Some of the best places in downtown Sarasota are ones that many people don't even know exist. But they ought to know! Whether you're new in town or are a local who loves to discover, I'd like to share with you a few oddball, unique, and retro places that add a lot of charm to the Sarasota's downtown community.
For starters, you've got to have at least one breakfast at the Waffle Stop at 660 S. Washington Boulevard. If you've already driven by, you probably know that Elvis ate there, and Edith Barr Dunn is still there to tell the tale of how Elvis and his pals showed up in a pink Cadillac for two mornings in a row when he was playing at the Florida Theatre (now the Sarasota Opera House) and ordered three eggs with bacon, pan-fried potatoes, toast, and three glasses of milk. If you want to eat with the King, there's memorabilia everywhere and great choices on the menu such as Elvis Is in the Building, Burnin’ Love Omelette, All Shook Up Omelette, Hunka Hunka Burger, Blackened Bleu Suede Cheese Burger, or Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog.
Since we're talking about music, let me also clue you in to the most up-and-coming music venue in town. Although Payne Park has 29 acres of sprawling space, footpaths, and a skate park, the Friday night music sessions at the Cafe in the Park are a true joy. Some really incredible bands have already set up on the patio in the great tradition of the Urban Cafe Terrace, and you can regularly hear local gems such as Hymn for Her, Passerine, the recent reunion concert for Not From Texas. Plus, the food is great!
Another great place to score a really tasty sandwich with a side of Sarasota history is The Main Bar sandwich shop at 1944 Main Street. Started by circus performers in 1958, the walls are filled with vintage circus photographs, and the “Famous Italian” sandwich has become somewhat of a local legend.
Just a few years earlier in 1952, Reese's Service Station opened at 1802 Main Street, and still serves as another great holdout of simpler times. There were 13 other gas stations active at the time, but Reese's is the only one that remains, and is quite possibly the only place in Sarasota that will still pump your gas for you. While they also do tune-ups and oil changes, it's worth a visit just to top off your tank.
While downtown no longer has the hardware store on Main Street, it does have a few places devoted to home design. One of the more interesting is Cucine Ricci at 1515 Main Street. They have a beautiful showroom, but it's only a fraction of what they really have to offer. If you're in the market for new cabinetry, you owe it to yourself to let Cucine Ricci help you completely re-imagine your kitchen.
A fairly recent addition to downtown is the Downtown Gillespie Village. These old Florida cottages on the north side of Fruitville Road just west of US-301 have all been renovated into a variety of shops, restaurants, galleries, and boutique. From fresh brunch fare at The Breakfast House to an uplifting cup at The Tea House, one could easily spend the better part of the day wandering in and out of these eclectic local businesses.
Lastly, LeBarge is a Sarasota landmark, giving locals and tourists and interesting way to "do SRQ" for 30 years. With its tropical décor and live local musicians, the double-decker houseboat offers dolphin and manatee watching cruises, sunset cruises, and sightseeing tours, embarking daily from the Marina Jack Plaza. A trip on LeBarge is a must for the full Sarasota experience.
Of course, these are just a few of the gems that make Sarasota a great place to live. What are a few of your favorites?
Julian is a happy Sarasota resident and your go-to guy for information about the perks of living in paradise. Are you looking for a home here? Get in touch with Julian directly via the Sarasota Property Finders Contact Page.
Sarasota Area Real Estate Specialist