Vogue Magazine - Why Sarasota Is Florida's Best Kept Secret - April 2017Posted by Sara Leicht on Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 at 4:42pm.
Once again Sarasota is nationally recognized, this time by Vogue.com contributing editor Christina Perez in her April 2017 article. Sarasota continues to stand out as a desirable destination to visit and live with articles like this one along with continued praises such as “Sarasota surpassed every other major Florida market on U.S. News’ list of top places to live in the nation” and “Siesta Key Beach being named the No. 1 Beach in the United States in 2015”.
April 13, 2017 by Christina Perez
Little known fact: Sarasota, Florida is home to some of the country’s finest examples of mid-century modern architecture. You might not notice it at first—it’s not well-publicized, and often the buildings are tucked away on side streets or behind lush rows of palms. Still, they’re there, and they’ve been drawing a small but loyal stream of architectural tourists. They come to see Paul Rudolph’s 1953 Umbrella House, with its cubed structure and lemon-yellow door, or Victor Lundy’s 1958 Lutheran Church with its striking, tent-like roof. . . and many more.
It’s fun to drive around, searching out these gems. It feels a bit like a scavenger hunt, where each clean-lined discovery is better than the next. It gives you the sense that there's a lot to explore in this Gulf Coast town, a lot more then you may have of heard—if you’ve heard anything at all.
But if you haven’t heard much about Sarasota, you likely will soon. Not only is the city the 10th-fastest growing in the country, but its beaches are regularly listed among the nation’s best. Combine that with a charming downtown, a thriving food scene, an ever-growing list of cultural attractions (like the Sarasota Museum of Art and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens), and it’s no wonder this laid-back beach town is becoming a warm weather travel destination for arts lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
The Ritz Carlton Sarasota
Photo: Courtesy of Inside Elsewhere
Where to Stay
If you’re a fan of mid-century architecture, you’re in luck—both Airbnb and VRBO have several stunning vacation rentals on their rosters. However, if you prefer to stay in a hotel, there are aren’t a ton of stylish options, aside from the multitude that possess a certain kitschy, Floridian charm—Venetian blinds, wicker furniture, vinyl chaise loungers, plastic pink flamingos in the sand.
The Ritz-Carlton is one exception. Thanks to a recent, shimmering renovation and a secluded location on Sarasota Bay on the edge of downtown, it’s one of the most pleasant places to stay in town. The towering, 266-room property feels glamorous yet unstuffy and features all the Ritz-Carlton goodies—an opulently tiled spa, a cabana-lined pool, well-attended Club lounges. But its Beach Club located on Lido Key, just a short drive away, is where you’ll probably want to spend most of your time; It’s the ideal place to while away an afternoon (or two) sipping piña coladas and waiting for dolphins to crest the waves near shore.
Where to Eat
There are two things everyone must do while in Sarasota. One, visit a classic waterside tiki bar, and, two, eat as much seafood as possible. At Casey Key Fish House, you can kill both birds with one stone. The vibe here is Old Florida at its best: casual and laid-back, with paper napkins, an open-air dining room, and a chalkboard listing daily specials like bouillabaisse or swordfish topped with Kalamata olives and artichokes. Grab a frozen drink at the always-happening hut bar next door while you wait for a table—or maybe just order another drink and skip dinner; the people watching and the nightly live music is enough to keep you plenty entertained.
For a super memorable waterfront dining experience, drive up the coast to the ridiculously charming Star Fish Company in Cortez Village. The almost century-old working fish market is housed in a tiny cottage with a small but bustling kitchen in the rear and eight umbrella-shaded picnic tables facing the docks. The menu is small, simple, and really, really delicious, with gulf shrimp, mahi-mahi, and other fresh catches served grilled, blackened, or fried. Everything comes in a little white box heaped high with your choice of sides. (Order the hush puppies.) Arrive in time to watch the fishing boats come in at sunset, be prepared to wait for a table, and don’t forget to bring cash—they don’t accept cards and you’ll be sad if you have to leave to go hunting for an ATM.
There are plenty of choices for stellar local seafood closer to downtown, too. Owen’s Fish Camp, with its down-home Southern charm and elevated menu is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Nestled under a giant banyan tree (a gift from Thomas Edison to Owen Burns, the restaurant’s namesake) the white-washed, screen-porched restaurant is decorated with vintage Americana and boasts one of the best backyards in Sarasota or elsewhere. It’s really something: There are oysters roasting over an open fire pit, a working tire swing hanging from a tree branch, a lawn for playing cornhole, and, on many nights, a live blue grass band picking away under a string of colorful globe lights.
At Shore, a Miami-esque rooftop restaurant in Armand’s Circle, the decor is decidedly sleeker and the vibe is decidedly more sophisticated. The airy dining room is outfitted with a retractable roof and mid-century furniture in warm-wood hues, while the long central bar has some of the friendliest bartenders in town. Artfully-arranged dishes (like stacked Cobb salad made with lobster and avocado) and barrel aged craft cocktails dominate the menu.
Speaking of cocktails and lobster, Jack Dusty at the Ritz-Carlton has some pretty memorable offerings, too: Make a meal (preferably brunch or lunch so you can take in the gorgeous canal view) out of the seafood platter, caviar blinis, and smoked-glass cocktails, and, whatever you do, do not skip the house-made rye bread. Sweetened with molasses and baked in a can—an old sailor trick—it’s bound to derail whatever notions of a low-carb diet you had planned.
The plant-based food craze that has swept many of the nation’s bigger cities has made it to Sarasota, too. The newest and most modern addition is Lila, which opened in a narrow storefront on Main Street last year. With its open kitchen and rustic-minimalist aesthetic, it would easily be at home in Brooklyn or Los Angeles. Same goes for the creative menu of vegan, gluten-free, and sustainably-raised meat dishes. (Think: zucchini linguini with pesto and macro bowls with ancient grains and avocado.)
Indigenous, widely regarded as the city’s best restaurant, has been focusing on local, sustainable ingredients since opening in a historic downtown cottage in 2011. Owner and chef Steve Phelps is a James Beard Award semi-finalist and is known for his dedication to consciously sourced ingredients—grass fed beef from Niman Ranch, cheese from nearby Dakin Dairy, and wild-caught fish. The thoughtfulness of Phelps‘s menu is reflected in the restaurant's soothing atmosphere of muted hues, natural materials, and a shaded wooden dining porch surrounded by tall grasses and gently waving palms. (Insider tip: Have a glass of wine at the intimate bar in the back cottage.)
Where to Shop
Sarasota is a vintage fiend’s dream. Pretty much any trip to a run-of-the-mill thrift store—be it Goodwill or local favorite Woman’s Exchange—yields a trove of unbelievable treasures, whether you're looking for ’70s-era flares, rustic pottery, or bamboo furniture.
For a well-curated vintage shopping experience, head to Tortoise & Pearl on Main Street, where owner Diana Allaman has compiled an awe-inspiring collection of embroidered caftans, ’60s shifts, and lace-trimmed skirts.
Canned Ham Vintage, which started as a traveling vintage store in an old Shasta trailer, recently opened in a permanent space in the Rosemary District downtown. Walking into the space feels like entering the home of a really cool friend, with each room set up in like a different, house-like tableau: one room serves as a “closet” filled with fringed Western shirts and citrus-hued Jackie O dresses; the next a “kitchen” filled with shelves of colorful glassware and dishes; still another a “living room” with shaggy rugs, Moroccan poufs, and low-slung davenports.
Photo Courtesy of Inside Eleswhere
What to Do
It’s impossible to mention Sarasota without talking about its multitude of dazzling beaches. The most famous of these is Siesta Key, where a wide stretch of superfine powder-white sand meets a clear and shallow shore of sea glass-colored Gulf. Its stunning natural beauty and nearby village filled with outdoor bars and surf shops draws a crowd—especially on weekends—so for a more laid-back experience head to Turtle Beach on the southern tip of the key. The narrow beach and darker sand may not be quite as picturesque, but the beach has a friendly, local vibe with volleyball courts and picnic tables, and is a lovely place to spend the day. Arrange for SUP Sarasota to bring you a stand up paddle board or a kayak—they’ll drop them off wherever you want and pick them up when you’re finished, too.
Sara Leicht, REALTOR®
Sarasota and Her Islands Real Estate
6003 Honore Avenue, Suite 102
Sarasota, Florida 34238