Who doesn’t love going out to eat? My wife and I try to eat with health in mind…most of the time…and there are many restaurants in Sarasota these days that offer healthy options. But that wasn’t always the case, nor did we care when we were dating and having fun back when we were in our twenties and thirties. We have many happy memories of ‘pigging out’ in those days and sadly, many of those mom and pop places are closed.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, Sarasota did not have the plethora of restaurants we see now – there are so many great choices. But back then, we had more than enough to satisfy us and enjoy. Of course we had our favorites for a night out, to celebrate a special occasion, or just have a quick drink with friends on the way home from work.
According to a Jeff LaHurd’s article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Spanish cuisine was one of the first ethnic foods served here. One of my favorites, The Plaza Restaurant on 1st First Street, opened in 1928 after the real estate crash and prior to the Great Depression, and somehow managed to grow and prosper, remaining one of Sarasota’s signature establishments until 1974. The last meal was served on Aug. 24, 1974 and I was so sorry to see it close. Still serving fine Spanish food and remaining one of the most popular and longest-lived restaurants is the Columbia on St. Armand’s Circle. Founded in Tampa in 1905, the Sarasota operation has been pleasing locals and tourists since 1959.
I lived in the North Trail area near the Ringling Museum and the go-to special place for me and my family was Zinn’s, another long-lived restaurant that became a local institution. Opened after World War II by “Mama” and “Papa” Zinn, the restaurant served chicken, fish, steaks and salads. A king-size Australian lobster tail was offered for $6.95 with salad, vegetables and beverage; the charbroiled steak — so large it was called “Mr. Sirloin” — was also $6.95. And my favorite, homemade pie a la mode, was 50 cents. With its beautiful waterfall room and outside fountain and rock garden, Zinn’s was a popular spot, and the food was good enough to keep it on the Florida list of top 100 restaurants.
Also on the North Trail was the Mel-O-Dee, Ranch House and the The Golden Buddha, with its large, trademark golden colored statue, was the first place, if not the House of Chong, many of us locals tasted Chinese cooking. But my all-time favorite was The Broadway Bar. Established in 1925, The Broadway Bar was an iconic early Sarasota bar and pizza joint, known for potent drinks and thin-crust pizza at its location on Tamiami Trail near Van Wezel. The iconic restaurant’s location was sold to make way for the Broadway Promenade development and, after several years, the Broadway Bar relocated to a new building on Cocoanut Avenue. The Broadway finally closed last year, replaced by The Starlite Room.
As for south Sarasota, El Adobe was IT! I helped build the bar way back when and was paid by what cameacross the bar in the form of a cold one…lots of them! When planning for my wife’s 60 birthday, and since it was a 'special one' I told her we could go anywhere she wished…and she picked El Adobe! After 40 years of serving Mexican cuisine on Tamiami Trail, beloved restaurant El Adobe closed its doors. I still miss the best warm, thin corn chips, salsa and enchiladas ever!
There were so many more back then: Smitty's, The Oyster Bar, Morrison's, The Crown House, The Buccaneer, Magic Moment...lots of good food and good times!
The good news now is that Sarasota is teaming with lots of really great restaurants…it’s almost overwhelming! The next time you are planning to go out to eat, check out this link: https://www.opentable.com/features/fun-restaurants-sarasota-fl And if you have friends or relatives looking to buy a home in the Sarasota, Florida area, please give them my name and after we house-hunt, we have plenty of great choices to have a toast and a great meal!
Sources and Credits: The Sarasota Herald Tribune, Jeff LaHurd, Photo collage by: srqwhatitusedtobe.blogspot.com