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Celebrate International Sushi Day with Local Masters!

It's almost International Sushi Day, on June 18th, 2024! This delicious holiday is the perfect excuse to dive into the world of fresh fish, vinegared rice, and culinary artistry. But sushi's journey to our plates is a fascinating one, taking us back centuries and across continents.

From Humble Beginnings to Modern Masterpiece
The story of sushi starts in Southeast Asia, where a method called Narezushi was used to preserve fish. Fish was wrapped in fermented rice, allowing it to last for months. Interestingly, the rice was discarded back then, and only the preserved fish was eaten!

Fast forward, and we encounter Namanare, a more familiar concept. This involved partly fermented fish, a precursor to the modern palate's preference. This marked a shift from preservation to a new form of cuisine.

Finally, during Japan's Edo period (1600-1800 AD), the sushi we know and love today emerged. Vinegar-infused rice became the base for this dish, featuring fish and vegetables. Regional variations added their own flair, but the core concept remains a staple.

Experience the Dedication Behind the Dish
There's no better way to celebrate International Sushi Day than at a local sushi haven. Here's the thing: for many sushi chefs, it's more than just a job; it's a passion. Becoming an itamae, a sushi chef in Japan, involves years of rigorous training under a master. Imagine – up to twenty years honing the skills to create the perfect sushi rice! This dedication translates into an exceptional dining experience for you.

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Tasty Brunch Adventures In Local Dining

The Gulf Coast may have shifted into a slower gear, but that just means there's more time to savor the good life! And what better way to embrace our relaxed Gulf Coastal lifestyle than a leisurely brunch?  Brunch, a delightful combination of breakfast and lunch dishes enjoyed through the early afternoon hours is a fantastic way to savor the slower summer pace. Ditch the kitchen mess and support our locally-owned, independent restaurants by exploring their unique and delectable brunch menus. It's a perfect way to savor the good life and discover the heart of the community, one delicious bite at a time.

Element Steak. Seafood. Pasta.

Craving a lively Sunday brunch in the heart of downtown Sarasota?  Element is delivering with their delicious Sunday Brunch, offered through the summer. Brunch starts at 10:30 am with Bottomless Mimosas (Orange, Pineapple, Passionfruit, Cranberry - you choose! $25), brunch boards, and more.  The brunch fun continues with Jazzy Tunes with Akiem_the_guitar_player  starting at 11 am, Happy Hour at 12:30 pm, and ending at 2:30 pm.  Meet up with family or friends, Element will ensure you have a Sunday Funday!


Indulge in a delightful brunch experience at Kolucan Mexican Bar & Grill in Sarasota’s Gulf Gate Village offered Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm. The owners, Chefs Gino and Jose are serving an array of authentic Mexican items, like the popular Chicken Mole Tamal served with sunny side eggs, charro beans, and queso fresco,  plus some twists on classic faves like Tres Leches French Toast. Wash it all down with a traditional Mexican beverage, cafe de olla, a spiced coffee made with a sugar syrup called piloncillo.

But wait, there's more! On the second Sunday of every month, Kolucan's brunch gets even more exciting with Beats + Brunch. Enjoy the upbeat sounds of guest DJs while you savor your brunch. Browse the artisanal market featuring unique vendors showcasing their wares – it's the perfect opportunity to find one-of-a-kind treasures alongside your delicious meal.

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Dining With Dogs: A Guide To Our Area’s Pawsome Patios

The thought of leaving our furry companions behind can put a damper on any outing. But fret no more, pet owners! Sarasota-Manatee Originals has the inside scoop on restaurants in our area with outdoor seating that welcomes your canine companion. These pawsome patios allow you to enjoy a delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner with your pup by your side. 

Pet-Friendly Restaurants


Bevardi's offers a delightful outdoor dining experience that is perfect for lunching with your dog or enjoying appetizers and dinner. Bevardi’s aims to provide all their guests with delicious dishes and a welcoming atmosphere that will keep you coming back for more.


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Celebrating Local Gems: Anniversary Milestones For 4 Beloved Restaurants

Let’s raise a glass to our incredible local restaurants! This year marks a milestone anniversary celebration for several of our favorites. From Sage, delighting us for the past five years, to icons like Harry's and the Sandbar, reaching an impressive forty-five years, it's a true testament to their enduring appeal. These locally owned and independent restaurants are the heart and soul of our community, offering delicious food, warm hospitality, and a unique dining experience. Let's show our appreciation by joining them in celebrating their achievements!


Celebrating five years, Sage – a historic hotspot beloved for its “worldly cuisine and inspired cocktails” – has been delighting downtown Sarasota regulars since 2019. This is just the beginning for co-owners Sharon Carole and executive chef Christopher Covelli, as new collaborations and culinary creations are in store for 2024. “Reaching our five-year milestone is not just a testament to our dedication; it's a celebration of the incredible journey we've shared with our guests, our talented culinary team and staff, and the vibrant Sarasota community,” Covelli said. “Sharon and I are incredibly excited for what's in store as we embark on this milestone year at Sage. Our guests' trust over these years has allowed us to push boundaries, explore new flavors, and create unforgettable dining experiences. Along with co-executive chefs Brett Wagner and Vinnie Savadel, we look forward to continuing to surprise and delight our guests with innovative dishes and elevate our culinary journey together.”

In honor of their 5th anniversary, Sage unveiled a delightful new seasonal menu. This innovative culinary adventure reflects the restaurant's history, offering starters like Nori Cake with caviar and a Tandoori Caesar salad. Luxurious options include the Duo of Foie Gras, while main courses cater to all palates with Seared Halibut, Duck Confit, a Vegan Wellington, and a dry-aged Porterhouse. Refreshing cocktails and decadent desserts round out this exciting new offering.

To view the entire seasonal menu, visit

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Fiesta Your Way Into May!

Cinco de Mayo explodes onto the scene with vibrant parades, festive music, and of course, incredible food. While the holiday commemorates a historic Mexican victory, its celebration here on the Suncoast is all about having a fun-filled time. And what better way to embrace the spirit than with a delicious meal at a local Sarasota-Manatee Originals restaurant?  This year, several of our member establishments are going above and beyond, transforming their patios into epic block parties and fiestas with a Suncoast twist! So grab your amigos and get ready to experience Cinco de Mayo in style. From special menus to festive entertainment, here's your guide to the tastiest celebrations on the Suncoast!


El Melvin Cocina Mexicana

The El Melvin Cinco De Mayo 2-Day block party is almost here!  At El Melvin Cocina Mexicana, every visit is as bright and boisterous as a south-of-the-border fiesta. Their fun and modern "Mex-eclectic" concept embodies a lively and festive atmosphere that immerses guests in a celebration of Mexican culture. 

And for Cinco de Mayo, this lively local favorite is throwing a 2-day block party bursting with fiesta flair. Expect a vibrant vibe with dancing, food trucks, live music, and even VIP tables. They'll have tons of merchandise and a few surprises in store too. Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 4th, and Sunday, May 5th for a celebration that embodies El Melvin's signature fun!

Find more information on El Melvin’s block party here.

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Sarasota-Manatee Originals Is Thrilled To Announce The Addition Of New Members

As you know, Sarasota-Manatee Originals champions independent restaurants and passionate restaurateurs who bring them to life. By choosing to dine at an Originals member restaurant, you directly support these local heroes who are dedicated to culinary excellence and deeply invested in our community.

Together, SMO and its Members strive to celebrate the unique flavors of our Suncoast. Their local roots and impressive talents have cultivated a diverse and innovative restaurant scene unlike any other. From the northern shores of Anna Maria Island to the southern beaches of Venice, Sarasota-Manatee Originals restaurants offer a delightful surprise and guaranteed satisfaction at every turn.

Here at SMO, we're always looking to expand our community, and these four restaurants are perfect examples of what makes the Originals so special. These restaurants are renowned for dishes that capture the essence of Florida's West Coast, bursting with flavor, color, and the vibrant culture of the region.

We are thrilled to welcome Kolucan, Marcel, Station 400, and Chaz 51 Steakhouse to the Sarasota-Manatee Originals family!

We look forward to sharing more news about these restaurants with you and hope you get the opportunity to dine with them soon.  Let’s get to know these new Members, shall we?

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Leading Ladies In Our Local Restaurants

International Women's Day may have been on March 8th, but we are inspired by the incredible women who lead and contribute to our local food and beverage industry every single day!

We would like to take this opportunity to honor, applaud, and show our appreciation for all of the women of Sarasota-Manatee Originals.  Without their hard work and dedication, we would not have been able to achieve what we have accomplished together.  THANK YOU!

In the bustling world of restaurants, there's always a lot of hustle. We recognize and appreciate your hustle.  You give your patrons these amazing experiences where they can share food, drinks, and precious memories with their family, friends, and co-workers.  We are so fortunate to have the connections we have with the members of Sarasota-Manatee Originals.  We would like to celebrate the Leading Ladies In Our Local Restaurants!

1592 Wood Fired Kitchen & Cocktails

Mila Aguiar is the energetic Co-owner and General Manager of 1592. Her passion for serving individuals and the community led her to the hotel industry. Her partner, in both life and business, recognized her exceptional abilities in the service industry and introduced her to the world of restaurateurs. With her extensive knowledge from working with world-renowned companies, she has now brought her skills to Sarasota. She aims to provide every person and party that comes to her restaurant with a fresh and elevated experience.  

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What’s In Store For 2024? These Originals Have The Right Ingredients!

From restaurant expansions to revamped menus, the Sarasota-Manatee Originals are serving up plenty more in 2024. Check out what’s new and exciting at these four locales this year. 


The Breakfast Company

Restaurateur Dimitri Syros said the eatery – which currently has locations in Braden River, The Landings, and University Town Center (UTC) – might add another spot later this year. The team is exploring launching a Greek fast-casual restaurant to “pay tribute to our Greek roots from El Greco Café,” he said. For now, The Breakfast Company’s UTC location is hosting a series of special events throughout the spring, including a Yelp-members-only prefix dinner, a Greek night, a salsa night, and a reggae night. “And we’re launching a new catering company that will expand our usual breakfast/lunch/bakery fare to offer more refined options,” Syros said. “We’re also offering monthly specials that are seasonally based so, for March, we have corned beef hash, Reuben sandwiches, and Guinness pancakes.”


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Fall In Love With Our Originals

Let the embers of Valentine's Day love linger a little longer! Extend the romantic spark and create memories that last with a special date night at one of Sarasota-Manatee Originals' captivating restaurants. Beyond the ordinary, each establishment within our group promises an unparalleled dining experience, woven with exquisite cuisine and settings that set the stage for an unforgettable evening. So, if you're seeking to reignite the flames of passion or simply bask in the warm glow of togetherness, join us on a culinary journey where romance takes center plate. Dive into our list and discover the perfect Sarasota-Manatee Originals restaurant to whisk you and your sweetheart away on a delightful escape, long after the February 14th dust settles.

Amore Restaurant

Experience an enchanting fusion of traditional Italian and authentic Portuguese cuisine at Amore restaurant, where Chef & Owner Tito Vitorino's culinary artistry takes center stage. With an upscale yet cozy ambiance, glass panels offering a view of the chef at work, outside patio seating, and live entertainment, it's the perfect spot for a romantic dinner to create cherished memories.

Beach House Waterfront Restaurant

A visit to the Beach House is essential for an unparalleled romantic dining experience. The casually chic beachfront eatery is just steps from the sun-kissed sands and breathtaking sunset views. With a menu designed to delight all palates, ranging from savory seafood dishes to mouthwatering steaks and fresh salads, there's something to please everyone’s taste.

Bevardi’s Salute!

Bevardi's Salute! Restaurant in downtown Sarasota offers an enchanting blend of Tuscan-themed "al fresco" and elegant indoor dining. Their authentic Italian cuisine features house-made pasta, cured meats, and cheeses, all lovingly prepared by a Chef-owned and operated establishment. With live music to enhance the experience, guests can enjoy creative, fresh, and delicious "Cucina Italiana" in a charming setting that captures the essence of Italian hospitality.

Bijou Garden Café

Bijou Café in downtown Sarasota offers a charming blend of nostalgic elegance and modern European-inspired cuisine. Since 1986, it has been a beloved fixture in the Theatre and Arts District, known for its award-winning wine selection, impeccable service, and eclectic menu. From romantic dinners to corporate events, Bijou Café provides personalized attention and private rooms for special occasions.

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Capturing The Magic - Forks & Corks Festival's Media Highlights

Wow! What can we say? The outpouring of love from our local media for the 17th annual Forks & Corks Food and Wine Festival has us absolutely floored!

From glowing reviews to stunning photos, your coverage captured the magic of the event so beautifully. We're incredibly grateful for your support in showcasing the delicious food, amazing wines, and vibrant atmosphere that our community has to offer.

Want to relive the highlights or discover what you missed? Dive into some of these fantastic articles:

A huge thank you again to all of our amazing media partners! 

As always, Eat Like A Local!

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Who’s Ready For The 17th Annual Forks & Corks Food and Wine Festival?!

As we enter the new year of 2024 - a food and wine festival is waiting for us just around the corner. The much-anticipated Forks & Corks Food and Wine Festival is set to take place from January 22nd to January 29th, promising a week filled with educational experiences, exclusive tastings, and unforgettable culinary delights. Here's a detailed guide to help you navigate the diverse offerings of Forks & Corks in 2024.  

Forks & Corks Events 2024

Monday, Jan 22 - Sunday, Jan 28

Online Food and Wine Auction:

Don't miss the chance to bid on a curated collection of rare wines, travel experiences, and unique dining opportunities! SMO Insiders will get the link to preview Auction items on Thursday, January 18, 2024, so make sure you are signed up to receive the Sarasota-Manatee Original e-newsletters and/or follow @941originals on Instagram and Facebook.

The Auction will take place online and will open for real-time bidding on Monday, January 22, at 8:00 am, and will close on Sunday, January 28, at 3:00 pm. All funds raised by the Forks & Corks Online Food and Wine Auction will go towards promoting and sustaining the over 60 local, independent area restaurants that are Members of the Sarasota-Manatee Originals. 

Thank you for supporting our mission to preserve the local dining scene and keep our community thriving!

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How Do The Winning “Corks” Get Into Forks & Corks?... We Look Behind The Scenes Of The F&C Wine Competition

Wine aficionados hoping to sample specialty sips at the upcoming Forks & Corks Food and Wine Festival are in for a treat. Winning bottles were cherry-picked in early December for a reveal at the Grand Tasting and the Trade Tasting during the upcoming festival from January 25 to 29, 2024.

To find these delectable winners, the Forks & Corks Wine Competition was held at Michael’s Wine Cellar in Sarasota from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, December 4. A perennial predecessor event to the Festival, the Forks & Corks Wine Competition is a behind-the-scenes, exclusive, all-day event that many festival attendees may not even know exists every year. 

“I created the program about 10 years ago to create excitement about the wines,” said Michael Klauber, co-owner of Michael’s On East and a Founding Member of Sarasota-Manatee Originals. “I was a professional wine judge for many years and had experience in setting up wine competitions.” 

Wine Judge Nicole Carbon

This particular competition is where all the potential Forks & Corks wines are gathered and selected in a blind tasting by a panel of 20 judges (Trained tasters, Level I and higher). The judges are all lauded beverage professionals with certifications from the Guild of Master Sommeliers and Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) organizations, Klauber said.

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Sarasota-Manatee Originals Names Four New Board Members

Bringing years of expertise and culinary passion, four new members have joined the Sarasota-Manatee Originals’ board of directors. Dean Donnelly, Gabe Garcia, Mila Aguiar, and Becky Souflis will now help manage the business and affairs of the organization.

“Each board member brings a different set of competencies, viewpoints, and backgrounds to the boardroom, and it’s exciting to see them working together as a group for the greater good of the organization,” said Liza Kubik, acting executive director of the Originals. “With their shared passion to promote our local culinary scene and independent restaurants, I expect the Originals brand to be strengthened under their guidance.” 

The incoming board members join these stellar restaurant and marketing professionals:  

Marc Grimaud | Owner, Café Gabbiano | Board President 

Nikki Logan-Curran | Owner, The Scout Guide Sarasota | Board Vice President

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Shining A Light On The 2023 Sarasota - Manatee Originals Events

We would like to take this opportunity to share some Sarasota - Manatee Originals highlights from 2023!  First, we would like to thank you for being on this journey with us!  We’ve had amazing experiences this year! Celebrating 20 years of SMO is definitely a milestone that speaks to those authentic connections we have made over the years.  Without our sponsors, vendors, members, board members, SMO team members, the locals in our community, and our valued visitors this journey would not have been able to continue for 20 years.  With that being said, let’s share some highlights that helped to make 2023 a successful and fun year!

Forks & Corks 2023

It's no secret that Forks & Corks is our area's beloved food and wine festival!  This Festival has grown to encompass 24 events over five days, welcoming over 4,000 guests to a variety of epicurean events, including wine dinners, retail tastings, master classes led by industry experts, and the Grand Tasting event, where wine lovers and foodies meet in a spectacular outdoor venue. 

Forks & Corks brings together our vibrant local restaurant scene and an esteemed cast of visiting winery owners and winemakers from around the world.  Allowing attendees to savor exquisite food pairings and sample wines from the world’s finest vineyards.

In 2023, it was no different!  It kicked off on April 20th and ran through April 24th - along with an online auction from April 17th - April 23rd. It is the perfect opportunity to taste brilliant wines and feed your inner foodie.  Plus, it is a great way to connect with old friends and make some new friends.

We look forward to Forks & Corks 2024!  Learn what to expect here.  

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C’mon Let’s Get Happy With These Happy Hour Specials

For those seeking a taste of the local scene, Sarasota-Manatee Originals encourages you to delve into the Gulf Coast's vibrant communities where charming local establishments serve up the best Happy Hour menus.  These happy hour menus we are sharing with you showcase regional craft beers, signature cocktails, and bites inspired by Gulf Coast cuisine. Visit the following restaurants to enjoy their wallet-friendly deals. 

1592 Wood Fired Kitchen & Cocktails

Get happy at 1592 Wood Fired Kitchen & Cocktails with drink and food specials!  Monday to Saturday 3-6 pm and Sunday 4-6 pm.  Check out their happy hour menu here.

Bevardi’s Salute! Restaurant

Meet up with your friends at Bevardi’s Salute! Restaurant to discover some tasty bites and drinks from their daily happy hour menu.   Try out these specials from 4-6 pm daily.  

Bijou Garden Cafe

The Bijou is the place to be for happy hour.  Happy hour specials are served from 5pm to 7pm at their Bar Top Seating in the dining room. Take a look at their happy hour options here.  

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Holiday Shopping? Stuff Stockings with Private-Label, Local Products From The Originals

Why bother with big-box brands and mass-produced goods this holiday season, when the Sarasota-Manatee Originals are offering their own unique gifts for gourmands? A plethora of delectable, original-recipe, private-label products are in stock at Member Restaurants right now, sure to make stellar conversation starters and stocking stuffers.

Pop’s Sunset Grill sells private-label salt and pepper grinders, as well as two private-label hot sauces (a medium-heat Old Florida traditional sauce and a ghost pepper sauce). All of the grinders and hot sauces grace the tables at the Nokomis Beach locale.

“We have found that, even in the humid climate at Pop’s, the quality of these products is really good,” said Stephanie Brown, the general manager at Pop’s. “You can purchase either hot sauce in our BouTiki Gift Shop or online (click here) for $10.95 each, or enjoy them with your food while dining at Pop’s.”

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2024 Forks & Corks - Here’s What You Can Expect!

First, as you may already know Forks & Corks has moved to January, so let’s just start by saying we should expect cooler weather.  We are excited about the 17th annual Forks & Corks Food and Wine Festival!  Whether you want all the details or have never been to a Forks & Corks event and this will be your first time experiencing it, we will share some of what you can expect.  


History Of Forks & Corks

The Forks & Corks Food and Wine Festival has a rich history beginning in 2008. Conceived by the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, a collective of independently owned and operated restaurants, the event was designed as a showcase to celebrate the culinary talents of locally-owned restaurants in the area. 

From its inception, Forks & Corks aimed to unite the vibrant local restaurant scene with an esteemed cast of visiting winery owners and winemakers from around the world. The Festival quickly gained popularity for offering a unique experience, allowing attendees to savor exquisite food pairings and sample wines from the finest vineyards. 

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Celebrate The Holiday Season With These Local Favorites

Want to know the best places to dine this holiday season? Or would you like to have your holiday event catered by one of your favorite local restaurants?  Sarasota-Manatee Originals has exciting news for you!!!  Our Members are offering some amazing holiday dinner options!  From Christmas treats and the best seats for New Year’s Eve - you can start your holiday planning right here!


Café Gabbiano

The most wonderful time of the year is fast approaching and Café Gabbiano is thrilled to be part of your holiday celebrations!  They are now accepting reservations for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's. Secure your preferred date and time to ensure a memorable dining experience with family and friends. From their festive Christmas and New Year's offerings, they promise a culinary journey that will delight your senses. Also, you can shop at Café Gabbiano for the Holidays! Curated Glass and Wine Baskets are now available. 
Take a look here: Café Gabbiano ( and click on the WINE tab.

Café Venice Restaurant & Bar

Let your holiday festivities be a breeze and dine at Café Venice.  Need your holiday event catered?  They've got you covered!  Plus, they can deliver too!  For more information on holiday dining and catering, click here.  

Planning on ringing in the New Year at Café Venice?  There will be live music brought to you by Nor Easter!  They can’t wait to celebrate with you!

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Going VIP at F&C

Luxurious lounging, culinary delights, and posh libations make the Forks & Corks VIP Experience an exclusive annual must.

Attendees gather in the coolness of the Sarasota winter to sip and snack in style during The Grand Tasting in the courtyard of The Ringling Museum of Art.

Hosted by The Scout Guide Sarasota in partnership with Sarasota-Manatee Originals, the coveted $450 VIP event-within-an-event sells out to 350 lucky guests. Tickets for the experience (which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024) go on sale at 9 a.m. Tues. Oct. 10.

“There’s really nothing like this offered anywhere else in town,” says Nikki Logan Curran, the editor of The Scout Guide Sarasota—a publication that champions small, local businesses. “We’ve completely elevated the VIP Experience, and everybody who comes to this event leaves so happy.”


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Sarasota-Manatee Originals - Celebrating A Community Of Culinary Excellence

As the world welcomed the dawn of the new millennium, Sarasota, Florida began a transformation that would forever change the face of this hidden gem along the Suncoast. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, which is synonymous with luxury and elegance, set its sights on Sarasota, casting a spotlight on the town's rich cultural tapestry and breathtaking natural beauty. 

With that being said, one wonders how this evolution impacted the local dining scene, and what role the Sarasota-Manatee Originals played in preserving the essence of the community's culinary heritage. 

Once Known As A “Circus City” Sarasota Undergoes A Metamorphosis

Many have referred to Sarasota as the 'Circus City' due to its historical ties to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. However, as we entered the new millennium, Sarasota began its metamorphosis. The town's cultural sophistication, natural beauty, and coastal appeal attracted the attention of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, which chose Sarasota to be a new location for one of its resort-style luxury hotels. The construction of a Ritz-Carlton Hotel would send a message to the world that Sarasota had earned its place among top-tier destinations.

Caption: Micheal Klauber - owner of Micheals on East

The Ripple Effect

The arrival of The Ritz-Carlton along with a downtown resurgence. Sarasota was stepping into the spotlight, and with that spotlight brought an influx of big-brand chains, eager to tap into the town's newfound popularity. Independent local restaurant owners soon found themselves facing the pressures of competition from these corporate giants. Michael Klauber, the owner of Sarasota's beloved Michaels on East restaurant (established in 1987), recalls the pivotal moment: "We realized that Sarasota was changing, and we were starting to see the big guys coming in. None of us had the budgets to battle these highly subsidized corporations."

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