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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.  

Wine Down Wednesdays

Wine Down Wednesdays are cooking segments that showcase amazing dishes and tasty drinks from our members here at Sarasota-Manatee Originals.  Watch as chefs give you an inside look at how they prepare some of their most flavor-filled menu items.  You will get to see how they craft and pair the most mouthwatering foods that they offer.  

It truly is a great experience!  Some share wonderful stories of how these dishes became what they are today and you may also get inspired to try something new the next time you find yourself in their restaurant.  

2023 Wine Down Wednesdays featured amazing member restaurants such as 1592 Wood Fired Kitchen & Cocktails, Cafe Gabbiano, Michaels On East, Sage, Tzeva, and many other delightful guests. You can catch them all on our YouTube channel!  If you want to be featured on Wine Down Wednesdays and have questions about the process - contact us here.

SMO image then and now

Sarasota-Manatee Originals Celebrates 20 Years

As we alluded to earlier, SMO celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2023!  Do you know how Sarasota-Manatee Originals started?  Well, it all started with the arrival of The Ritz-Carlton and the resurgence of downtown Sarasota. This brought Sarasota 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."

Klauber wasn't alone in his concerns. He discovered that many other local restaurateurs were dealing with the same concerns. It was D'Arcy Arpke, co-owner of Longboat Key's Euphemia Haye restaurant at the time (established in 1980), who helped to play a role in bringing together other local restaurant owners. Together they shared the idea with other independently owned restaurants to join forces to preserve the community's culinary identity. Thus, the "Sarasota-Manatee Originals" initiative was born.

In September 2003, the Sarasota-Manatee Originals officially emerged sharing a passion for celebrating and preserving the community's distinct culinary essence. This group included visionary independent restaurant owners and chefs from Sarasota and Manatee counties who realized that their fellow restaurateurs weren't competitors but rather collaborators. 

Today, the Sarasota-Manatee Originals stand together as a community of over 60 restaurants, stretching across 40 miles of Florida's central Gulf Coast. From the northern shores of Anna Maria Island to the southern beaches of Venice and every neighborhood in between, these culinary artisans provide diners with a tapestry of unique, local flavors that only they can offer.

The Sarasota-Manatee Originals and its members have woven a tapestry of culinary excellence, community spirit, and shared passions. This 20-year-long journey that Sarasota-Manatee Originals and its members are on is a reminder that when individuals come together with a common purpose, they can create something truly remarkable.

SMO Board of Directors and Staff (2020)

Taste Of The Bay

Taste of The Bay is the perfect opportunity to indulge in the culinary magic of Sarasota’s finest locally-owned restaurants, also known as Sarasota-Manatee Originals members.  This outdoor food festival takes place near beautiful Sarasota Bay at The Bay Park.  

Not only is there an array of the best food the Gulf Coast area has to offer, but there is also live music!  This year, 2023, The Bay turned one!  It was the second round of Taste Of The Bay and it was no surprise it was a hit again this year!

Among the culinary stars participating in Taste Of The Bay were 1592 Wood Fired Kitchen & Cocktails, Amore!, Bevardi’s Salute, The Breakfast Company, Brick’s Smoked Meats, Cafe Gabbiano, Clasico Italian Chophouse, Crow’s Nest Restaurant and Marina, Duval’s Fresh. Local. Seafood., Fins at Sharky’s, Jack Dusty, Kolucan, Lox and Egg, Mean Deans Local Kitchen, Mi Pueblo, Michael’s On East, Tzeva, and Tsunami! 

Admission to the park was free. "Taste Tickets" were available to start your flavorful journey at this event.  Tickets were sold in $5 increments (5 tickets = $5). Most food items ranged between 3 and 5 tickets.

Thank you to all who participated!  Get a recap of the event here.

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Set The Bar

The Set The Bar event has been moved to April 14th, 2024!  This helps to fill that spot in April that is generally filled by Forks & Corks.  Even though Set The Bar didn’t happen in 2023 - we are looking forward to it in 2024.

What can you expect at Set The Bar 2024?  This event is a cocktail competition that shines a spotlight on accomplished mixologists from independently owned-restaurants from Anna Maria Island to Venice Beach.  This quest to find the best libations will unfold before an esteemed panel of experts and event attendees alike.  These cocktails will be evaluated based on their Flavor, Appearance, Bartender Presentation, and Imagination.

Set The Bar attendees will be treated to live entertainment, a chance drawing, and delectable light bites courtesy of fellow Sarasota-Manatee Originals' Member Restaurants.

Much like chefs in the kitchen, our local bartenders are integral to today's service industry, contributing significantly to the creation of an exciting atmosphere and an enjoyable guest experience.

Stay tuned for further details as they become available.  Updates can be found here.

As we wrap up 2023, we would like to thank you for another wonderful year and we appreciate your continued support of this community we are grateful to be a part of!  Sarasota-Manatee Originals wishes you a happy and healthy holiday season! Want to know what is happening at our local restaurants for the holidays?  Find out here.  Remember to Eat Like A Local!