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  • | 5:00 a.m. January 16, 2013
The Blue Rooster. Photo by Yaryna Klimchak.
The Blue Rooster. Photo by Yaryna Klimchak.
  • Arts + Culture
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+ Openings and Celebrations
It’s a new year and there are new restaurants popping up all over Sarasota!

The Blue Rooster, at 1525 Fourth St., has extended the yummy block of eateries along Fourth, between Orange and Lemon, in a gorgeous space of soaring ceilings, concrete floors and a bar in which to slurp mint juleps and sweet tea. Located in what used to be an antique store right next to Darwin’s on Fourth and a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Station 400, this boisterous bird specializes in down-home Southern comfort food, from biscuits and fried chicken to crispy waffles (the big Belgian type) and the now ubiquitous mac ’n’ cheese.

The executive chef, who spent more than a half-a-dozen years at Roy’s, is Michael Yoder and he’s got the right touch for collards and grits, catfish and even a sweet-potato pie that’s laced with maple bourbon.

There’s music, too. It’s the kind that goes best with Southern comfort food: blues, bluegrass, country and folk. It’s bound to be a hopping, fun, somewhat eccentric place with noise, excitement and the kind of food and drink you crave after a long day at work. Right now, the restaurant is open seven days a week starting at 5 p.m., but it may start serving lunch some time soon.

+ Darwin’s on Fourth Celebrates One Year
Right next door to The Blue Rooster, Darwin’s on Fourth is celebrating its one year anniversary with a humdinger of a party Thursday, Jan. 17, starting at 9 p.m.. Darwin’s, one of our favorites, has been busy racking up praise in the past year. It received the Florida Trend Golden Spoon award, hosted the prestigious James Beard Celebrity Chef Dinner, and Darwin Santa Maria was named Best Peruvian Chef in the United States!

Nicely done, thank you, this boat is rocking with an anniversary party that happens to coincide with the restaurant’s weekly Ladies Night, which features $2 drinks, dance music and a DJ. But to kick the celebration up a notch, Cindy Mejia, Miss Peru Universe 2012, is making an appearance; there’s a fashion show by J-Flo Boutique and Salon; and Darwin’s will donate a portion of the evening’s proceeds to Suncoast Children’s Charities, which is a cause cared about by both Miss Peru and executive chef Darwin Santa Maria.

+ The Ritz is Getting Dusty! Jack Dusty, that is
Down a few blocks from Fourth on U.S. 41 loom the ritzy towers of the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, where Jack Dusty is about to hoist its sails. Touted as “Sarasota’s modern seafood restaurant, lounge and marketplace,” the restaurant’s official opening is Monday, Jan. 21.

Jeff Thomas, a CIA grad (that’s Culinary Institute of America, not the undercover agency … ), who’s worked for Bobby Flay at Mesa Grille and, most recently, was executive chef at Anna Maria’s Beach Bistro, is at the helm of Jack Dusty. He’s known as “Gator,” and he says, “I’m excited to be a part of this new concept and look forward to working with the team to produce a fun restaurant … with great food, great drinks and great ambiance.”

The menu promises to be spectacular, serving American food with “a seafood sensibility.” Picture this: a vast raw bar; local caviar (from Mote Marine); crab and fried green tomatoes; grouper cakes with mango beurre blanc; and a magnificent seafood platter that serves two or four people and features a whole lobster, whole crab, peel-and-eat shrimp, oysters and “Jack’s ceviche.”

Patrick Bucko is part of Gator’s team. He’ll be general manager, after having served at local greats from Euphemia Haye and Cork to Beach Bistro and Eat Here. And that brings us to another opening.

+ Eat Here is ‘out there’ on Siesta Key
Eat Here, a restaurant staple on Anna Maria and, more recently, Sarasota’s Main Street, has opened a new branch in Siesta Key Village, at 240 Avenida Madera. Open seven days a week starting at 5 p.m., Sean Murphy’s newest incarnation offers what’s known as “chef-created” cookery with refreshing twists on old favorites from locally-caught seafood to pizza and tacos. There’s a “Killer Grilled Cheese” with muenster, Gruyère and caramelized onions, Island Ribs, a Gulf Coast Oyster Fry and to-die-for lobster cargot.

Along with great gourmet-style food, craft beers and wines, Eat Here offers fun, fruit-infused drinks, whipped up by a savvy bartender. Great drinks run in the family because Sean’s son, Ben Murphy, positively has a passion for cocktails.

He says, “My passion for creating cocktails is ultimately based on my passion for drinking them. I’ve always enjoyed having a drink with good company and as soon as I realized the type of beverage could enhance that experience, I became interested in beer, wine and cocktails. Part of the reason I’ve enjoyed bartending so much is that it gives me the opportunity to offer that same experience to our patrons.”

According to Ben: “Balancing quality ingredients. Adding or subtracting a quarter ounce of freshly-squeezed lemon juice can ruin a good drink or make an average drink excellent. Oh, and a smile on the face of the bartender putting the drink in front of you certainly can’t hurt.” That’s the Eat Here imbibing philosophy.

+ Avenida Madera UnofficIally Renamed ‘Eat Street’
Eat Here isn’t the only restaurant on Avenida Madera. In fact, there are so many good bistros lined up on both sides of the avenue, some folks are calling it “Eat Street.” 

There are Beach Bites and Solorzano Brothers Pizzeria just across the street from Eat Here, which is next door to the fun breakfast/lunch place, Sun Garden. And now, (the official opening is Saturday, Jan. 19), there’s a brand new Sub Zero ice cream place at 219 Avenida Madera, in case you want something frosty when you come from the beach, are on your way for a manicure at Iris’ Nails and Skin Care or have a hankering for a second dessert when you waddle out of one of the other restaurants.

We told you about the Sub Zero that recently opened on Sawyer and Clark. Now, this clever chain specializing in flash-before-your-eyes ice creams, soft serve, yogurt and frozen custard with just about any mix-in combo you can dream up, has opened a branch on Siesta where it’s always time for something icy and smooth.

Each of these fun-filled franchises has a different owner, and Jill Sheeler-Shenk and her husband, Doug Shenk, run the new branch on Siesta’s Eat Street.

Sub Zero is an experience and this one may be accompanied by music because Jill’s parents, Don Sheeler and Lorraine Murphy, are well-known singers in the area. Maybe they’ll add a musical infusion to their vast array of ice-cream flavors.


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