Dudes, it is a bar with a bowling alley—and on Main Street to boot. Leave it to local bar magnate Mike Evanoff, who opened this downtown Sarasota spot in 2015. Sports fans around the big horseshoe bar enjoy ample sightlines to big-screen TVs, with two lanes of 10-pin right next door. Audio from the big game punctuated by that sweet sound of crashing strikes? That’s some next-level sports bar atmosphere.
On the National Register of Historic Places, this 103-year-old, two-story, red-brick building at the corner of Main Street and Lemon Avenue still oozes history even as it overflows with live music, dancing and general revelry, especially among downtown professionals of all ages. Head upstairs—no hats or open-toed shoes, gents—for the spacious lounge, weekend DJ and an excellent whiskey list.
Downtown Sarasota beer drinkers in the know rub elbows at the tiny but mighty ’Rock, where cash and cash alone can get you a bottle or can of some of the finest suds around. The quirky, weathered interior (there’s an actual phone booth) makes it all the more charming. Plus, it’s the spot for U.S. soccer fans and also home to a massive St. Patrick’s Day block party.
Sidewalk picture windows opposite a brightly lit wall of spirits make this a prime spot for car- and people-watching at the lively intersection of Main Street and Palm Avenue. The cocktail menu emphasizes fresh fruits and fun flavors, like the “Valentino,” a blend of strawberries, passionfruit purée, lemon juice, vodka and Prosecco. And the bar’s sleek Italian style attracts a sophisticated crowd. There’s also a wood-burning pizza oven pumping out stellar pies late into the night.
A chic speakeasy tucked behind a Main Street sandwich shop, Pangea has been crafting mind-blowing cocktails since before muddling was cool. Proprietor and competitive mixologist Brad Coburn conjures seasonal cocktail menus featuring exceptional spirits, fresh produce, homemade tinctures and other high-quality ingredients, often combining them with exuberant creativity. (For instance: a cocktail modeled after a bowl of Froot Loops.) The cool, dim atmosphere radiates magic, too.
A newer star in the downtown Sarasota firmament, Social has a handsome bar inside, but the real appeal is the mod and manicured outdoor bar area, a concrete-walled, upscale, urban setting where the fashionable patrons sit under the stars sipping craft cocktails and nibbling on small plates of meatballs, flatbreads, charcuterie and more. A great place to kick off your night downtown or keep it going. 1219 First St., Sarasota, (941) 444-7072, socialonfirst.com
Theater folk—both actors and audiences—have long loved this locale (previously the Broadway Bar) for pre- and post-show drinks. Two years ago, the Starlite Room upped the showbiz ante by reimagining the interior in a classy 1950s theater vibe and staging regular live performances upstairs. Order an Old Fashioned and get your Don Draper on.
One of the original leaders in the local craft cocktail revolution, State Street doubled its space in 2014, adding a cozy-industrial lounge with metal, glass and textile details, a long bar, plush seating area and nifty back room. And they’re still sticklers for mixology, whether you’re craving an authentic Manhattan or an über-popular blackberry bramble.
Downtown Sarasota and still a world away, O’Leary’s serves good drinks, acceptable food and live music, but the shell-lined shore and the tranquil Sarasota Bay are the stars. Popular with visitors, locals (and their dogs), boaters from the adjacent marina and downtown workers who can walk from the office.