What's opening or closing in Sarasota-Manatee? Restaurant and bar news roundup: April 7-13
Restaurant and bar openings, closings, dining events and more for Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties.
For this week’s restaurant and bar news roundup, we have big news regarding a certain burger and craft beer restaurant opening its first Sarasota-Manatee location. Plus a downtown Sarasota restaurant recently making a national TV appearance, a new authentic Vietnamese destination and more including info on this year's Forks & Corks Festival. Let's begin with the car-themed burger and beer joint.
Ford's Garage nears opening of first Sarasota-Manatee location
An eagerly anticipated local restaurant opening, bringing a longtime Southwest Florida dining and drinking favorite to Sarasota-Manatee, is nearing completion.
Ford's Garage, a car-themed restaurant specializing in burgers and beer that opened its original location in 2012 in Fort Myers near Henry Ford's winter home before expanding throughout Florida as well as Michigan and Indiana, will soon open at University Town Center.
Plans are to open by early May, said Marc Brown, president of the Tampa-based 23 Restaurant Services that owns and operates Ford's Garage's Florida locations.
The University Town Center Ford's Garage, across from Dick's Sporting Goods, will be the restaurant's 16th location overall and its first in Sarasota-Manatee. Brown said they had been interested in expanding to the Sarasota area for several years, and have invested an estimated $2.5 million into this location.
"There's a lot of travelers from the Midwest that come down to Sarasota and either live there permanently or for parts of the year," Brown said. "And so we knew that Ford brand would always do well there."
The Ford's Garage menu offers a dozen half-pound Black Angus burgers such as the Ford's Signature, which comes with aged sharp cheddar, Applewood smoked bacon and bourbon barbecue sauce, or The Model A, topped with cheddar, bacon, pico de gallo, arugula and fried egg. The Black Angus can be substituted with options like Australian Wagyu or a veggie burger, with other menu items including sandwiches, salads and numerous mac-and-cheese varieties.
Ford's Garage features 40 beers on draft, incorporating local craft breweries, along with several additional bottled options and four wines on tap. It will also be full-liquor, offering a selection of cocktails, including frozen drinks and ones with automotive-themed titles like the Oil Slick and the Backseat Driver.
The approximately 7,200-square-foot building will seat roughly 220 inside and 60-70 outside, Brown said, with both a main indoor bar and smaller indoor-outdoor bar along with a patio planned. Ford's Garage is also known for incorporating vintage Fords into its décor and the University Town Center location will be no different, Brown said, including one hanging over the bar.
The restaurant will join several other dining destinations that have opened in University Town Center this year, including Bento Asian Kitchen + Sushi, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and a third location for the Sarasota-based Origin Craft Beer and Pizza Cafe. Additional restaurants slated to open there this year include barbecue chain Mission BBQ in The Market at UTC, and a second location for downtown Sarasota's Selva Grill.
Ford's Garage is at 295 N. Cattlemen Road, Building #13. For more information, visit fordsgarageusa.com/locations/sarasota.
Indigenous showcased on ‘CBS This Morning’
One of Sarasota-Manatee’s most acclaimed restaurants, along with its owner/chef, recently received a national television spotlight.
Steve Phelps, a two-time semifinalist in the prestigious James Beard Awards, and his Sarasota restaurant Indigenous appeared on a “CBS This Morning: Saturday” segment on March 27. Indigenous, located in downtown Sarasota’s Towles Court neighborhood at 239 S. Links Ave., is known for its focus on sustainable seafood and incorporating ingredients from Florida.
Reached by phone March 29, Phelps said he was happy with how the segment, which was filmed a couple weeks ago, turned out. He and his wife were fans of the show, so he first thought it might have been a prank by a friend when the program reached out.
“They’d been following some of the work I’ve been doing through the Seafood Watch program with Monterey Bay Aquarium,” Phelps said. “They wanted to just find a chef such as myself in Florida who was doing good things.”
The segment was for “The Dish,” which highlights chefs and culinary experts from around the world, and featured “CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-host Jeff Glor visiting Sarasota to meet with Phelps. Their discussion included how Phelps and his wife, who previously lived in the Cleveland area, ended up in Sarasota themselves.
“I think we spent an afternoon that day at the beach and saw a dolphin jump up in front of us ... and said, ‘Wow, this is pretty nice,’” Phelps said. “Fast forward almost 20 years later, and I’m sitting with you outside my restaurant now.”
Phelps also discussed the meaning of “Indigenous” for the restaurant, stemming from its use of ingredients native to the area, as well as fish farming. Phelps said he sees the practice as the future, as conditions inside aquaculture farms improve and global demand for seafood grows dramatically.
“These recirculating tanks that they use, these fish never stay in the same water,” Phelps said. “The feeds have come so far advanced in technology with what they’re utilizing in those too. We’ve got so many different species, and I rely on them as a restaurant owner, because my menus have to continuously have an item on there.”
Interspersed between the conversation was Phelps preparing dishes for Glor, such as pompano nigiri with sweet soy, Szechuan chili oil and yuzu gastrique, topped with sea purslane and furikake with sesame seeds and nori. He also served beignets, which Glor called “ridiculously good.”
Phelps then unveiled a food spread that included cobia “hot dogs” with sauerkraut and mustard, baked shrimp and scallops with Everglades butter, barrelfish over a bacon-potato latke with yuzu hollandaise and jerk relish, green curry fish dip, panna cotta with Florida strawberries and sweetened biscuit crumble, Thai crispy pork belly, wild mushroom bisque, and buckeyes, in tribute to Phelps’ Ohio roots. The spread also included beers from Sarasota brewery Calusa Brewing.
Other Sarasota-Manatee restaurants that have appeared on national television include Made Restaurant on Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise,” and Alpine Steakhouse and the since-closed Jose’s Real Cuban Food on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri. Sarasota also once served as the site for an entire episode of “Man v. Food,” which features Yoder’s, The Old Salty Dog and Munchies 420 Cafe.
Little Saigon Bistro opens in Sarasota
When Yen Dinh moved to Sarasota from San Francisco, she said there were not many options for authentic Vietnamese food in her area, so when the former Sunrise Café (briefly Mega Tropical Café) became available, she decided to open a neighborhood restaurant. She enlisted the help of her uncle, who had been a chef in Vietnam and Fort Myers, and recently opened Little Saigon Bistro.
“The new restaurant is close to my home, a real neighborhood bistro, and the people are very community-oriented,” she said. “And I am so happy to bring my uncle’s talents to my new restaurant.”
Dinh freshened the interior of her new eatery, adding red and black chairs which seat 40 diners. She plans to add delivery and curbside takeout services in the future, as well as beer and wine.
For the grand opening, the restaurant is offering 20% off the menu prices through April 30.
“Currently, we have a limited menu, but with high-quality food,” said the owner. “But we will be adding other dishes and desserts later.”
Little Saigon offers appetizers like egg rolls and spring rolls with shrimp or pork. Vermicelli or rice entrees come with grilled pork, chicken or shrimp. Pho (rice noodles in beef broth) may be ordered with beef, meatballs or chicken.
Located at 2725 Beneva Road, Sarasota, Little Saigon Bistro is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday until 7 p.m. For more information, call 941-312-4730.
La Violetta relocates ahead of reopening
Rosaria and Emilio Ferrara, natives of Parma, have moved their popular La Violetta (formerly La Scarpetta) from Tuttle Avenue, down the street to Prima Plaza at Swift and Proctor Roads in Sarasota, with plans to open in late spring. Dimitre Kossovski, who has years of experience in the food and beverage industry, is joining the two as a partner.
“We decided to move because we needed more parking spaces, and we are adding an Italian deli market, which we have always dreamed of doing,” said Rosaria, who along with Kosovski will be handling the front of the house, while her husband will be at the helm in the kitchen.
The partners are busy remodeling the former office space into a similar quaint and cozy ambiance for their restaurant and market. The restaurant area will have 36 seats inside and out on a small patio. A neutral background will be accented with Italian artifacts creating a charming, warm atmosphere for enjoying hand-made pasta and many other Italian country kitchen dishes.
Among Northern Italian rustic selections will be starters like smoked tuna carpaccio, burrata and crème brulee of foie gras; salads and Italian soups and entrees such as tagliatelle with assorted mushrooms, eggplant parm, osso buco; dry-aged beef tenderloin, lamb shank, branzino and other fish specials. For dessert, there will be tiramisu, tartufo and panna cotta. There will be an appealing selection of Italian wines and beer.
The new market will provide “high quality” meats, cheeses, dried foods and prepared dinners to go like eggplant parm, osso buco, lasagna and other pastas.
La Violetta is at 4837 Swift Road. For more information, call 941-927-8716 or visit laviolettasrq.com.
Forks & Corks Festival plans announced
Sarasota's Forks & Corks Festival will take place this spring. However, its signature Grand Tasting event typically held in the stately Ringling Museum of Art courtyard has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sarasota-Manatee Originals have announced their 2021 Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival will take place April 26 through May 2. Now in its 14th year, the annual event has been reimagined to offer guests a menu of "specially-curated and controlled experiences designed to showcase the talents of the area’s brilliant and resilient, independent food and beverage operators." In addition to wine seminars and a food stroll, an online auction is planned, as well as a weeklong schedule of “food & wine experiences” taking place at restaurants throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties.
“With guidelines for safely gathering changing every day and COVID-19 vaccine administration underway, we made the decision to organize a very different kind of Forks & Corks experience for 2021, one that is based on the safest precautions and procedures,” said Sarah Firstenberger, executive of the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, in a statement.
“While we will miss gathering with convivial crowds of our member restaurants, friends and winemakers from around the world, and bustling from table to table in the courtyard of the Ringling Museum for the massive Grand Tasting event, we’re very excited to leverage our platform to drive people back into our local eateries at a time when they are very much in need.”
The 2021 festival schedule has increased to a week to allow for expanded events and offerings. Here are some highlights:
Six wine seminars will be offered at Grove in Lakewood Ranch and Michael’s on East Wine Cellar and Ballroom in Sarasota, May 1-2. Advanced ticketing is required.
Take part in a strolling dinner party through downtown Sarasota. At each stop on the tasting tour, guests will enjoy a specialty dish paired with a selected wine tasting. April 29. Advanced ticketing is required.
A weeklong offering of limited-time food and wine experiences are offered by members of the Sarasota-Manatee Originals including food and wine pairings, special menus, bottle discounts, wine dinners, tasting experiences and more – available for dine-in or takeout at participating locations. April 26 through May 2. Reservations are recommended for many.
Virtual paddles can be raised at an online auction featuring rare and exquisite wines, international and domestic travel, special dining and party experiences, lodging, entertainment and one-of-a-kind experiences. All funds raised by the Forks & Corks Online Food and Wine Auction are dedicated to promoting and sustaining the over 60 local independent area restaurants that are members of the Sarasota-Manatee Originals. Open for preview April 22. Bidding available April 26-May 2.
Tickets for Forks & Corks events will be sold at eatlikealocal.com.
For the latest Sarasota-Manatee restaurant and bar news, visit heraldtribune.com/entertainment/dining. Email restaurant news items to email@example.com. Support local journalism by subscribing.