid's cup is plastic and comes with a lid and straw. Drinks are your standard fare - sodas, iced teas (including sweet), lemonade, etc. But I like that you can switch from an iced drink to a coffee if you like - just ask a server for a coffee cup.

We chose a booth close to the buffets and made sure the kids sat on the inside. I went to get all the drinks and then made another trip to get the boys' food while Hubby stayed with them. We find it is most efficient to keep the kids at the booth the whole time and then take turns getting them more food. Besides the salad bar, Sweet Tomatoes offers a Soup Bar, Bakery, Pasta Station, and Desserts. At the Soup Bar, you'll always find several "standard" soups such as clam chowder, chicken noodle, vegetable, and chili, and then new seasonal ones. Sweet Tomatoes also has a "theme" for every month - Lemon was this month - where there will be at least one offering in each buffet featuring that item. So, they had Lemon Pasta, Lemon Chicken Orzo soup, Lemon muffin, etc. I tried the Sweet Tomato and Onion soup which was very light and tasted healthy. That's another reason I like Sweet Tomatoes, I feel like we are eating healthy! There are also toppings for your soups such as cheeses, croutons, onions, etc. Located next to the soups are sweet and baked potatoes, and then you can use the same toppings bar as the soups. LB was done with his "salad toppings" when I returned so I got him the macaroni & cheese at the pasta station (always there) and the plain cheese pizza on foccacia bread at the bakery (also always there). He was happy with that so it was Hubby's turn to go up and fill his plate. I went back to get another type of soup and BB tagged along to get his favorite - Clam Chowder. I tried the chili this time and added some shredded cheddar cheese on top - yum. I also swiped a few pieces of the plain cheese pizza - they were really good, too! They had buffalo chicken pizza as well but I thought that might be too spicy for me. One more trip for me to the pasta station to try the alfredo pasta and I was done. The boys, of course, were ready for dessert. For dessert, you can go healthy and select from fresh fruit such as pineapple, melon, grapes, or oranges, or you can go for the soft serve yogurt machine. Of course, the boys wanted the soft-serve, chocolate-vanilla swirl naturally. They both wanted chocolate syrup and sprinkles on top. I made my way over to the bakery to have a blueberry muffin for my dessert. They also always have chocolate muffins, that I have tried as a base for the soft-serve to much success - brownie a la mode!

Service is usually pretty good meaning that they will clear away your dirty dishes fairly quickly. We always leave a tip, from $1 per person to a bit more if they boys have been especially messy. Sweet Tomatoes is probably not for everyone - Grandma and Grandpa won't go there because they say they can never find enough to eat. If you are a meat and pototoes person, this is not for you. But if you want some fresh, healthy food, with enough to tempt your carb or veggie-loving kids as well, this is the place.

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