Owner of Indigenous, 239 S. Links Ave., Sarasota — 706-4740
Tucked away into historic Towles Court, Indigenous is known for featuring mostly locally sourced food.
“My new crazy place, which we’ve fallen in love with, is Yummy House (3232 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota). We love authentic cuisine like that. That’s our go-to place. I’ve been working my way through that menu, but I’m in love with the salt-and-pepper dishes, which is a true Cantonese-style food. The salt-and-pepper calamari is amazing.
“It’s overwhelming how many restaurant owners are in here, and during season we’re open Monday nights, and a lot of people in this industry take Monday off . So managers, owners, chefs, bartenders, concierges, etc., are in here.
“In my downtime, I love going to The Old Salty Dog (1601 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota) and sitting at that bar (talking to) guests and other chefs (who frequent it). I always have a great experience meeting people … that place gives me good energy.”
Owner of Maison Blanche, 2605 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key — 383-8088
Off the white-sand portion of Longboat Key is the contemporary, minimalist French establishment Maison Blanche, with a reputation for elegance.
“I went with my wife and friends to new Jack Dusty’s at the Ritz-Carlton (1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota) for dinner, and we were surprised to meet one of the best French soccer players, Thierry Henry, and the team New York Red Bulls.
“And we went with friends to The Blue Rooster (1525 Fourth St., Sarasota). I think both places are a nice addition in the city.
“I like to eat pizza, so I go to Mediterraneo (1970 Main St., Suite 1, Sarasota). For sushi, I go to Vizen (6559 Gateway Ave., Sarasota).
Owner Harry’s Continental Kitchens, 525 St. Judes Drive, Longboat Key — 383-0777
Harry’s Continental Kitchens is a family-owned restaurant with a family feel that’s become a staple on Longboat Key. It offers gourmet coastal cuisine featuring fresh ingredients.
“We are close friends with Ray and D’Arcy Arpke from Euphemia Haye (5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key). Ray and I went to chef school together in Milwaukee.
“Lynn and I were given tickets to Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall a couple of weeks ago … because we did not have time for a whole dinner, we went to Darwin’s on 4th and sat in the bar room and had appetizers.
“We have a very diversified clientele and excellent restaurants to choose from. I think Longboat Key, the other islands and Sarasota are some of the best areas for foodies. We don’t get the national attention we should get. We are part of the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, a group of independent locally owned restaurants.”
Owner of Eat Here, 1888 Main St., Sarasota — 365-8700; 5315 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach — 778-0411; 240 Avenida Madera, Siesta Key — 346-7800; owner of Beach Bistro: 6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach — 778-6444
Eat Here has three locations: Sarasota, Siesta Key and Holmes Beach and is a locally sourced, casual brother to the fine-dining Beach Bistro.
“I see local chefs pretty consistently (at my restaurant) from time to time. Young Hal Christensen (general manager of Harry’s Continental Kitchens), celebrated his birthday at Beach Bistro ... Harry Christensen (owner of Harry’s Contiental Kitchens), Ray Arpke (executive chef of Euphemia Haye) and I go back a long time.
“I think the last time (I ate out) was at Jose’s Real Cuban (8799 Cortez Road, Bradenton) — it’s amazing Cuban food. I got the pulled pork, black beans, rice and plantains.”
Director of catering at Café L’Europe, 431 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota — 388-4415
One of the oldest establishments on St. Armands Circle, Café L’Europe offers a sophisticated dining experience known for mostly tableside food preparation of coastal cuisine.
“Paul Mattison came as a really young guy from Aspen, Colo., and I always used to say, ‘With those soap-opera good looks, you shouldn’t be a chef!’ And look at how far he’s come with his business.
“Tommy Murawski is the chef at The Lazy Lobster (5350 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key), but he came to work at Celebrations (my first catering company) when he was only 15 years old. The first time I went out to the Lazy Lobster (years later), owner Michael Garey said, ‘You know who our chef is? It’s Tommy.’ He was so nervous when he was fixing my plate, it was like he was the 15-year-old Tommy — he’s a great chef.”
Owner of Bijou Café, 1287 First St., Sarasota — 366-8111
Bijou Café end-caps Main Street and is a white-tablecloth establishment with an eclectic continental/American menu.
“My mentors in this business were Titus Letschert and Norbert Goldner, who owned Café L'Europe. A number of successful local restaurant owners and chefs were trained there under their very professional European standards. To this day, I always taste the soups before each shift, just as Norbert and Titus would do every single day.
“Sarasota's foodie scene is ambitious and constantly evolving and trying to incorporate the latest trends. There is always the dilemma of creating something new while still offering the comfort of familiarity … for its size, Sarasota has more excellent restaurants with more variety than any city in the state. It's truly a mecca for adventurous diners.”
Co-proprietor of Michael’s On East, 1212 East Ave., Sarasota — 366-0007
Located in Mid-Town Plaza for more than 25 years, Michael’s On East is a fine-dining restaurant and gathering place offering contemporary cuisine.
“I feel so fortunate to have tremendous colleagues among the 50-plus independent restaurants in the Sarasota area.
“Working with the Sarasota-Manatee Originals organization has been so rewarding … what started as a conversation among eight restaurants in 2003 has grown to a dynamic group of more than 50 local partners dedicated to preserving the culinary heritage of our region.”
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