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Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.


Tucked in the corner of the Sarasota Commons strip mall near the intersections of Fruitville and Beneva roads, you’ll find Reyna’s Taqueria, and some of the area’s tastiest home-style Mexican cuisine. Chef and owner Gino Calleja opened Reyna’s in 2018. The name honors his mother, whose recipes largely comprise the menu, which is at once traditional and imaginative. Calleja’s passion for his craft shines through with every dish and every sauce on the menu. So successful is the Sarasota Commons location that Calleja decided to open a second location this past spring at the Sarasota Square Mall. Reyna’s Taqueria, 935 N. Beneva Rd., Suite 701, Sarasota, 941-228-6456.


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Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.


If you’re speeding north on Route 41, you’re likely to miss one of the area’s most inventive hamburger purveyors. Doling out “Man vs. Food”-worthy creations are the husband-and-wife team of Karla Marticorena and Cristian DiSanto. Their burgers are something out of a foodie fantasy novel. Take the Holy Grail burger, for instance. This bad boy comes with a heap of what they call “oozy, gooey mac & cheese” with double patties, American cheese and bacon. The menu promises “a religious burger experience.” Chances are your doctor would recommend against it while your belly thanks you profusely. Marticorena and DiSanto took over as owners four years ago, and they aimed to turn the spot from a sports bar into a more family-friendly space. Sharing a strip mall with a Check ‘n Go and a Pinch-a-Penny doesn’t sound glamorous, but Marticorena, who is originally from Peru, stands behind the quality of the food. “We are blessed to have so many loyal customers,” she says. “Everyone who comes here and tries our burgers comes back. They bring their friends.” The key to those burgers? “Everything is fresh,” Marticorena says. “We get our meat every day. Our buns are fresh. Our vegetables are local and cut every day. We serve fresh-cut fries.” Marticorena shops locally herself for the highest quality produce and ground angus beef she can find so that B.O.B.’s patties are never frozen. “We start our shop at 7:30 a.m. after we drop the kids at school,” she says. They’re in the kitchen by 8:30 where she and the team are hand-slicing tomatoes, lettuce, onions, mushrooms, peppers, jalapeños, and more — just to have everything ready to go for the lunch rush. Before you get any big ideas on the name, S.O.B. stands for “South of Bradenton.” Although, Marticorena says, “it can also stand for something else.” Perhaps “some outrageous burgers” is just as apropos.S.O.B. Burgers, 5866 14th St W, Bradenton,, 941-755-1998

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Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.


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Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.

It wasn’t a conscious decision for Rami Nehme to open all of his Origin Craft Beer and Pizza locations in strip malls, but he sure is glad he did. “Having neighbors is always better than not having neighbors,” the ebullient restaurateur says. Origin’s origin was a strategic location behind Sarasota Memorial Hospital on Hillview Street, just a few doors west of sushi mainstay Pacific Rim (“I knew it was going to work,” Nehme says of the flagship). Then came Palmer Ranch, followed by University Town Center, and finally this past June in The Landings. Origin’s growth is even more impressive when you consider that Nehme has opened all of its locations since 2016. For him, it’s a simple equation: great pizza plus craft beer, plus tasty wings, throw in a hearty salad or two, and you’re at the heart of Origin’s offerings. Some notable menu items that differentiate Origins from competitors include the Sunrise (breakfast pizza) made with eggs, feta, and choice of sausage or bacon, or the Super Sami (gyro pizza) with a homemade hummus base, beef gyro meat, lettuce, mediterranean relish, feta and tzatziki drizzle. And for those watching their carb intake or avoiding gluten, a cauliflower crust is available upon request. His keep-it-simple approach is working. “You don’t need to have a menu that is a dictionary,” Nehme says. He adds, “People just want good food. I was always a big believer of quality over quantity.” So, what’s next for Origin? Northern expansion — perhaps to take on more strip mall neighbors. “Parrish is the gateway to St. Pete,” Nehme says. Origin Craft Beer and Pizza, 1837 Hillview St., Sarasota, 941-316-9222; 8193 Tourist Center Dr. , Bradenton, 941-358-5850; 5070 Palmer Plaza Blvd., Sarasota, 941-217-6533; 4944 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 941-922-1190,


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Photography by John Revisky.

On a visit to one of Sarasota’s quirkiest strip malls, Phillippi Plaza, one could get a haircut, buy a lampshade, and have an incredible, authentic Sardinian meal. For the past 10 years, chef/owner Dino Carta has been serving authentic cuisine at his restaurant that bears the name of his native Sardinia. When you go, definitely consider the culurgiones, which are a specific regional Sardinian dish. “People go crazy for it,” Carta says. It’s a cousin to the ravioli, in that house made pasta is stuffed with various ingredients, but the similarity stops there. The half-moon shape and flavor are completely different, and Sardinia’s is served with pecorino cheese, orange zest and a bright tomato sauce. Steaks and locally caught seafood options are cooked in Sardinia’s wood-fire oven. So is the traditional Sardinian sheet music bread that Carta serves. He picked this spot, he says, because it was close to his house, and it was a good, central location to introduce the area to Sardinian cuisine. The exterior is simple, but inside it’s elegant — quite like the cuisine. The approach has inspired a dedicated clientele. “I don’t need to complicate it too much,” Carta says. “I try to keep everything as traditional as I can and different at the same time.”  Sardinia, 5770 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 941-702-8582,


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Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.

There are few, if any, local chefs as well traveled as Isaac Correa. The Baker and Wife owner arrived in Sarasota nearly 10 years ago after a culinary career that took him from New York City to Moscow and just about everywhere in between. What started as a concept for a cakes-and-coffee cafe quickly evolved into a lunch and dinner destination. Nestled snugly between a tattoo parlor and salon in one of Sarasota’s oldest strip malls, Southgate Village Shops (originally built in 1960), Baker and Wife boasts “globally inspired, locally crafted cuisine and cocktails.” The concept seems to be working, and Correa’s restaurant has become a foodie favorite here. But Correa reveals that originally, the location was chosen on a whim. “What they say is when you open a place the first rule is location,” Correa says. “We had no idea about it. We just said, we’ll give it a try, and that’s it. All the sudden, people started coming — from the neighborhoods, from different areas around Sarasota. They would come to visit and word of mouth started spreading.” Correa aimed to create an atmosphere that transcended its exterior, working with a Ukrainian designer (we told you Correa’s been everywhere) to create an environment that reflected the home cooking that customers find on the plate. They scoured salvage yards to find the 100 barnyard windows on the ceiling, whose glass that Correa and Co. punched out on their own. They hung 101 lights. “We made it homey,” he says. “We built a bar and kept true to the concept: comfort food and farm-to-table when we could. We just keep trying to evolve.” Asked to pick a signature dish to highlight, Correa can’t do it. “All I can say is we put thought and care in all our food,” Correa says. That includes the hearty, fall-friendly beef short rib fettuccine. Slow-cooked braised beef ribs combine with mushrooms, green peas, parmesan, sour cream and dill to create a dish whose flavor evolves as you eat it and pairs beautifully with the smokiness of the Hamilton Creek cabernet sauvignon on the menu. If Baker and Wife is slammed when you visit — as it often is — try a Strip Mall Gems honorable mention, the boutique French bistro Rick’s Restaurant, located just four doors to the east. Baker and Wife, 2157 Siesta Dr, Sarasota,, 941-960-1765.


Where some look at a strip mall and see a collection of stores,Eddie Yzeiri sees opportunity. As general manager of two Apollonia Mediterranean Grill locations — one at UTC, the other in the Landings— Yzeiri understands what it takes to create an authentic dining experience in any locale. Now, Yzeiri’s next culinary adventure is here: Post Kitchen & Bar.  And for the location of his latest venture? You guessed it — in a shopping center right across the parking lot from Apollonia.  “A lot of people from up north or from big cities come on vacation in Florida and they’re always so surprised, like, ‘Oh, we found this gem of a restaurant in a shopping center,’” Yzeiri says. “But it’s common for Florida to have beautiful restaurants in shopping centers or in plazas like this.”

Post, which opened in October, has caught some early buzz by offering modern American cuisine with locally sourced ingredients and global influence. Seafood and steaks are on the menu, along with a large raw bar menu, including oysters, shrimp cocktail and other crudo. Diners can choose to enjoy their meal on a beautifully appointed patio for a casual experience, or the dining room for a more elegant, traditional option. “It’s a huge challenge for me,” Yzeiri says. “I’m definitely stepping out of my comfort zone here.” Post draws global inspiration by pulling in Latin, Asian, and (of course) Mediterranean influences.  That Post is housed in a shopping center doesn’t deter it from having a true sense of space. Chait praises Yzeiri and his team for creating such welcoming experiences with all of his restaurants. “You’re getting a sense of the liveliness and all the atmosphere just from the outside, even before you get in the restaurant,” Chait says. “So,” Yzeiri says, “when diners open the door, they come inside the restaurant and they forget that they’re right next to a Guitar Center. We want them to feel like they’re genuinely having an authentic experience.”  Post Kitchen & Bar, 8433 Cooper Creek Blvd, Bradenton,, 941-259-4850


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Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.

For more than 25 years, Bangkok has set the standard for great Thai food in the area. The restaurant may not be much to look at from the outside in its blue-roofed strip mall at the corner of Swift and Proctor roads, but owners Mimi and Boun Sysouvanh have created an interior that transports you to . . . well, Bangkok. Hand-carved tables offer diners an opportunity to marvel at intricate designs. Booths are adorned with comfy pillows, and pops of color abound throughout. And the food? It’s as authentic as it gets. Thick, flavorful sauces complement ridiculously tender cuts of beef, chicken, pork and seafood. But where Bangkok truly shines is in its signature Thai crispy duckling dish. It’s served perfectly roasted with a ridiculously complex dipping sauce that combines a hint of sweetness with a savory soy undertone. One bite and you’ll forget you’re two doors down from a Slurpee machine.  Bangkok, 4791 Swift Rd., Sarasota,, 941-922-0703

B&B Chophouse and Market

Photo 9Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.

Steve Bishop and his partners set out to create something this area lacked: a steakhouse with a modern spin and a well-stocked bourbon bar. There was only one problem. It was 2020, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and people weren’t exactly flocking to restaurants. Still, they believed in their concept and started looking at available properties to house what would become Bourbon and Bones Chophouse & Market (B&B Chophouse & Market, for short). The group settled on a Lakewood Ranch strip mall near the heart of its commercial district, the San Marco Plaza. B&B shares the plaza with a swim school, nail salon, realty offices, and a dance studio. “We felt the place was large enough for what we wanted to do,” Bishop says. “We liked that it had very little decor. It looked like a cafeteria, and we liked that. We had a vision of doing something radically different, and it’s easier to start from nothing rather than redoing it.” 

Bishop and his team worked with local craftsmen to add metal stamped ceiling tiles, custom chandeliers, booths, portable partitions between tables, sofa chairs, some funky patterned carpet in some parts, and hardwood floors in other areas. There are giant signs made to look like chalkboards calling out signature bourbons and cuts. The lobby wall was handmade from bourbon barrel staves, and a 22-foot mural of a 15th century Abby’s wine storage was installed.  B&B opened in September 2020 while capacity restrictions were still in place for restaurants. “We had conservative expectations and exceeded them immediately,” Bishop says, calling it a “nice reception from day one.” He credits that mostly to the steaks. The prime rib, ribeye, filet mignon, Manhattan strip steaks and more are all dry aged in-house, where they’re also sold up front in the marketplace. B&B also houses a 1,000-degree broiler like you see in larger high-end chain steakhouses like Ruth’s Chris. Some credit for all the Bourbon and Bones love, Bishop admits, goes to the location.  “We know that a steakhouse is a destination — not the type of place where you pop into,” he says. “It’s a place you have to decide to go to. It’s not your typical strip mall,” Bishop says. “It’s got character.” And so does B&B’s cuisine. Bourbon and Bones Chophouse & Market, 8205 Natures Way, suite 119, Lakewood Ranch,, 941-893-5403