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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Jul. 15, 2009 8 years ago

Sarasota restaurants create recipe for success

by: Stephanie Hannum Managing Editor

The team behind Michael’s On East has been making news lately — becoming local celebrities, really.

However, behind the great success of the staple fine-dining spot, a bigger success is brewing. Sarasota is on the map and not only for its beautiful beaches this time. Sarasota’s tasty talent is finally being discovered.

By staying on top of technology and trends, Michael’s On East has stayed fresh and in front of consumers for more than 22 years. Word-of-mouth reviews from its loyal customers haven’t hurt, either. But continued local attention burst into national attention, when Michael’s On East was named one of only 10 restaurants in Nation’s Restaurant News 2009 Fine Dining Hall of Fame. The inductees, among them big names in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, will be highlighted in the July 20 issue of Nation’s Restaurant News.

Michael’s On East adds that award it to its ever-growing collection, including honors such as the AAA Four Diamond Award every year since 1992, being recognized by the Zagat Survey as the “most popular restaurant on Florida’s Gulf Coast” and consecutively named as one of Florida’s top 20 restaurants by “Florida Trend” magazine for the past 18 years. Even after decades of awards, it seems co-proprietors Michael Klauber and Phil Mancini are just hitting their prime.

“Quality recognition for our restaurant scene can only encourage more budding restaurateurs to join our ranks here,” Klauber says. “To be honored by our national restaurant peers is truly a great accomplishment, but it is the pride in the eyes of every one of our staff that is the best reward.”

Editor-in-chief of Nation’s Restaurant News, Ellen Koteff, said that Sarasota is no longer a place known only for “early-bird specials,” but it’s an up-and-coming restaurant destination. With a number of Sarasota, Longboat Key and other area restaurants continuously named “Florida Trend” Golden Spoon winners, it appears Sarasota’s focus on food is on the upswing.

Restaurants and chefs aren’t the only ones noticing this change. According to research provided by Sarasota & Her Islands Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sarasota County is home to the highest concentration of Zagat-rated restaurants in Florida. In spring 2009, 90.2% of visitors listed “dining out” as an activity they enjoyed while in the area — which ranks higher than the 85% who answered “the beach.”

“We are poised to become a restaurant destination,” Klauber says. “The diversity in restaurant cuisine and ambience has grown dramatically over the past few years in Sarasota. This honor will bring new attention to our local culinary scene, which I believe truly rivals that of some of the bigger well-known markets.”
Derek’s Culinary Casual Restaurant’s executive chef, Derek Barnes, agrees.

“Sarasota is most definitely poised to become a restaurant destination,” Barnes says. “I have lived here for seven years and have watched a wealth of great, innovative restaurants surface in my short time. We already have a large number of highly-rated Zagat guide restaurants and a good amount of Golden Spoon award recipients.” Barnes, who has garnered national attention as a 2009 James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for best chef in the South, credits Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau’s “Savor Sarasota” restaurant week with helping to reinforce the quality restaurants in our area.

Other Golden Spoon award-winning local chefs and restaurant owners are noticing a few more trends in our local culinary world: more international clientele, as well as internationally experienced chefs (such as The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota’s chef, Chris Southwick), a wide variety of fresh, local products, seafood and produce, and most importantly, local supporters.

“The key is a core of chefs who care about producing excellent products who have stayed and not left for a big city,” says Selva Grill’s Darwin Santa Maria. “In all food articles you must now talk about Sarasota chefs and the support of local customers.”

“I think Sarasota is headed in the right direction with trying to establish a more distinct culinary culture,” says Katie Moulton, president and general manager of The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort. “With the continuation of the ‘Savor Sarasota’ campaign, it provides further reinforcement, particularly to our local residents, that they live in an area rich with dining choices. Also, supporting the local, independent restaurants is extremely important if we want to establish the area as a culinary destination.”

best of the best

Nation’s Restaurant News” 2009 Fine Dining Hall of Fame honorees:

• Barolo Grill, in Denver
• Blue Ginger, in Boston
• Bouley, in New York City
• Herbsaint, in New Orleans
• Naha, in Chicago
• Nana Restaurant, in Dallas
• Michael Mina, in Las Vegas
Michael’s On East, in Sarasota
• New Rivers, in Providence, R.I.
• Slanted Door, in San Francisco


Michael’s On East

1212 East Ave. South


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