Sarasota shows up at the top of every internet list imaginable these days. We’ve been named best beach, city with the highest level of well-being and best place to retire. We’ve gone from hidden gem to not-so-secret spot. Dateline NBC even aired a special all about the mystique of Anna Maria Island. In the face of radical expansion with hotels and condominiums springing up at the speed of sound we sat down with two people with insight into the current climate from the perspective of the restaurant industry. After all, Sarasota’s food scene is not to be trifled with and it’s garnering national attention of its own thanks to culinary legends like Emeril Lagasse taking time to visit with one of Sarasota’s own legendary restaurant families, the Caragiulo brothers.  

Melange Restaurant. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.


Solomon Shenker, Sol’s NYC Deli

Sol's NYC Deli. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.


Sol Shenker knows a thing or two about stiff competition. After all, he finds himself in a rivalry with his own name after leaving a former establishment just down the street from the dream deli he’s now running under the auspices of Sarasota’s own real estate wunderkind and visionary downtown developer, Jesse Biter.  Sol took a few minutes of downtime (his first in months, we’re sure) to chat with us about Sarasota and the popularity of his brand of Jewish New York Deli “Sol Food”. 

TELL US ABOUT THE NEW LOCATION  SOL:I love the vibe on this corner of downtown. We’ve got Made and Mediterraneo across the street, the Hollywood 20, plenty of small businesses and a shopping plaza full of opportunity. Working with Jesse Biter and David Chessler is very exciting. I never know what’s going to happen next and it’s always something fantastic. I’m blown away that they’ve taken me under their wings and that they believe in my food and in my brand. WHAT'S COOKING IN YOUR KITCHEN? SOL:There’s so much more room. This is a full service restaurant with a full bar and a brand new deli case. We’re using incredible ingredients fresh, local produce as well as New York City bread by the best bakers. I have stock that’s been simmering for two days, I have fresh baked knish, and my wife Marta Shenker (one of the managers) is in there right now making kreplach and blintzes.  PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?  SOL:Right now we’re doing lunch and dinner but breakfast is on the way and we’ll be doing nightly dinner specials like Veal Chops and Braised Short Ribs and various seafood dishes utilizing fresh catch from the Gulf. WHAT ARE YOUR RESTAURANT FAVES?  SOL:I love Made, they have the best pork belly and fried green tomatoes I’ve ever had. I’m also a fan of 15 South on St. Armand’s Circle; we’ve been going there for years.

Sol’s NYC Deli (new location) 1991 Main Street, Sarasota, 941-444-0413. 

Mark Caragiulo, Veronica Fish & Oyster

One of the aforementioned brothers, Mark Caragiulo, is a very busy man. Besides being the co-owner of Caragiulos, Shore Diner, and Owen’s Fish Camp he’s also the co-owner of the Shore Diner location being built on Longboat Key and a new concept set to open in April on the corner of Hillview and Osprey called Veronica. We sat down with Mark to ask him about his opinion of Sarasota’s burgeoning restaurant scene and to find out more about his new venture. 

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK OF THE BOOMING GROWTH OF THE LOCAL FOOD SCENE  MARK:I’ve seen some nice additions to the downtown dining scene recently and there’s a trend of attraction. I think we should be mindful of what the demand is and not just have the idea that “if we build it they will come.” WHY THE HILLVIEW AREA?  MARK:I live in that neighborhood. I like the location and the vibe and the demographics. There’s already parking which is important and the infrastructure was already there for a restaurant. Granted we’re redoing the place entirely but it helps to have the bones.  WHAT’S THE CUILINARY CONCEPT OF VERONICA?  MARKVeronica is named after an Elvis Costello song. It’s a fish and oyster house with a modern supper club feel. The intention is to have a huge bar that transitions into a raw bar. I want to have vinyl records playing behind the bar, no TVs and a wood grill. We’ll do dinner only, seven days a week.  WHERE ELSE DO YOU LIKE TO EAT LOCAL?  MARK:There are so many good places. I like going to see Ash at Chutney’s, Mark at Made, Steve at Indigenous. I like breakfast at The Serving Spoon or Burns Court Café, coffee at Perq and pizza at the bar at Mediterraneo. 

Veronica Fish and Oyster, 1830 South Osprey.