Fandango Cafe, which was once one of Sarasota’s hottest dance joints, has come full circle.
Owner and chef Fred Salih reopened the restaurant in Southside Village two weeks ago after spending 10 years in semi-retirement, and more than 25 years after it originally debuted in the shopping district. Fandango spent more than a decade in Siesta Key Village before moving to the other end of the island in 2000.
The restaurant attracted a crop of loyal customers, some of whom have already returned to eat at the new site.
“It’s so unbelievable that I have to stop while I’m cooking to say ‘hello’,” Salih said.
While on Siesta, Fandango became one of the most popular local jazz clubs, but he said the lure of Southside Village — and the changes he saw in Siesta Key Village — led him to his current location.
“I checked out Siesta Key, but it was saturated — there’s no place to go,” Salih said. “It was not the right place for Fandango.”
Fandango Cafe joins Sam Snead’s American Grill as another eatery reopening in Southside Village, although Sam Snead’s has only been closed since June.
“I think the path we have is a good path,” said Eddie Morton, co-owner of the nearby Morton’s Gourmet Market, in a recent interview with the Sarasota Observer. “The main thing is keeping everybody vibrant and in business.”
Salih said he is currently planning a tribute concert for local jazz pianist Kenny Drew Jr., who died Aug. 3. Drew had always played a show to open a new Fandango location, and performed a farewell concert when a site closed.
Fandango held a soft opening Dec. 12, during the Southside Village Holiday Stroll.
“When I came into that area in 1987, it was not as coordinated as it is now,” Salih said. “It’s more organized, it’s more beautified, they have more events going on and very nice people live in this neighborhood.”