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Bar Tab: State Street Eating House

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Bramble and sandwich horizontal

Bramble cocktail, a modern classic from London, pairs well with the homemade turkey sandwich at State Street Eating House in downtown Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / RON BORRESEN

No TVs. No Wi-Fi. No jukebox blasting Miley Cyrus.

No neon signs. No servers dressed in silly attire. No bros noshing on frozen pizzas while guzzling Red Bull Vodkas.

State Street master

Bar Tab columnist Wade Tatangelo, second from the right, surveys the surroundings at State Street. STAFF PHOTO / RON BORRESEN

No, State Street Eating House is for those of us who embrace a more laid-back and sophisticated lifestyle. State Street is for people who appreciate the strong, smartly-crafted mixed drinks of yesteryear, home-cooked food made from quality ingredients and the timeless music of such artists as Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis.

God, I love State Street.

Opened nearly two years ago, it has distinguished itself as a top destination in downtown Sarasota for enthusiasts of classic cocktail culture, 1950s Americana and pretty much everything else espoused in the pages of Modern Drunkard Magazine. Open from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, State Street is an ideal spot for liquid-enhanced lunches, boozy dinners as well as late-night drinks and snacks – as long as your idea of late-night, like mine, is before midnight.

Bramble close up

Bramble cocktail at State Street Eating House in downtown Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / RON BORRESEN

A recent midday visit finds me contemplating the Bramble. Not exactly a man’s man drink, but this version has a sterling reputation around town. Plus, I feel like something sweet. It’s a craving that occurs even with the most hardcore cocktailians.

“A modern classic created in the mid-1980s by Dick Bradsell at Fred’s Club in Soho, London,” reads the delightfully informative cocktail menu.
I give it a try.

Plump, fresh blackberries are muddled and mixed with a two ounce pour of Beefeater Gin. Homemade simple syrup, lemon and blackberry liqueur are also part of the concoction. The drink is served over crushed ice in a rocks glass. It tastes and looks like a delicious blackberry snow cone. Yes, the Bramble ($8.75) is excellent. Even my pal Ron, a Scotch drinker, takes a pull from a straw and nods in agreement.

Turkey Sandwich

The homemade turkey sandwich at State Street Eating House. STAFF PHOTO / RON BORRESEN

(Manly note: If you don’t want to look like you are drinking a girly drink, order your Bramble in one of the copper mugs the mixologists typically reserved for Moscow Mules. Alas, I learn this too late.)

Meanwhile, our turkey sandwiches arrive ($8.75 each). The slow roasted and hand cut turkey breast, brined in house, is served on homemade white bread with a touch of sourdough, crisp bacon, equally crisp iceberg lettuce, thick tomato slices and pitch-perfect olive oil mayo. The sandwich is big, beautiful and tasty and I save half to bring home to my amazing wife Kristin.

The house slaw rocks, too, but my amazing Bar Tab buddy Ron refuses to try it. He also refuses any and all condiments except barbecue sauce, which isn’t on the menu today. Even served dry, Ron likes his turkey sandwich, a testament to its fundamental flavor.

Grace Haitz Cucumber Smash

Mixologist Grace Haitz making her "Cucumber Smash" cocktail at State Street Eating House. STAFF PHOTO / RON BORRESEN

We share a generous side order of hand-cut fries ($3.75) and are convinced we made the right decision until we spot an order of homemade potato chips ($2.50) being consumed nearby. The Butter Milk Soaked Onion Rings ($5.75) are probably awesome, too, but I’m getting full and need to save room for one more cocktail.

I ask our mixologist, Grace Haitz, a veteran who has been at State Street since it opened, to make me her specialty. I request something not too sweet and, you know, manly.

Grace makes me a drink she calls a “Cucumber Smash” ($10), which I highly recommend. The cocktail, a work of art, contains Martin Miller’s Gin – think Hendrick’s but even better – simple syrup, lime and ginger beer shaken with a lime shell and served with freshly cut cucumber ribbons. OK, so maybe it’s not the manliest drink in the world but I dig it.

Cucumber Smash Horizontal

The Cucumber Smash at State Street Eating House. STAFF PHOTO / RON BORRESEN

“It’s a combination of flavors I think play off each other well and are balanced,” Grace says. “It’s not too sweet, not too sour, a little bit of both.”

I’m in a rather chatty mood now – hey, what do you expect after two cocktails in the early afternoon? – and learn that State Street is in the midst of launching a package store and lounge next door.

“The new space will also do various men’s pop-up storefronts and liquor trunk shows,” Christian Hershman, State Street’s chef/proprietor, informs me. “It will be a spot for men doing manly things.”

I’m not exactly sure what he means by “manly things,” but, yeah, count me in.

State Street Eating House
1533 State St., Sarasota; 951-1533; statestreetsrq.com

State Street Eating House
1533 State St., Sarasota; 951-1533; statestreetsrq.com

Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo created what would eventually be called Bar Tab while working as a correspondent for the Herald-Tribune in 2003. He would continue writing about bars for Maxim, Tampa Bay Times, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, OC (Calif.) Weekly and The Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune as a staff writer in 2013 and has happily returned to writing our weekly column Bar Tab. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
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