By SHELBY WEBB, firstname.lastname@example.orgDoes South Sarasota have the most vibrant dining scene around?
When Sharky’s on the Pier announced a massive expansion for its iconic waterfront restaurant, we took a look around and found a host of other changes in South Sarasota dining. Restaurants are moving, expanding and opening at a surprising rate, making it one of the more vibrant restaurant scenes in the area. Here are some of the alterations that might make you change your weekend reservations for a bite of something from South Sarasota.
200 Miami Ave., Venice; 488-3089Bella Luna Cafe of Venice
Michael Faulkner and his wife, Sharon Bohm, bought Bella Luna Cafe of Venice in April after its previous owners had to sell the spot due to health issues. Faulkner said he was sold on the cafe after one sip of their coffee. “We’re not changing our coffees at all,” the New Jersey native said. “We’d be out of business in a week if we did.” But the cafe’s menu will expand to include more pastries, sandwiches, an omelet station, and beer and wine. Faulkner said new products will be available beginning in October.
2000 Oyster Creek Dr., Englewood; 475-1030; newbluelagoon.comBlue Lagoon
The long-shuttered restaurant on Oyster Bay Drive in Englewood reopened its doors in February under new ownership. Peggy and Bob Laigle said they had eyed the vacant building where the old Blue Lagoon used to sit since they moved to Englewood several years ago. As soon as the couple saw a for lease sign posted at the location, Peggy said they jumped at the chance. “We’ve been getting lots of very good responses,” Peggy said. “Things slowed down, of course, after the snowbirds went home. But we’re trying to get the word out to the locals.” The waterfront restaurant features steaks, seafood and Italian fare. Peggy said the restaurant also hires live bands every weekend.
The former Cafe Evergreen at Warm Mineral Springs. (Courtesy Photo)Cafe Evergreen
Once nestled within the Warm Mineral Springs complex in North Port, Cafe Evergreen is headed north to Nokomis. Ted Weinberger, who owns the restaurant, said he hopes to open the new restaurant by the end of September off of U.S. 41. He said the new location will offer more menu options than the North Port restaurant, since the Nokomis location will serve both lunch and dinner. “I always try to put a healthy twist on everything,” Weinberger said. “Even something simple as Coke, I use the Coke from Mexico because they use sugar cane instead of corn syrup.” Weinberger said the restaurant will also feature a produce stand out back and an organic juice and coffee bar inside.
305 W. Venice Ave., Venice; 485-0507; cassariano.comCassariano Italian Eatery
Cassariano has quickly gained a following, even in city known for its large number of Italian restaurants. Now, it is moving two doors down Venice Avenue to a larger location. Luca Cassani, who owns Cassariano with Antonio Pariano, said his restaurant has been going through growing pains. “We have a very small space now,” Cassani said, “but fortunately we have a very large number of customers, so we need more physical space to fit them all.” The new location is about 1,000 square feet larger and will include a full bar. The new Cassariano will also have a private dining room for 45 to 50 guests available for reservations. Cassani said the restaurant will reopen in the new location during the first week of October, just in time for tourist season.
530 U.S. 41 Bypass S., Venice; 485-9900; darrelsrestaurant.netDarrell’s Restaurant
Under the direction of local chef Darrell Hornberger, Darrell’s Restaurant opened June 28 off of U.S. 41 Bypass. He said his eclectic blend of Southern soul food with a modern kick has helped him build an already loyal group of customers, many of whom Hornberger knows personally. “I’ll never tell you that you can’t get what you want,” Hornberger said. “Even if it’s not on our menu, I'll make it.”
1975 Beach Road, Englewood; 460-8280; floundersonthebeach.comFlounders Restaurant and Tiki Bar
Some newer patrons to Flounders Restaurant and Tiki Bar in Englewood may bear the heat just to sit in the restaurant’s new outdoor area. The new seating and activity area features white sand, a shady sofa lounging area and covered cornhole. Since the outdoor area was finished a couple of weeks ago, Jordanne Byrd, an assistant manager at the restaurant, said customers have been thrilled to see the changes. “It’s awesome,” Byrd said. “Everyone is loving life.” Byrd also said the restaurant is in the process of building a second outdoor bar at the restaurant, which should open in early October, which will bring new drink and menu items with it.
602 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice; 483-4840; luckydogdiner.wix.comLucky Dog Diner
The iconic restaurant fashioned out of a trailer came under new ownership in July, after its previous owner had difficulties juggling a family with the responsibilities at the diner. Greg Hoch, who bought the restaurant with his wife, Joy, said he was immediately attracted to the restaurant’s quirky charm. “Plus, my wife said I needed a job,” Hoch laughed. Hoch said the restaurant will keep Lucky Dog’s popular chef and menu items, but it will roll out new items starting in the next few months. In the meantime, Hoch said the parking lot and eating areas will be revamped in time for fall.
117 W. Venice Ave., Venice; 488-8282; madeinitaly-venice.comMade In Italy
The popular downtown Venice restaurant is expanding to include a new bar and appetizer area. Giuseppe Del Sole, who co-owns the restaurant, said construction is underway to create a new 40-foot martini bar next door to their West Venice Avenue location. He said the new bar will feature organic martinis and special appetizers. “This was our dream,” Del Sole said of he and his business partner. “To build a cocktail bar and add it to the restaurant.” Del Sole said he hopes to open the new bar area near the end of September. “It’s going to be beautiful,” he said.
2091 S. McCall Road, Englewood; 475-5656; mamasitalianrestaurant.netMama's Italian Restaurant
Mama’s Italian Restaurant, a beloved institution in Englewood, closed its doors for a week in May to do the most substantial renovations the iconic eatery has seen since it opened 31 years ago. Paula Recca, who owns the restaurant, said contractors installed new awnings to cover the outdoor eating area, painted the entire building, and added a new roof and ceiling. “It’s the biggest thing we did in 31 years,” Recca said. “And we’ll still being doing changes in September.” Recca was tight-lipped about the upcoming changes, which will close the restaurant for the month of September, but said customers should expect to see changes when the Italian restaurant reopens in October. “There’s always something in progress here,” Recca said.
509 N. Tamiami Trail, VeniceMarker 4
One of the few waterfront restaurants in Venice will have new ownership. Marker IV, which is situated on the Intracoastal Waterway, is slated to reopen by the end of October. Cassie Meyer, who will manage the new restaurant, said though the new owners are keeping the Marker IV name, the soon-to-be-opened restaurant has no affiliation with the previous establishment. “I like to call it the new Marker IV,” Meyer said, “because it is a completely new restaurant.” Meyer said the menu will feature seafood as well as hamburgers, wings and other traditional American favorites.
Pineapples Island Grill: 133 N. Tamiami Trail, Venice; 445-5066; pineapplesrestaurant.com. T.J. Carney’s: 231 W. Venice Ave., Venice; 480-9244Pineapples Island Grill / T.J. Carney's Pub and Grille
Despite rumors of Pineapples Island Grill’s potential closure, Tom Carney, who owns the restaurant, said he has no plans of shutting it down. Though he is trying to find someone to buy the establishment, he will keep it open whether he finds a new owner or not. “I have no intention of shutting it down,” Carney said. “It’s just a big rumor.” As for Carney’s other restaurant, T.J. Carney's Pub and Grille off of Venice Avenue, Carney said the restaurant will reopen around Oct. 1 as a brewpub. After 15 years of serving Venice customers, Carney said the restaurant badly needed a make-over. “It was time,” he said. “As a customer, you couldn’t see the wear and tear. It just needed a change.”
405 U.S. 41 Bypass N., Venice; 488-0503; plazamexicobarandgrill.comPlaza Mexico Bar and Grill
After opening its first Florida location this year, Plaza Mexico is expanding to Venice. David Alvarez, who founded the restaurant in 2008 in Rhode Island, opened a Port Charlotte location in January to a warm reception. Now, they are expanding north to Venice. “I think it’s a great location with the beach,” Alvarez said. “It’ll bring more business.” Alvarez said the new restaurant, which serves traditional Mexican fare, will open by October.
An artist's rendition of the expanded section of Sharky's. (Photo provided) 1600 Harbor Dr. S., Venice; 488-1456; sharkysonthepier.comSharky's On The Pier
Sharky’s will expand the waterfront restaurant by 9,000 square feet, essentially doubling the size of Southern Sarasota County’s highest-grossing restaurant ($8.9 million in gross revenues in 2012). Manager Justin Pachota says that Sharky’s will turn into a more upscale dining establishment, with a higher-priced menu to match, including sushi. Expect Sharky’s to shed some of its beach bar aura for something a little more “polished casual.”
119 S. Indiana Ave., Englewood; 999-0340Tail-Gators
A new food truck is about to open a brick-and-mortar location in Englewood. Tail-Gators, owned by uncle-and-nephew duo Rich and Eric Vega, began operating a food truck serving up speciality hot dogs and sausages in April. Rich Vega said the permanent location will allow him and his nephew to diversify the menu from hot dogs to other specialty American foods. “We’re really creative,” Rich said. “For the past 8 months, we’ve been finding out what people want to so we can cater to all of the tourists during season.” The Vegas hope to open the Tail-Gators restaurant early this September.
339 Commercial Court, Venice; 412-4832; tomatillosfreshmex.comTomatillos Fresh Mex
There’s a new Mexican restaurant for those who love food from the region but dislike the plethora of chain restaurants serving greasy tacos.
Rachel Gardner, who is an assistant manager at the restaurant, said the fresh ingredients used by Tomatillo’s separate the new eatery from other restaurants serving Mexican-inspired meals.
“Instead of the food being frozen like at Taco Bell, everything’s fresh, hot and made to order.”
Gardner said one of the most popular items on the Tomatillo’s menu is the Macho Nachos, which let customers pile a stack of nacho chips with any number of toppings.
South Sarasota Dining Changes
/ Thursday, August 29, 2013