Best of Sarasota

The Best of Sarasota 2023: Editors' Picks

Our editors name their favorite new food, shopping, arts experiences and more.

By The Editors May 1, 2023 Published in the May-June 2023 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Food and Drink

Best Place for a Sandwich You Can’t Finish

The 120-year-old New York institution Faicco’s has found a second home in Sarasota. With gargantuan sandwiches piled high with deli meats, chicken cutlets and more, Faicco’s is an excellent spot to satisfy your appetite for lunch, then dinner and maybe even lunch again the next day. Service is speedy, so don’t let the line around the block deter you from getting your hands on one of these wonders. 3590 Webber St., Sarasota, (941) 960-1395,

Florence and the Spice Boys

Image: Chad Spencer

Best International Vacation Without a Passport

After the success of their popular food truck, the owners of Florence and the  Spice Boys traded their wheels for a more stationary experience in The Land- ings. Funky, eclectic decor sets the tone for a tour of Middle Eastern cuisine. With flavor bombs like chicken shawarma, eggplant sabiche and the creamiest, dreamiest hummus you’ve ever had, your only difficulty will be choosing what to have next. 4990 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 405-3890, instagram. com/florenceandthespiceboys

Best Fried Chicken With a Twist

When Fork & Hen replaced a beloved vegan restaurant on the North Trail, we were eager to see how it would fit in with the neighborhood. Enter crispy fried chicken that shatters on first bite, house- made pickles and ooey-gooey macaroni and cheese. Birria and grits seals the deal for a Mexican-Southern fusion you will never forget. Post up at an outdoor table and dive into comfort food done right. 2801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 960-1212,

Best Spot to Do It Yourself

Sizzle the night away at Korê Steakhouse, the new Waterside Place desti- nation where you can choose your own adventure by cooking at a tableside grill. Opt for thin slices of ribeye and galbi (marinated short ribs) and toss them on the fire with reckless abandon. Beef up your meal with a few side dishes or go big with an order of dolsot bibimbap that, thanks to a heated stone bowl, stays hot from start to finish. 1561 Lakefront Drive, #111, Sarasota, (941) 928-5673,

Best Restaurant to Have What She’s Having

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal may have shot their iconic When Harry Met Sally scene at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York, but here in Sarasota Meshugana Deli is serving up such serious pastrami that you may wonder if you’ve landed in the Lower East Side. The restaurant’s tagline “crazy delicious” is apropos, since you’ll lose your mind over how good this spot really is. 4001 Clark Road, Sarasota, (917) 336-7574,

Best Pre-Beach Pit Stop

Owner Wayne Tagelagi brings a taste of New Zealand to the Anna Maria Island seafood stop Kiwi Style Fish and Chips. The namesake fish and chips are light, crisp and oh-so-good. And although a shirt and shoes are required, you’ll be transported to the beach in your mind. Better yet, the actual beach is just a quick hop away to fix your sunshine craving after filling your belly. 3608 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach, (941) 704- 5040,

The Château Sarasota

The Château Sarasota

Best Place to Meet a Food Network Star

In addition to owning successful restaurants in upstate New York and on Anna Maria Island and enjoying a stint on the Food Network, the Foy family has brought their hospitality know-how to The Château Sarasota. The approachable French-inspired menu features staples like escargot and duck l’orange, plus modern highlights like graham cracker-crusted calamari. Don’t forget about the seafood tower that will transform any meal into an evening of decadence. 2001 Siesta Drive, Sarasota, (941) 706-4093,

Best Place to Spice It Up

At the new downtown Sarasota Indian restaurant Turmeric, it’s hard to tell which is better: the flavors or the aromas. Thankfully, you’ll get plenty of both as you lose yourself in the toasty warm spices that enrich a multitude of curries. Beat the heat with an inspired mocktail like a ginger lemonade that will provide relief from a spicy bite. Don’t forget to save room for one of the menu’s many inspired desserts. 1001 Cocoanut Ave., Sarasota, (941) 212-2622,

Best Spot to Revisit Your New England Childhood

We heard New England transplants waxing poetic about Kelly’s Roast Beef for months prior to its arrival in Sarasota. So when the Massachusetts-based chain opened on University Parkway, we rushed for a taste of the signature roast beef sandwich made with mayo, cheese and a barbecue sauce that would make even a Southerner smile. We were thrilled at the mountain of meat and balance of flavors, which have landed Kelly’s in our regular meal rotation. 5407 University Parkway, Bradenton, (941) 263-1911,

Shops & Services

Urthy Scents

Urthy Scents

Best New Reason to Breathe Deeply

Urthy Scents began as a pandemic passion project for sisters Ali East and Jen Rotondo, but after the concept became a farmers market success and then a bustling online shop, the pair took the next step and opened a storefront in the Shoppes at Market Square in Lakewood Ranch, complete with a “scent bar.” The best part? The brand—which offers candles, bath salts, perfume oils and more—is phthalate-free and caters to those with allergies. 9130 Town Center Parkway, Suite 101, Lakewood Ranch, (941) 360-1001,

 Best New Luxury Furniture Store Whose Name Is Fun to Say

With the addition of the 7,000-square-foot Roche Bobois furniture store at Fruitville Road and Lemon Avenue, which sits across from Soft Square and some sweet antique stores, Sarasota now has its own mini design district. Known for its colorful Mah Jong and Bubble sofas and chairs, which range from $10,000 to $40,000, Roche Bobois is supplying the owners of all those new downtown condos with great options for furnishing their pads. Plus, we just can’t stop saying the name of the shop, which is pronounced “rowsh bow-bwa.” 1515 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, (941) 217-1315

Best Way to Breathe New Life into Old Finds

The Woven Home started where many great ideas do: a garage. Megan and Alex Uccello carefully stored their thrifted furniture finds there until online buyers from Facebook and Instagram came to claim them. Now, the couple has opened up a showroom in Gulf Gate where buyers can browse their treasures in person. Their furniture styles are often made of organic materials like wood and rattan, which blend a cozy feeling with function- ality, and they keep prices affordable for young families and newcomers who are just starting out. 5859 Murdock Ave., Unit A, Sarasota, (941) 374-0403, instagram. com/thewovenhomeco

Best Place to Find That Missing Mid-Century Touch 

Retro Revival SRQ was born of Rhianna Romero and Colton Toth’s love of repurposing old furniture. And after the pair opened a successful Etsy shop, selling refurbished pieces from the 1950s to ’80s, they decided to go big and open a brick-and-mortar space in Gulf Gate. Toth attributes the shop’s success to the quality of the pieces, the popularity of the mid-century modern style and the fact that customers can avoid supply-chain woes by taking furniture home the same day they buy it. Win, win, win. 6579 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (336) 501-7774,

Olympian Emma Wyant has launched a swimwear line that's fashionable and functional.

Olympian Emma Wyant has launched a swimwear line that's fashionable and functional.

Image: Bex Wyant

Best Way to Pretend You’re an Olympian

Olympic silver medalist and Sarasota’s own Emma Weyant has launched a colorful line of swimwear in collaboration with SwimOutlet and Sporti that’s based on her years in the pool. Now a student at the University of Florida, Weyant says the line, which is made of durable, long-lasting fabric, represents everything she loves: “Sarasota, Taylor Swift and all things pink.” sporti/sporti-x-emma-weyant

Best New Way to Get a Massage

In a market saturated with massage tools that promise the world, it’s a miracle to find something that actually works. Casey Smith, the owner and operator of Sarasota Pain Treatment Center, spent the past five years designing the perfect massage tool to help his clients when they couldn’t see him and his magic hands. He came up with the HyperRoller, a weighted massage roller designed to provide static and consis- tent pressure that will reduce muscle soreness and promote blood flow.

Best New Cannabis Shop With a Wild Backstory

Located in the historic building at 1410 Main Street, the new dispensary Sunburn Cannabis promoted itself by telling the story of Bill Cobb, the father of the company’s chief executive officer. In the 1970s, Cobb ran one of the largest cannabis smuggling operations in U.S. history, working with Colombians to bring more than $300 million worth of marijuana to the country. He was eventually arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison, though he would only end up serving 27 months. Now, his son Brady is legally selling cannabis in downtown Sarasota in a space with a pool table and sometimes even free pizza. 1410 Main St., Sarasota, (888) 308-5439,

Circle the Sun Fitness

Circle the Sun Fitness

Best New Gym for Night Owls

All our 24-hour gyms unfortunately make it hard to convince yourself you don’t have enough time in the day to work out. The new open-all-the-time gym Circle the Sun caters to people who don’t necessarily work a 9 to 5, satisfying our many hospital workers and service industry employees who work odd hours and still want to break a sweat. Besides access to all the usual equipment, Circle the Sun offers group classes like cross-training, Brazilian and Latin movement, boxing and a class that combines yoga, boxing and stretching. 6198 N. Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota, (941)  210-3662,

Arts & Entertainment

Best New Arts Hire, No. 1

Officially, Peter Rothstein doesn’t start his duties as producing artistic direc- tor at Asolo Rep (replacing the retiring Michael Donald Edwards) until July. But chances are you’ve already seen his directorial work onstage at the Asolo, in acclaimed productions of Sweeney Todd and Ragtime. Rothstein, the founding artistic director of Theatre Latté Da in Minneapolis, is now helming Man of La Mancha at Asolo, from May 13 to June 11, so get to know him if you haven’t already. (941) 351-8000,

Best New Arts Hire, No. 2

The Sarasota Ballet has served the community with programs like Dance – The Next Generation and Joyful Movement Through Parkinson’s for some time now. But with Doricha Sales coming onboard recently as program director for the ballet’s community engagement efforts, Dance for All is expanding to involve even more locals, regardless of age, race, ability or socioeconomic background. Sales has a long history of teaching after completing her own dance career; she was one of Sarasota Magazine’s Unity Award winners this year. (941) 359-0099,

Best New Center for “Setting the Stage”

In other Asolo Rep news, the company cut the ribbon on its multimillion-dollar expansion of the Koski Center, where it readies its productions for the main- stage. With a two-story “super rehearsal hall,” Asolo Rep can now fully prepare big musicals and other shows at the site, as well as partner with local and national organizations, offering rehearsal space and costume storage for rent. There’s more to come in phase two of the project, so stay tuned.

Best New Spaces for Artists and Their Fans

Creative Liberties, a collective project devoted to artists helping artists, first opened studios and gallery space in the Limelight District in November 2021. The brainchild of artists Barbara Gerdeman and Elizabeth Goodwill, Creative Liberties has now opened a second space on Lime Avenue, as well as embracing a third, in the Arcos apartment complex in the Rosemary District. That means more artists, more space and more creativity. The new venues are located at 927 Lime Ave., Sarasota, and 340 Central Ave., Sarasota. (941) 799-6634,

Best New Dance Company That’s Not Entirely New

Aided by Sarasota Contemporary Dance, Endedans Contemporary Ballet USA launched its first performances here in March with a new work celebrating National Women’s History Month. But founder and choreographer Tania Vergara Perez and her original company, based in Cuba, had a strong presence on the international dance scene long before arriving in Sarasota. Now a teacher with Sarasota Contemporary Dance and the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, Vergara has rekin- dled her dream with Endedans, which melds contemporary ballet, theater and drama.

Best Long-Awaited Announcement 

After years of exploring its options, the Sarasota Orchestra finally announced that it would be building a new state-of-the-art acoustical concert hall at a site at 5701 Fruitville Road, between Honore Avenue and Cattlemen Road. Of course, actual performances in the 1,800-seat main hall (with a 700-seat recital space, too) will be quite a while coming, but at least we know now where to focus our attention. (941) 953-3434,

Home & Real Estate

Best New High-Rise Proposal (For Some People)

The existing row of single-story commercial spaces that run from 1260 to 1274 North Palm Avenue, directly to the east of Bay Plaza and across the street from the Palm Avenue parking garage, will soon be replaced with Obsidian Residences, an 18-story luxury condominium tower. Access will be located on Palm Avenue and the tower will house just 14 condos, starting on the fifth floor—that’s just one unit per floor. The neighbors at Bay Plaza along the east side of the proposed project have never had to share their view with neighbors. Now, they’ll soon have to.

Best Historical Preservation Story... For Now

Last year, Seaward Development had plans to buy and demolish the 100-year-old Mira Mar building, which houses dozens of small business tenants, and replace it with a 10-story mixed-use project. However, City of Sarasota staff recommended that the city deny an application to demolish the structure and locals turned out en masse to support its protection. The sale was halted. Arguments for its demolition point to much-needed upkeep that far out-weighs the value of the building. With that in mind, rumors are stirring about a new, imminent sale. Surrounded by a healthy demand for luxury downtown.

Best Proposal for East Main Street

Sota Hotel & Residences is slated to replace the beloved Il Panificio pizzeria with 16 stories of luxury residences, hotel suites and a 4,500-square-foot ground-level restaurant open to the public. Reviving a section of Main Street where downtown typically thins out, once done, it will be the only hotel on Sarasota’s main drag and one of the city’s tallest structures east of Five Points. For those bemoaning the potential loss of those classic pie slices, worry not: Il Panificio’s owners plan to be part of the new building. 1703 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 462-3900,

Best Move to Preserve Historic Homes and Buildings

A new preservation easement program launched by the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation is fashioned after similar ones in other cities known for their historic charm, like Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. A preservation easement provides a layer of protection that goes beyond local or national historic designations, which merely add some extra hoops for developers to jump through when they seek to demolish a structure. Once the easement agreement is recorded in the official land records, it permanently becomes part of the chain of title for the property. And get this: It can even apply to trees. (941) 254-3002,

Downtown Wellen

Downtown Wellen

Best New Downtown

Anchored by a massive lake and a 100-year-old oak tree and punctuated with colorful new murals, downtown Wellen is on its way to becoming a full- fledged destination in south Sarasota County. A great lawn, a grand lake and The Yard food and entertainment park are now open, and lots of surrounding retail shops and restaurants are following suit. In the meantime, regular outdoor event programming is underway, including Wellen Wednesdays with cornhole and live music, a Friday night concert series, yoga and Zumba classes and more. 12275 Mercado Drive, Venice, (941) 229-7124,

Best Home Inventory News

Since seeing historically low home inventory in 2021, after the pan-demic made Sarasota County a national destination for those who thought, “If I can work from anywhere, why not from the beach?,” inventory levels are finally evening out. Kind of. It’s said that five or six months of housing supply (meaning it would take that long for every available property to sell) is associated with moderate home price appreciation. Anything higher points to a buyer’s market, while anything lower points to a seller’s market. Based on the latest numbers by the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee, housing inventory for the area has grown fivefold since that 2021 low point.

Travel & Outdoors

The Gulfstream Avenue roundabout project

The Gulfstream Avenue roundabout project

Best New Place to Spin Your Wheels 

The land of roundabouts finally landed its most coveted star. Located near the base of the Ringling Bridge in downtown Sarasota, the $8.6 million Gulfstream Avenue roundabout project broke ground in 2021 and is now connecting drivers to St. Armands Circle, Lido and Longboat keys, north and downtown Sarasota, and South Tamiami Trail. Love them or hate them, drivers will have to contend with the new portal to the city. The best part? Those temporary crossover patterns at Main Street and Sunset Drive will be removed. (941) 217-7772, gulfstreamroundabout

Best Rebound

Following Hurricane Ian’s destruction, downtown Englewood is back and better with the completion of the West Dearborn Street Improvement Project. The renovation added parking, a gateway entry sign, shade structures and widen- ing of sidewalks in this historic community known for its farmers markets, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques. The Dignam Family Stage also opened, joining other popular community spaces. A vintage-style “Greetings From Englewood” postcard mural by Florida artist Matt McAllister even became a hot backdrop for a selfie and the hashtag #EnglewoodStrong—an homage to the resilience of those who banded together following Ian. 348 W. Green St., Englewood, (941) 861-5000

Best New Park for Kids, Kayaking and Anything, Really

Local leaders started talking about redeveloping 53 acres of city-owned land around the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall all the way back in 2014, and while the area had seen many upgrades in the years since, The Bay burst onto the landscape in a major way last year. Phase one of the ambitious project include 15 acres of green space, plenty of quiet spots to catch a sunset, a fun playground, a new concession stand and a calendar stocked with things to do. We’re already stoked for phase two. 655 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 203-5316,

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