The lure of East County and its thousands of hungry newcomers is a magnet for Sarasota restaurateurs.
Longtime downtown Sarasota resident and area barbecue doyenne Nancy Krohngold never thought of herself as an East County evangelist.
But four years into running Nancy’s Bar-B-Q at Lorraine Corners, at State Road 70 and Lorraine Road, Krohngold believes she’s carved out the perfect place, and she wants everyone to know about it. “I consider this spot a marquee location,” she says. “I feel like we are at the right place at the right time.”
So much so that Krohngold, who started in the early 2000s with a catering operation that grew into a storefront restaurant, first in downtown Sarasota, has been chatting up others in the tight-knit Sarasota-Bradenton restaurant community about coming “out east.”
Multiple other Sarasota restaurant owners share Krohngold’s beliefs in it being the right place and right time for East County in terms of demographics and projected population growth. Proof comes in the roughly dozen restaurants and eateries that have either opened or are in the process of opening an East County location, from a high-end Latin American business that serves artistic-looking dinners to a donut joint.
In the Mall at UTC area alone, there are six spots with original locations in Sarasota. One is Selva Grill, the Latin American staple from Main Street in downtown Sarasota that opened a location in the West District at UTC in May 2021. Another is the Five-0 Donut Co., which opened its fourth location, also in the West District at UTC, in March. The first Five-O Donuts were in downtown and south Sarasota. Other newcomers to the UTC area with original locations in Sarasota include Origin Craft Beer & Pizza Café and Crop Juice.
Mark Chait, director of leasing for East County-based Benderson Development, which developed and leases space in the UTC districts, says the expansion procession stems from a quality-attracts-quality strategy.
“They very much want to be part of the magnetism of UTC and the success of all the restaurants there,” Chait says.
That’s true outside UTC properties, too.
Krohngold first opened an East County Nancy’s in 2015 on Lakewood Ranch’s Main Street. That 1,500-square-foot location was a “big success from day one,” she says, and when she had an opportunity to move to a bigger spot at Lorraine Corners, she took it.
At 5,400 square feet, her current location is more than threefold the size of the Main Street location, which she closed. And in 2020, Krohngold closed her downtown Sarasota location, a combination of the landlord selling the site and the pandemic squeezing the life out of the downtown lunch crowd. Now with Lorraine Corners her lone spot, Krohngold says she couldn’t be happier. Even her 16.5-mile commute to work from downtown Sarasota allows her to amp up for or decompress from the day. “I’m so pleased with where we are,” she says.
Some 4 miles south of Nancy’s, in what’s become East County’s buzziest project in years, Waterside, lie several other restaurants that have origins in Sarasota. A notable one is Owen’s Fish Camp, expected to open in October in Center Point. From the Caragiulo family, the Center Point Owen’s follows the original one in Burns Court in downtown Sarasota.
Mark Caragiulo says he and his brothers investigated coming out east 20 or 25 years ago when the San Marco Plaza was in development. But back then, he says, the area was mostly sprawl, “with little sense of place.”
Things have changed. The new Owen’s Fish Camp will have 150 seats, 66% more than the 90 at the original. It will also have ample parking, a wraparound porch and be on the water. “We’re pretty excited about being here,” Caragiulo says. “We always had it in our mind to come out here, but now, with the density and demographics, you can’t deny it. It’s like its own little city now.”
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