Downtown Sarasota’s eat here has a fresh, urban aesthetic to match its locally-driven Gulf Coast cuisine.
During the fall, the Main Street hotspot (previously only a dinner destination) announced it was opening for lunch. Patrons began flocking in for the seafood tacos, Seattle grilled cheese sandwiches and bistro-style tomato soup, only to be wowed upon arrival by a bevy of refurbishments.
They noticed a rolling bar on the ground level near the fountain, where they could sit and enjoy passion-berry iced teas, cappuccinos and mixed drinks with their bistro burgers and hot dogs. They also saw a bright red winding staircase leading up to a Rooftop Lounge where, in the evenings, bartenders would whip up fresh craft cocktails.
“Of all of the eat heres in the family of eat here restaurants, this one is the most urban. It is located on a beautiful little urban park with a fountain,” says restaurateur Sean Murphy, whose other two eat heres are located on Siesta Key and Anna Maria Island. “This restaurant has accomplished a great deal in the last year. It was selected by Florida Trend as one of the best new restaurants in the whole state of Florida. It was also selected by all of the Sarasota media as the best new restaurant in Sarasota.”
A restaurant with such a glowing reputation deserved to look the part, Murphy thought. So the fountain in the urban park was restored to functionality. Lights were added to the trees and shrubbery. New benches and seating were added downstairs and in the upstairs lounge. From 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, patrons could dine indoors at both traditional and community tables, on the covered deck, and in the park patio around the fountain.
“We’ve put in a fountain bar and a new staircase leading up to the Rooftop Lounge. Upstairs, you can lean up against the rail, have a drink, look down at the fountain and watch the sun set over the city of Sarasota,” Murphy says. “And this has also become a great little place to sit and have a snack and watch the fountain. You can have dinner or lunch fountain-side.”
The fountain-side rolling bar, commissioned and built by local artisan Mark Nodeen of 390 Design, is an especially eye-catching feature. Nodeen constructed the custom bar using salvaged wood, in his usual sustainable style. He is also the designer behind eat here’s many chalkboards, as well as the Rooftop Lounge’s “eat here” illuminated sign made out of corrugated steel and channel letters.
“This bar is one-of-a-kind and I’m thrilled to showcase it at such an outstanding restaurant like eat here,” Nodeen says. “I think the sustainable design matches what Sean Murphy is doing with eat here. He chose me, a local artist, to build the bar, and when it comes to his food, he is committed to using local ingredients and vendors. That means a lot to me and the community.”
Murphy’s menu, like Nodeen’s bar, indeed has a sustainable slant, as the eat here menu is packed with locally-sourced ingredients, prime American beef, domestic lamb and line-caught fish, as well as farm-fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables. His “bar chefs” take a pure approach to their drinks, too, which Rooftop Loungers love.
“This refurbishment says a lot about our vision for eat here. We are a local restaurant that celebrates our local designers and ingredients,” Murphy says. “I think the new look achieves that urban yet unpretentious look and creates a friendly, community vibe. Right now, with the perfect Florida winter weather, there couldn’t be a more gorgeous place than eat here to enjoy the Sarasota cityscape.”
The Eat Here restaurants celebrate chef-crafted, Gulf Coast cookery and creative cocktails. Eat Here on Anna Maria Island and in Sarasota were recently selected as two of Florida’s “best new restaurants” as part of Florida Trend’s Golden Spoon Awards. Eat Here is located at 1888 Main St., Sarasota, 941-365-8700, 240 Avenida Madera, Sarasota, 941-346-7800, 5315 Gulf Dr., Holmes Beach, 941-778-0411.