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Bar Tab: Social Eatery & Bar

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Social CROP

The Redhead Beer Cocktail (left) and Grapefruit Old Fashioned at Social Eatery & Bar. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

I’m usually not a huge fan of posh, trendy, chic, etc., especially when it comes to drinking destinations. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a smartly crafted cocktail, especially a strong one, and adventurous dishes created from the freshest ingredients, especially large ones. But I prefer to enjoy such pleasures in, say, a tiki hut or converted, old waterfront cottage rather than a place that feels plucked from Beverly Hills or South Beach.

Social ext courtesy photo

Social Eatery & Bar / COURTESY PHOTO

Social Eatery & Bar is easily one of the most stylish spots in downtown Sarasota. Polished concrete floors, louvered doors, a wooden trellis ceiling, outdoor sofas, fancy fireplaces, white tile, and a retractable roof are a few of the catchy components. Yep, at first glance, it reminded me of all the hipster hangouts I avoided while spending time in Los Angeles and Miami.

My amazing wife Kristin feels basically the same way as me about places that are all the rage. But soon after taking a seat last Saturday at the bar, Social grew on us. It manages to meld the modern and the classic with impressive results.

Ashley Stewart 1

Mixologist Ashley Stewart prepares a Grapefruit Old Fashioned at Social Eatery & Bar. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

Let’s start with the drinks. I’m a big fan of The Old Fashioned. It’s a classic cocktail that dates back to the early 1800s. It’s typically made by muddling sugar with bitters then adding whiskey with a twist of citrus. That’s pretty much what Social does with its “Grapefruit Old Fashioned,” a remarkable update without any of the gimmickry you might expect from a place that has put such an emphasis on being visually stunning. The Grapefruit Old Fashioned features Jefferson’s Bourbon caressed by a tasty combination of brown sugar cubes, grapefruit bitters, angostura bitters and fresh grapefruit zest. Ashley Stewart, our affable mixologist, created my beverage with skill and aplomb.

In addition to an excellent selection of $9 craft cocktails, Social also offers several beer cocktails ($7). Kristin went with “The Redhead Beer Cocktail,” which of course I liberally sampled. It’s a combination of fresh muddled raspberries, loganberry jam, 44 North Huckleberry Vodka, and a squeeze of fresh lemon mixed with wheat beer – Ashley used Hoegaarden – served over ice crushed in house. Equally delicious and refreshing, it could be the perfect drink while seated outdoors during the summertime. Or, you know, on a warm day here in January.

Social Food

From left, Pretzel Dusted Calamari and Shrimp, House Cut Chips and the Volcano at Social Eatery & Bar. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO.

As for the food, the house cut chips – a heaping bag for a mere five bucks – were fine but could have used more seasoning to really make them pop. Perhaps just some freshly ground pepper and sea salt would do the trick. Spicy ketchup created from scratch would be a killer bonus.

Kristin orders calamari at just about every place that serves it and raved about Social’s “Pretzel Dusted Calamari & Shrimp” ($11), which comes with zucchini, carrots, artichokes and caper berries plus the dipping options of spicy marinara and aioli. I also found the seafood dish brimming with freshness, flavor and a nice medley of textures.

The Volcano ($7), though, ranks as my favorite. It’s basically a gussied up meatball but as tasty as any beef-pasta-cheese combination I’ve had in recent memory. Like the Grapefruit Old Fashioned, The Volcano takes an Italian-American classic – in this case, one I grew up with, also made fresh daily – and gives it a welcome, contemporary makeover. Social is a great drinking destination. It’s especially good for people like me who will always love all things old school but might need to better embrace posh, trendy, chic, etc.

Social Eatery & Bar
1219 First Street, Sarasota; 444-7072; Socialonfirst.com

Social Eatery & Bar
1219 First Street, Sarasota; 444-7072; Socialonfirst.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.
Last modified: January 8, 2014
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