Flashback: The Summerhouse Restaurant, 1975

The ‘glass pavilion set in a tropical jungle’ was the height of Sarasota nightlife.

By Ilene Denton August 11, 2020

The original Summerhouse Restaurant on Siesta Key

If you went looking for nightlife in the ‘80s and ‘90s in Sarasota, chances are you headed to Siesta Key to drink at the Beach Club, dance at Blueberry Hill, catch the tableside magic shows downstairs at the Magic Moment, or dine in the “glass pavilion set in a tropical jungle” that was the Summerhouse Restaurant.

Architect Carl Abbott describes his award-winning 1975 design of the Summerhouse Restaurant—the original one on the mid-Siesta Key bayfront, not the Summer House that opened a couple of years ago in the Village—as “a glass pavilion set in a tropical jungle.” That remarkable setting was the main allure of this once hugely popular eatery. It even lured Paul Mattison to Sarasota in 1991 to become its executive chef. And longtime locals and visitors alike have fond memories of dancing after dinner in the upstairs Tree-Top Lounge to a house band Tuesdays through Saturdays, or enjoying Debbie Keaton’s Jazz supper Club every Sunday night and Mike Moran’s Dixieland Jazz Band every Monday.

Sadly, for many, the “tropical jungle” was purchased by developers in the early 2000s who built the Summer Cove condominium complex there. In 2007 the Summerhouse Restaurant became the private clubhouse for Summer Cove homeowners.

The Summerhouse Restaurant earned for Abbott a Test of Time award in 2005 from the Florida/Caribbean chapter of the American Institute of Architects. For this design and so many others, he will be honored at this year’s SarasotaMOD Weekend architecture festival, Nov. 6-8.

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