Whether you want to enjoy a five-star formal meal or New York-style pastrami on rye, Sarasota chef Solomon Shenker can make it happen. The chef, who ran the H2O Bistro in Sarasota's Hotel Indigo for years and opened the now-closed Sol Meyer NY Delicatessen to enormous fanfare in 2015, recently took over as executive chef at Bridges Restaurant in the Embassy Suites hotel in downtown Sarasota.
When Bridges owner Jim Bridges hired Shenker last year, Shenker was given the freedom to transform the restaurant's menu. "Jim is my biggest fan," says Shenker. "He loves my filet mignon, and he's eaten all over the world, so I'm honored he enjoys my food." Bridges, which opened in 2019, sits on the eighth floor of the Embassy Suites and offers incredible views of downtown Sarasota.
The menu Shenker has crafted for Bridges pays homage to southwest Florida, with an Italian flair. Shenker emphasizes local, fresh seafood like grouper, oysters and shrimp, and prepares dishes like an eggplant caprese salad, Gulf shrimp scampi and handmade ravioli.
His favorite dish on the menu includes rare filet mignon stacked between juicy pieces of lobster and surrounded by mini Yukon gold potatoes and drizzled with truffle oil. "This meal will melt in your mouth," he says. "You could cut the meat with a spoon."
Shenker, who ran Sol Meyer before opening Sol's NYC Delicatessen in 2016, is still making classic New York deli items like pastrami, Reubens, matzo ball soup and house-made pickles.
"I started working in kitchens at age 15, washing dishes and making pizza dough," says Shenker. "I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and have been working resort restaurants since." Shenker cooked for ski resorts in Vermont and Colorado, the Casa Marina Hotel in Miami and camp resorts in the Catskills in upstate New York.
Shenker moved to Sarasota 10 years ago, and fell in love with the local food scene. He stresses that while Bridges is a restaurant inside a hotel, it caters to people in Sarasota, not just tourists. "Little by little, locals are taking a leap of faith to eat dinner at a hotel, and they'll always be welcome," says Shenker.
Bridges Restaurant is located inside Embassy Suites, 202 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, and is open noon-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday. For more info, call (941) 536-9107 or visit the restaurant's website.