SRQ VOTERS SET A RECORD IN THIS 10th ANNUAL BEST OF SRQ LOCAL COMPETITION, coming out to show some love for their hometown favorites in greater numbers than ever before. From Best Real Estate Agent to Best Fashion Boutique and from Best Art Gallery to Best Children’s Attraction and running the culinary gamut of top-rated cocktails, sushi, sandwiches, doughnuts, barbecue and breakfast spots, kick back, put your feet up and let the locals lead the way. Find yourself in one of our moving montages—they feature readers who voted in this year’s competition.  

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Best Children’s Attraction

Winner  Mote Marine

What’s a family destination without someplace to take the kiddos? The region serves as home to many an attraction geared at the youngest, with many focused on turning learning into an entertaining day. The watery brilliance of the Mote Aquarium excited parents and youngsters alike by creating a magical and educational environment. The wildlife at  Sarasota Jungle Gardens roared in as first finalist, followed by the bold botany at second finalist  Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Children’s Garden and Big Cat Habitat tied as third finalists—JO

Jamie Coffey (on Mote): Our kids are the key to preserving the pristine marine life we are surrounded by here in this beautiful town and that’s what Mote teaches day in and day out. Emily Lane (on Selby Gardens): Kids have so much fun here, and they can come day after day, the perfect park/backyard experience. Explore nature, play in the Children’s Rainforest, go to Kids Corner, eat in the cafe, take part in their family events.  Laney Hughes  (on Children’s Garden): This is a place where children’s imaginations can come alive.


Best Shoe Boutique

Winner T.Georgiano’s

Waiting for the other shoe to drop? No need to, these boutiques know a thing or two about finding the right footgear for you for any occasion. T.Georgiano’s “defeeted” the competition with abounding praise for its quality collection and the owner’s generosity to the community. From running the length of an airport, to adorning a set of stunners at the next gala, L.Boutique’s variety and service grants them first finalist dibs. Reasons stepped up to second finalist and  Goodwill Manasota stomped their way into the third finalist ranking. If the shoe fits right?  —BM

Jonathan Parks (on T.Georgiano’s): Amazing selection of quality merchandise. Customers are treated in the best possible way. Jamie Coffey (on T.Georgiano’s): Fun, fresh, accessible, affordable... oh, and fabulous!” Maralyn Carr (on L. Boutique): The L. Ladies are superior in their knowledge and sense of style! Hands down there is no better place if you want to be in the know. Barbara Teller (on L. Boutique): The staff is very helpful & willing to assist, but not pushy in making the shopping experience uncomfortable. Nancy Rand (on Reasons): Wonderful styles for difficult feet.


Best Pediatrician

Winner Dr. Ted Meyer

It takes a special level of trust to put your sick child in a doctor’s care, and Dr. Ted Meyer earns that trust year after year. He once again tops our reader poll for best kid doctor in the region. Dr. Bob Weiss also gets plenty of parents’ votes, enough to make him first finalist this year. Dr. Katherine Keeley of First Physicians Group checks in as second finalist and Dr. Scott Featherman of Comprehensive Child Care weighs in at third finalist. —JO

Jamie Jalwan (on Dr. Meyers): We have two young sons who have both been patients of Dr. Meyer since they were born. Dr. Meyer and his entire team already seem like part of our extended family. Sometimes we even see them more often than family members! Dr. Meyer, the nurse practitioners and the entire support team at the office make visits to their practice a calm, effective and pleasant experience for all. Not an easy task when treating infants and toddlers, not to mention supporting sleep-deprived parents.  Tara Angus (on Dr. Weiss): Dr. Weiss has one of the best bedside manners I have ever witnessed in a physician. He speaks directly to the patient and ensures they have a comfort level about the visit. As a parent, he has been able to ease my fears and provide me with all necessary information about my child’s visit, condition, and/or action plan. Many times, he has been able to reassure me in difficult situations. My kids feel good about seeing him and feel confident to talk with him about anything. Linda Burry (on Dr. Weiss): Dr. Weiss has gone above and beyond to seek proper diagnosis when our son had a ‘puzzling’ case last year that required blood work to pinpoint diagnosis and treatment. He was able to get us into Sarasota Memorial as an outpatient for ‘stat’ bloodwork in a very timely manner. The results of his bloodwork, thankfully, only required the illness to run its course. The practice gives each child a ‘goodie’ bag of popcorn after a visit, along with an opportunity to pick out a ‘prize’ from a gift basket. My child loves those little touches that really mean a lot.


Best Sushi

Winner JPAN

Pass the soy sauce and wasabi please! Sarasota is becoming a city of sushi connoisseurs with the number of top-tier Japanese spots in our area. But the people have spoken—naming JPAN once again the reigning champ of sushi goodness for the third year in a row with a wave of enthusiasm from avid sushi epicureans. Pacific Rim stepped up it’s game from last year when they tied for first finalist, now they own the title all their own for 2018. Tsunami battles it out, making a name for itself by scoring second finalist, and long-time winner Yume rounds out these top contenders as third finalist. Let the good times roll. —BM

Mona Setiawan (on JPAN): They have varieties of delicious, both traditional and modern, sushi and Japanese cuisine. The staff is always friendly and accommodating. Nice vibes and great location.  Elise Ramer (on JPAN): The presentation, freshness and overall customer service keep bringing me back to this place. Not to mention the Hamachi collar, I crave it. Holly Johnson (on Pacific Rim): Consistently great quality and higher sushi-to-rice ratio than any other place in the area. Cori Tietsort (on Tsunami):  I love the Paradise Roll at Tsunami and Dave the waiter is always friendly, prompt and attentive. He even gave me edamame on the house when he knew I’d had a long day! Cynthia Jaramillo (on Yume):  The Yume roll is divine and the atmosphere is always fun!


Best Cocktails

Winner State Street Eating House

This category received an outpour of votes with noteworthy comments on atmosphere, style, presentation, consistency and craftsmanship, making these libation creators the top-shelf movers and shakers in the industry. State Street Eating House claims victory for the fourth year running as the masters of their craft [cocktails].  Pangea Alchemy Lab holds onto its spot straight up as first finalist, with locals raving of their speakeasy setting. And while on the rocks before, Jack Dusty raises the bar this year with ingenuity and high standards as second finalist. New kid on the block and clear underdog, Cask & Ale mixes their way into the third finalist spot. That’s the spirit! —BM

Sarah Firstenberger (on State Street): The team at State Street puts a lot of love and time into the cocktails. Their hard work and effort really shine through when you get a taste of one of their creations.  Brian Quimby (on State Street): Every drink is a pleasure. The mixology is unparalleled in Sarasota. The large variety of gin is always an adventure and pleasure. Morgan Courter (on Pangea): Unique concept with excellent execution, this place is a must for locals. Ben Heiderscheidt (on Jack Dusty):  The Siren will take you out. Don’t do it as a nightcap unless you are staying at the Ritz! Chloe Crnojevich (on Cask & Ale):  Great whiskey selection and upbeat, classy vibe.


Best Happy Hour

Winner Table Creekside

The Best of SRQ Local competition has remarkably never had this category to vote on before, and it became clear that Sarasota’s ‘It’s 5 O’clock somewhere’ attitude is quite prevalent in this town. Table Creekside’s always bustling happy hour wins the battle for their rocking variety and ideal water views.  Boca Kitchen Bar & Market  steps into the lush spotlight for first finalist position attracting HH-goers of all ages. second finalist Selva and third finalist Duval’s hang with the popular kids by providing hard-to-beat specials. Cheers to not confining happy to just an hour!—BM

Judi Gallagher (on Table Creekside): Amazing pricing for global cuisine, rotating cocktails and balanced menu so affordable yet refined and right on the water. Diane Lane (on Boca Kitchen Bar + Market): From the wall garden to the Burrata, their food makes my mouth sing!  Jennie Caskey (on Selva): Happy hour food is inexpensive and delectable, with mojitos to die for! Loretta Beaumont (on Duval’s): Consistently perfect drinks and value bar bites.


Best Barbeque

Winner Nancy’s BBQ

Like buying an expensive car, proposing to your partner or finally getting that full facial tattoo, the choice of best barbecue is not one to be taken lightly, and this year’s voters had a lot to say. The stalwart Sarasota standard, Nancy’s BBQ blew away the competition with more than double the votes of the first finalist, Brick’s Smoked Meats, and a populace clamoring for more pulled pork and spicy sauce. Swinging in at second finalist, Mouthole BBQ got mad props for an eclectic menu and awesome Angry Brie sandwich, while third finalist Stottlemyer’s Smokehouse earned an impressive showing off its fried chicken and cornbread. —PL

Savannah Kennedy (on Nancy’s BBQ): Nancy’s is the best in town. Pulled pork, cucumber salad, and au gratin potatoes! Yum!  Caren Van Slyke (Nancy’s BBQ): Come for the BBQ stay for the collards. Janae Camp (on Brick’s Smoked Meats): The meat is good on its own without sauce. Melts in your mouth. Taylor Rothenberg (on Mouthole Barbecue): Ray and Nikki are awesome! The food is always great. They have the classics (pulled pork and brisket sandwiches), but also are switching it up (love their new brie sandwich!) Erin Jones  (on Stottlemyer’s Smokehouse): Stottlemyer’s makes the best smoked wings in the area, hands down.


Best Local Music Venue

Winner Blue Rooster

When it comes to a good night out, the atmosphere matters near as much as the band, and the Best Of voters proved adamant in their endorsement of The Blue Rooster, crowning the rustic Rosemary rock-and-rollers Best Of by a comfortable margin. On the other end of the spectrum, with carpeted floors and assigned seating, the  Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and its wide array of visiting talent pulled down a first finalist position. Regulars at Main Street’s Gator Club rallied to bestow second finalist position on their favorite jumping joint, while the socially conscious and eclectic offbeat offerings of Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center garnered a third finalist finish.—PL

Shelley Thayer (on Blue Rooster): One rainy evening I stopped by the Blue Rooster to hear the Divebombers play. To my surprise, the place was completely filled, yet comfortable. The atmosphere was unpretentious, open and inviting. Patrons were true music lovers, appreciative and respectful of the talent. Service was professional yet laid back, and the food was casual yet thoughtfully prepared. Since then I have been back numerous times with consistent results. This little gem has great music and an atmosphere that is inviting to groups, dates or simply going solo.  Patricia Thompson Lee (on Blue Rooster): Where else can you listen to live music and eat chicken & waffles?  Tim Holliday (on Van Wezel): The Van Wezel may take a lot of criticism for its design, with no center aisle and all, but the acoustics in there are great, no matter what kind of concert you are there for. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the front or the back; it all sounds good. Annette Gueli (on Van Wezel): World famous music with a full scope that appeals to most age groups. George Pfeiffer (on The Gator Club): They bring in great raw talent. John Arico (on Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center): Fogartyville has a funky, down-home ambiance that makes people feel comfortable. David Beaton does a great job of booking the acts. The music spans many genres and is always top-notch, so it’s great to know you can attend a show and, even if you’re not familiar with the artist, know it’s going to be good. If the music moves you, there is room to dance. In fine weather there is outdoor seating. There is a terrific food truck if you care to eat, and food and drinks are reasonably priced.


Best Antiques

Winner Sarasota Architectural Salvage

On the pursuit for your next foraged artifact or glorified relic? Sarasota Architectural Salvage snagged enough votes to get back on top for 2018, with mentions that shopping there is “like a fun field trip!” Bon Bon Vintage,  a true comeback story for these antique hunting underdogs, make its way back into the competition as first finalist after slipping from recognition entirely last year. Women’s Exchange’s rare and unique inventory carries home the second finalist title. And while unusual finds at Goodwill  drop down to third finalist, they are commended still on their continued community involvement. —BM

Anne Rollings (on Sarasota Architectural Salvage): Sarasota Architectural Salvage is not merely a collection of antiques; it is a museum, a destination, a delightful distraction to browse through art, treasures, and moments in time. The building itself is memorable, but more so the lovingly curated objects d’art that Jesse White and his team bring together in a temporary home where imaginations are stoked. Angela Mazzone (on Bon Bon Vintage): They have such an amazing collection of cute stuff for house decor. The owner and employees are so sweet. Faye Blum (on Women’s Exchange): I walked into the Women’s Exchange one Saturday morning and immediately saw a small oil painting of an Italian scene in a beautiful frame – even better, I was familiar with the exact location and good memories came flooding back to me.  I scooped it up and could not believe the amazingly reasonable price I paid for this treasure. I hung it directly across from my favorite chair so that I could easily view and enjoy it while sipping a little vino.


Best Agency

Winner Studio BCC

Branding means serious business in a tourist-driven economy. So what marketing and advertising agencies help clients break through the noise? This year, Studio BCCs hyped their way to the winner’s circle. Long-time fave Grapevine Communications held the first finalist spot, while Wilde Productions produced a second finalist finish. Wordslinger Marketing and PR aggregated a third finalist spot as well.—JO

Arnold Sietel  (on Studio BCC): I have used BCC several times, both for real estate projects and an art gallery. They are great collaborators and their creative is top notch. I have relied on their ability to creatively brand and market our projects. I see them as willing to go edgy and elegant when needed. They have a great range of experience and they understand the sales “language.” They don’t write just to write. Shauna Longshore (on Grapevine): Grapevine is a superb example of talented locals serving their community and helping Sarasota be the best it can be. Their flawless work and reliability cannot be compared.  Mallory H  (on Wilde Productions): Wilde Productions is an outstanding, full-service creative agency. They cater to all our requests and produce the most innovative and next-level work. They are easy to work with and are always looking out for the best interest of their clients. Laurel Corriveau  (on Wordslinger): Sharon Kunkel is the best.


Best Tacos

Winner Mi Pueblo

Competition was fierce this year for the title of Best Local Tacos, but ultimately none could unseat last year’s Best Mexican Restaurant winner, Mi Pueblo, with multiple voters singing the praises of those homemade hard shells. Coming in at first finalist, Poppo’s Taqueria won diners over with tacos stuffed with local organic ingredients and served by friendly staff, barely beating out last year’s first finalist,  El Toro Bravo, which came in at second finalist, receiving high praise for its ever-fresh selection and primo chicken. Coming in at third finalist, and with a wildly different interpretation of the street food classic,  Brick’s Smoked Meats makes yet another appearance in its first Best Of competition with brisket and burnt end tacos. —PL

Alejandra Valdes (on Mi Pueblo): Have you had a crunchy taco there? Dear God, It’s heaven! Tony Mediavilla (on El Toro Bravo): I had just had brain surgery in January, after a serious fall, and my daughter Barbara came from Denver to visit. It made for a particularly pleasant evening when Chef/Owner Ruben Caban joined us at our table to celebrate the fact that the three of us—Ruben, Barbara and I—had all been born in the same town in Puerto Rico (Humacao). Chef Ruben has an outgoing personality that cheers you up, which makes for an enjoyable evening while having a delicious Mexican dinner. Bob Johnson  (on El Toro Bravo): Never judge a book by its cover. We went after the recommendation of a friend and my wife almost did not want to go into this location. Once inside, I recognized some true Mexican aromas. I had lived in Texas for 35 years and had not had a really great taco since moving back to FL. When we ordered, I was dreaming of the tacos I used to get in San Antonio. El Toro Bravo delivered—this was no store-bought shell, and all the ingredients were fresh, fresh, fresh. We’ve been back many times. Just a little place that delivers great tacos. Maybe someday I’ll try something else on their menu. Susan Saulnier (on Poppo’s Taqueria): Everything is locally grown or as close to locally grown as they can get, fresh and just overall amazing. Hands down one of my favorite places here. Shannon Black (on Brick’s Smoked Meats): If I could write a foodie love letter, it would certainly be addressed to Brick’s Smoked Meats’ burnt ends. Succulent sweet and tangy, sticky and luscious—these make the perfect appetizer. Even better when you dive into a burnt end taco—make that an order of three, please. I dream of the next visit, very soon, where I can shut my eyes and be in the smoky ooey-gooey moment. Dick Rivera (on Brick’s Smoked Meats): Bacon Burnt End Taco and Brisket Taco are to die for!


Best Lighting Fixtures

Winner Franklin Lighting

Whether talking biology or photography, it all comes down to the light. And when it comes to designing a home, the proper lighting fixture can mean all the difference between sophisticated and slapdash, between cosmopolitan and crass. Awash with praise and glowing with compliments, Franklin Lighting took the title this year on the back of varied selection and helpful staff. Coming in at first finalist, the fixtures at  Bee Ridge Lighting  caught many a twinkling eye, while over at Light Up Your Life  voters rallied for a second finalist finish. Not to be outshone, LyteWorks received the spotlight as well, pocketing a third finalist finish. —PL

Barbara Carey (on Franklin Lighting): They have the widest selection of lighting we’ve found in the area and at a wide selection of prices.  They have contemporary and traditional styles of bathroom lighting, chandeliers, ceiling fans, outdoor lighting, and floor, desk and table lamps.  Further, the staff has been very helpful, especially the men in the loading dock area. Chris Clary (on Franklin Lighting):  I have shopped at Franklin Lighting for years.  They have a great selection of lighting products, prints, accessories, etc. The staff is very nice and helpful. It’s always a nice experience to shop there! Janice Goodman (on Bee Ridge Lighting): Great selection of interesting and non run-of-the-mill fixtures. Elliott Himelfarb (on Bee Ridge Lighting): Best lighting selection in town and beyond. Angelo Massaro-Fain (on LyteWorks): Variety and selection are incredible.  Steven Pajevic (on LyteWorks): Best selection and staff around.


Best Golf Course

Winner University Park Country Club

Tee time on the Gulf Coast means a choice of greens. Our readers say the course at the winning  University Park Country Club definitely scores better than par. The Sarasota city-owned  Bobby Jones Golf Club birdies its way into the first finalist position, followed by the Boca Royale Golf & Country Club as second finalists. Riding right along, Laurel Oak Country Club and The Meadows Country Club scored a tie as the third-finalists.—JO

Lawrence Giamo (on University Park): I typically play 18 holes. The course is very well managed in that the staff keeps play moving and 18 holes can usually be played in less than 4 hours. Also, course conditions, greens, fairways and bunkers are always in great shape! Delynn Davidson (on Bobby Jones): I like to play the course during the week rather than over the weekend, and I do play 18. My experience with the course is that it’s very well kept, and the patrons are very polite and observe good golf etiquette . It’s a fun course to play.  Michelle Brault (on Laurel Oaks): The golf course is kept up so perfectly and the staff is amazing. Jannon Pierce (on Meadows): They’ve hosted the Easterseals Pro-Am Tournament fundraiser for 21 years, which has raised over $1 million.


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Best French Fries

Winner S’macks Burgers & Shakes

For the past two years S’macks Burgers & Shakes has reigned supreme for their delectable and innovative french fry formulations. This year was no exception as Smacks took home the gold once again for its perfectly golden parmesan garlic fries and its curry fries. Shore Diner’s  truffle fries stole the hearts of voters and the spot of first finalist. Second finalist went to Gecko’s Grill & Pub and third finalist was a neck-and-neck fry-tie between State Street Eating House and Mandeville Beer Garden.—MH

Elise Lipoff Ramer  (on S’macks): The fries at Smacks are what all crinkle fries aspire to be: the perfect golden color, peak snap sound when broken apart, and holds up when covered in ketchup, cheese or condiment of choice. Consistency is key to any good french fry, and at Smacks, they come out perfect each and every time.  Noriko Beardow (on Shore Diner):  Truffle fries are to die for. Eric Welter (on State Street Eating House): Fresh, made daily. For the french fry purist, not a lot of stuff on it.  Marie Bonilla  (on Mandeville Beer Garden): Sweet Potato Fries with cilantro are addictive!


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Best New Restaurant

Winner Brick’s Smoked Meats

Rising from Farmers Market fame to best of the new brick-and-mortars, Brick’s Smoked Meats smoked the competition this year with hordes of hungry carnivores clamoring for more bacon burnt ends and voting Brick’s this year’s Best Of. The authentic Italian flavors and warm atmosphere of Napulè won over several fine diners to garner a first finalist finish, while Main Street’s latest addition, Element, drummed up enough buzz at the end of the year to pull down a second finalist position. Filling out the rankings as third finalists, the street food mavens of Sabrosa Kitchen + Bar and the Tex-Mex tastes of Wicked Cantina’s Sarasota expansion both had a banner year as well. —PL

Kayla Schlosser  (on Brick’s Smoked Meats): You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. The tacos, guac and margaritas are my faves! Jeremiah Johnson (on Brick’s Smoked Meats): Real smoked brisket, plain and simple! Everything else is amazing too. And yes, I’ve tried everything. Get a Texas tiki, some brisket, some pimento mac and cheese and just enjoy life. Marci Toomey  (on Napulè): Napulè is a fantastic new place! The drink menu is unique and the food is fantastic. Having spent time in Rome for the sole purpose of a foodie experience, I can honestly say that the food and family feel of this new hot spot beats any dining experience that I had in Italy. Barbara Carey (on Element): The service is particularly attentive and the food is creative. Be sure to ask to be seated at the chef’s table for a fun surprise. Laura Gilkey (on Sabrosa Kitchen + Bar): Our family loves Sabrosa. It’s a unique combination of live music, Latin street food, pub trivia and a familiar neighborhood gathering space. The interior decor is like a music history museum, and they’ve brought in some fantastic local music so far. They serve a delicious margarita and the street tacos are amazing.


Best Brewery

Winner J’Dubs

These guys are the epitome of local doing local right, pleasing the surrounding masses and brewing some of the best craft beer in Florida, let alone Sarasota. Many commented on subsequent factors that attracted them to certain breweries—artisan markets, live music, food trucks, yoga classes, and fun atmospheres “without the crazy hipster vibes.” Clear fan favorite, JDub’s takes home the keg as the fermenting champ. Meanwhile, Calusa  yeasts, oops yields first finalist– a pretty impressive debut into the Best Of competition, respectfully kicking out longtime winner Darwin’s entirely.  Big Tophops into the runner up slot and Motorworkstaps in as third finalist. —BM

Jennie Caskey (on JDub’s): Much as I love all the local breweries, Jdubs is my happy place—consistently great beer, a beautiful outdoor area and constant hub of activity. Elise Ramer (on Calusa): It is family-friendly! My husband is a total IPA snob and swears their Citronious is the best beer coming out of Sarasota right now. Alejandra Valdes (on Big Top): Keeping circus dreams alive in this circus town. Joy Randels (on Motorworks): Great beer, live music, and the largest Beer Garden in Florida! Andrew Edmundson (on Motorworks): Tasty beers without the crazy hipster vibe.


Best Breakfast

Winner Station 400

Nothing starts the day right like a perfect breakfast, and the voters this year came out in force for their favorite morning hotspot.  Station 400 reclaims the top spot this year, winning the Best Of award on the back of its famous benedicts and sweet-toothed flapjacks like the bacon and salted caramel pancakes with orange butter. Coming in at the first finalist position, Toasted Mango Café moves up a spot this year, thanks in large part to the fitness crowd looking for a healthy start. Newcomers  Sun Garden Café and Keke’s Breakfast Café round out the list as second and third finalist respectively.—BM

Erin Jones (on Station 400): Whether coming here for a quick breakfast, lunch, or making a brunch of it, Station 400 is as accommodating for two people as it is for 14. You can always count on great service and even better meals! Their fried green tomatoes are to die for and their specials are always exciting twists on dishes that are already on the menu. Kirsten Calandra (on Station 400): Love the downtown location. The options are so tasty and the atmosphere is fun. Sweet or savory—you can’t go wrong with their menu. Joy Randels  (on Station 400):  The ricotta pancakes with lemon curd are to die for! I’ve eaten everything on the menu and never had a bad dish. It’s the best. Rob Brown (on Toasted Mango Café):  The Sarasota Omelet is a delight; turkey, avocado, spinach, tomato, and cheese. Ingredients are all fresh and it delivers on taste and protein. The Mango staff are always great and take excellent care of us. Roxanne & Mike Dondanville (on Sun Garden):  We try to visit Sun Garden often. It is our favorite breakfast/brunch spot in Sarasota. Anytime we have family or friends from out of town come to visit we are sure to take them there. And often once they return they always request we go to that “cute breakfast spot in the village.” The outdoor patio is so peaceful and pleasing. And of course, the food! You can tell they use the freshest ingredients because every dish we have ever ordered is perfection.


Best Creative Sandwiches

Winner Mozzarella Fella

A simple ham and cheese may be all you need, but that doesn’t mean it’s all you want (and deserve!). In this inaugural category, local voters salute all those true sandwich artists who go the extra mile to make lunchtime a little extra special. Mozzarella Fella rose to the top on the back of authentic Italian while the Sarasota standard, Main Bar Sandwich Shop  trailed at first finalist by just a handful of votes. Coming in at second finalist, again by a slim margin, Southside Deli  impressed with the eponymous Southsider sandwich, while Corkscrew Deli added that final touch with a third finalist finish. —PL

Brian Jones (on Mozzarella Fella): What makes Mozzarella Fella great is authentic sandwiches like you find every few blocks in the streets of Venice or Rome and, critically, the real authentic fresh-made mozzarella. Denise Kowal  (on Main Bar Sandwich Shop): I have been going to the Main Bar since 1982 when I first moved to Sarasota and love the staff, atmosphere and the selection of over 50 different sandwiches. Everything is so fresh. Swiss cheese on rye with pickles is my favorite.  Charlene Moravec (on Main Bar Sandwich Shop): Huge menu. If it’s not on the menu, they will make any kind of sandwich you want. Beth Cotner  (on Corkscrew Deli): The Corkscrew Deli has consistently great sandwiches and salads. We love the Cuban.  Katie Hollingsworth  (on Southside Deli): Corkscrew has consistently offered a great variety of sandwiches with fresh ingredients full of flavor!  Even though on most days there is a line out the front door during lunch, they make it all quick without skimping on taste!


Best Caterer

Winner Michael’s On East

Nothing makes an event more special than the food served with a smile.  Michael’s On East once again took the cake for Best Caterer with special mentions and much praise to the owner, Phil Mancini. Not the only repeat winner, Morton’s Gourmet Market joins Michael’s, pulling down a first finalist finish for the second year in a row. Innovative Dining moved up from third to second finalist, garnering praise for the food, wine and service. This year’s third finalist was  Simply Gourmet, earning sustained applause for its Royal Tea event. —MH

Gabriele Harris (on Michael’s on East): Michael’s on East catered my wedding this past November. Their team was amazing to work with– it was so nice to work directly with Phil and have him help plan our menu and decide what dishes would go together. We even had Yorkshire Pudding with Kobe beef to represent my husband’s English roots. Kathryn Parks (on Morton’s Gourmet Market): They go above and beyond to provide great service!  Andrew Marlowe (on Innovative Dining): Last year on short notice during the holiday season, Jeremy came through for us as we hosted the Sarasota County Medical Society annual holiday party. We gave him a target budget and he took it from there. All the guests were pleased.


Best Nonprofit

Winner Cat Depot

The independent sector continues to thrive on the Gulf Coast, where the good work of nonprofits improves the quality of life for the young and old, the privileged and impoverished, the four-legged and the two. Once again, our readers celebrated Cat Depot for its work saving our feline friends. But the information shared at  Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning secured their display spot on the window SiLL as first finalist. Goodwill Manasota saw the votes come up as second finalist while the Salvation Army found its home as third finalist. —JO

Julie Hulsey (on Cat Depot):I have visited several cat “shelters” and, by far, this one is the best. You would never know there were cats in there, it is so clean. The volunteer staff is so helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. The cats get the most wonderful second chance at life there! Heather Weiskergery (on Cat Depot): They do so much not only for adoptable cats but for strays and ferals. Bernice Shor (on SiLL): The lecture series presents the most intelligent and experienced people on very contemporary and important topics. Brittany Veldheer (on Goodwill): They help veterans and they help people who are down on their luck have a better life.


Best Kid’s Menu

Winner Gecko’s Grill & Pub

Last year, Evie’s Tavern won Best Place to Take Kids to Eat, with Gecko’s coming in as second finalist. But narrowing the contest down to the menu, Gecko’s Grill & Pub rises to the top for yet another Best Of victory, with parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles praising the wide variety (to satisfy those picky eaters that start early) and healthy options to boot.  Mandeville Beer Garden garnered a first finalist finish, more on the back of its stellar chicken tenders than the prevalence of tiny boozers, and  Pinchers makes its Best Of debut with a second finalist ranking because of its lax approach to charging the little tykes. And for those looking to expand their wee one’s palate from the usual kids offerings, JPAN rolls the category up as third finalist. —PL

Reid McCullough (on Mandeville Beer Garden): Mandeville doesn’t just have the best chicken tenders in the state. Their whole backyard is designed for kids to run around and play, while the parents can watch from picnic benches. It’s just a great venue for kids and their families

to go for food. Brenda Hickley (on Pinchers): It’s free. Katie Hollingsworth (on healthy kids meals at JPAN):My family and I love Jpan because the options for the children are just as great as the options for adults. Jpan offers healthy kids meals with teriyaki chicken, shrimp, or beef  and rice with veggies and a fruit. (It also helps that they give children wiki sticks to play with while they wait for dinner and then hot towels to wash our hands before we eat!) So on nights we need to eat out due to busy work schedules or after school activities, I know we are eating food that is not only delicious but healthy too!


Best Kitchen Designer

Winner Campbell Cabinetry Designs

Home may be where the heart is, but the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. Therefore, by the transitive property of architectural biology, the heart of any home is truly the kitchen. These premier kitchen designers are guaranteed to break neither your heart nor your kitchen. The top-shelf work of Campbell Cabinetry Designs guaranteed a Best Of finish this year, but voters were torn when it came to  Taylor James Fine Cabinetry and SRQ Woodworks Co. naming both first finalists in an unresolved tie. Keeping the trend going—and setting a record for indecision—a grand total of three designers tied for second finalist:  Solstice Planning and Architecture, Imagine Design & Remodel and Affinity Kitchen & Bath. —PL

Diane Schleicher (on Campbell Cabinetry Designs): Sheldon was a great listener and built everything with meticulous precision and with care on every detail. The quality is exceptional. He spent a tremendous amount of time on the shelving for our wine cellar and maximized the space while also providing us with the ability to feature and display the beautiful labels on our special bottles. The Campbell Cabinetry showroom had delicious peppermint mints, which I enjoyed at every meeting in their offices. On the day our project was complete, Sheldon had noticed that I loved those mints and thoughtfully gave me the largest imaginable container of them. Bob Buren (on Taylor James Fine Cabinetry): When Sherry was designing our kitchen, there was that a-ha moment. From that point forward, we got out of here way and let the artist do her thing. It was a wonderful experience. Jo Ann Lovell (on Affinity Kitchen & Bath):  Imaginative and cost effective design and installation.


Best Art Gallery

Winner State of the Arts Gallery

In this battle for Best Gallery, the voters left no room for doubt, crowning State of the Arts Gallery Best Of (again) with more than double the votes of the first finalist, and crowing over great selection and great times with owners D. L. Steiner and Tre Michel.  Alfstad& Contemporary garnered a first finalist finish on the strength of its cutting edge exhibitions, while  Allyn Gallup stayed in the second finalist position for another year. In all, the only change to the listing came with the appearance of Nikki Sedacca’s 530 Burns Gallery, debuting this year as third finalist. —PL

Jannon Pierce (on State of the Arts Gallery):True lovers and promoters of art in our community—not to mention generously supporting our local artists! Chris Voelker (on State of the Arts Gallery) Best contemporary selection, unparalleled service and they have a dog. Sorcha Augustine (on Alfstad& Contemporary): My ex-husband left me in the fall of 2015 and I was quite broken and trying to figure out what I was going to do to rebuild my life back in Missouri. I received a call from Anastasia Maracle, Alfstad&’s former gallery manager, requesting my work for Sarasota Contemporary Dance’s anniversary show, there at the gallery. The request actually helped me make the decision to return to Sarasota to rebuild my life, which I ended up doing just four months later. Over the last two years, I’ve met some of my closest friends at Alfstad& receptions, as well as worked there doing documentation photography of the space, pouring wine for events and even modeling Dasha Reich’s latex jewelry. On one of my documentation photo assignments for the gallery, Anastasia Maracle introduced me to Grace Howl while she was installing her work “Together & Apart.” I felt embarrassed that the work made me tear up and took my breath away when I first saw it, but Anastasia assured me she had had a similar reaction. There was a feeling I had in that moment with the three of us, of both humbleness and excitement. Humbled to be in a gallery that was showing work that was so important, yet excited to be in a community where that importance was shared so openly. Alfstad& has not only been a symbol for me, of my rebirth in Sarasota, but also a sanctuary for rebuilding my social circle and creative career.  Elliott Himelfarb (on Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art Gallery): Full disclosure: I’m not in love with much of the art displayed in Sarasota’s galleries. While the quality of their offerings seems to be improving with the influx of younger people, much of it is generic and pleasing to the eye rather than inspiring or provocative. I find the paintings, drawings and sculptures at Allyn Gallup to be consistently imaginative and well executed, with varying degrees of the edginess I’ve come to appreciate. Seeing the colors of both Mike and Syd Solomon, Janos Enyedi’s industrial assemblies and Jorge Blanco’s bright, joyous figures in one space is like being in Washington, DC or New York, but with better street parking. Sheila Moore is a warm and well-informed host/curator who always has time for the art lovers and artists who gather at her Friday evening openings. We are truly fortunate to have this hub of art and activity in our special city. Britney Guertin (on 530 Burns Gallery): I am familiar with 530 Burns due to their community involvement and various exhibitions. It’s nice to see that they can support their neighbors while offering unique ways to experience their exquisite art and jewelry.


Best Pasta

Winner Caraguilo’s

Ciao Bella! These Italian stallions prove authenticity and flavorful dishes are what keep us continuously coming back for more. The competition takes a breather from Best Local Pizza, having had such a consistent winner for so many years (II Panificio, we see you). But delighting the crowd in the Italian cuisine realm for 2018, is beloved family-owned restaurant, Caraguilos. First finalist Mediterraneo wowed voters with their homemade recipes, and Valentino’s validates their runner up ranking by steaming the pot. Meanwhile, the talented chef at Café Barbosso helps spiral its way into the saucy hierarchy as third finalist. Hand over a bib per favore. —BM

Ed Kanis  (on Caragiulos):  I’m old school, brought up on my Italian mom’s lasagna. Theirs—with melt-in-your-mouth layers of perfect pasta, bolognese and besciamella—is my favorite on their menu. And my wife loves their chicken marsala with roasted cippolini and to-die-for creamy polenta, as well as rigatoni pasolini a heavenly blend of chicken, gorgonzola cream and sun-dried tomatoes. And the homemade focaccia bread—I can smell it now. Lorrie Amodio (on Valentino’s):  Their pasta is never overcooked or undercooked, but ‘al dente’. I usually have Lemon Francaise chicken, and I want to drink the lemon sauce from the plate, it’s so good. Judi Gallagher (on Cafe Barbosso):  Incredible array like wild boar ragu over pasta, carbonara and Chef Joe DiMaggio always creating new dishes.


Best Fashion Boutique

Winner L.Space

With so many noteworthy finalists in this category, it’s no exaggeration you could shop till you drop in this town. With plenty of choices filling the streets for procuring swanky new threads, one choice seems to never go out of style… Staying on trend for the SIXTH year in a row, a round of applause for leading local haven, L.Boutique. Panache racks onto the scene for their personal shopper experiences, landing them First Finalist. Hanging onto the runner up spot, Foxy Lady’s  variety and sales earn them loyalists dressed to kill near and far. Giving them a run for their money,  The Met Fashion House sneaks in as a stylin’ contender for their fashion-forward mod and above-the-norm hospitality, tying with Goodwill’s brand name selections sans the price tag!  —BM

Samantha Sinquefield (onL. Boutique): They stand above the rest with their outstanding customer service, ability to dress all women of all shapes and sizes, and the clear love of fashion these women have. The L. Girls go above and beyond with the beautiful clothing they have for any time (day or night), any weather, any event or special occasion you may have in mind. There really is something for EVERYONE here! You’ll never leave disappointed, let alone without a shopping bag in hand. If you haven’t made it in to this boutique, you’re missing out. There really is no other place quite like it. When you’re at L. Boutique, you’re home. Oh and I almost forgot, who could resist stopping in for some retail therapy and then heading next door to L. Spa for a fabulous spa service! The best part is, if you get a spa service on the day you stop in and shop you get a discount off one item at the boutique! Deb Jones (on Panache): It is great to have your own personal shopper, Darci. Donna McKee (on Foxy Lady): The staff is super friendly and remembers my sister and me every time we go in.  It doesn’t matter which store we go to—St. Armand’s or Siesta Key, they are helpful and social. I love their fashions in clothing and jewelry. Excellent sales too. Daniel Hodous (on Goodwill Manasota): Where else can you get a Saks Fifth Avenue suit for less than $15? Jeffrey Weismans (on The Met Fashion House): My wife went to shop at the Met and I tagged along. While she looked in the ladies department, I perused the men’s fashions. A salesman approached and asked if I wanted any assistance. I said my lifestyle didn’t take me to places where I would wear a suit. And he quickly replied, if you buy this suit you will find places to go. Well, that convinced me. I purchased a perfect dark blue suit that made me look quite elegant.


Best Interior Designer

Winner April White

It’s home sweet home thanks to the local interior designers who keep you from wanting to trade spaces with your neighbor. For the humble abode of your dreams, look for April White with DSDG, Inc., who rallied up to the master suite this year for her cutting-edge taste and professional work ethic. Also rising in the ranks are dynamic duo Donna McKee & Denice Peoples as Double Vision Interiors, Ana Santa Maria of Apex-Studio and Erin Delia Glueck of Eridel Design Studio, tied for second finalist. Monica Rissler of Imagine Design creatively furnished the third finalist spot. Pillow fight anyone?!—BM

Victor Saltana (on April White): Extremely sensitive in perception of interior designs to blend with modern architecture. Martin Behnke (on April White): Mic drop! Elida Ramberger (on Double Vision): Creative listeners, able to turn consumer choices into a cohesive whole that exceeds expectations. Nadim Ishak (on Ana Santa Maria): Creative and innovative design. Getting to the heart of what the clients want and need for their space. Amanda Kelly (on Erin Delia Glueck): She understands the true art of design, and has the ability to listen and translate what we want into a beautiful design that we can live in and call home. We have had other designers that just aren’t able to do that. Miriam Mitchell (on Monica Rissler): Monica’s eye for design is spot on. She knows the current trends because she keeps herself up to date by attending as many home, furniture and design shows as possible. Not only is Monica personable and great to work with, she is also sophisticated and classy.


Best Florist

Winner Beneva Flowers

Will you accept this rose? Heck yes, if it came from one of these flourishing finalists! Unrivaled in this category, Beneva Flowers continues to charm locals, showing off what jaw-dropping arrangements should look like and gathering winning ballots by the dozen.  Veronica Blooms holds her distinction as first finalist with recognized attention to details on botanicals and design. Blossoming into second finalist position, Flowers by Fudgie prove why they should be invited to your wedding, and Bee Ridge Florists receives a green thumbs up. —BM

Dorthea Quinn (on Beneva Flowers): I volunteer at several different businesses and when flowers are brought in from Beneva, I know as they walk through the door, that is where they are from. The quality and designs are beyond compare! David Perkowski (on Victoria Blooms): Incredible attention to detail in all of their bouquets and arrangements. Karl Borg (on Bee Ridge Florist): Because my wife says so. Cheryl Swenney (on Bee Ridge Florist): Always accommodating and flowers stay beautiful for a long time. Great value!


Best Yoga Studio

Winner Pineapple Yoga

The Best Of competition has not had this category since 2014, and in that time, an unprecedented amount of yoga studios have warriored their way into the area and into our hearts. By an absolute landslide, Pineapple Yoga holds the well-deserved Namaslay distinction with an outpour of grateful locals for its existence. The divine instructors at  The Yoga Shack find their center and lock in a first finalist pose, while  Rosemary Court keep up the flow of their vinyasa, bridging the gap for second finalist.  Body Heat Hot Yoga and Garden of the Heart break a sweat by heating things up with a tie for the third finalist spot. An all around ‘Ommm’ to all the welcoming and challenging classes these yogis are providing for the community.—BM

Jina Foltz (on Pineapple): Hands down the best yoga atmosphere! Teachers are awesome! All the classes are very honoring instead of competition like! And the owner is so kind! Not to mention they have an outdoor place to drink and mingle after classes! Lindsay Korsch (on The Yoga Shack): They keep me sane. Sarah Monsalve (on The Yoga Shack):Courtney is the most awesome yogi in town, very professional! Jamie Coffey (on Rosemary Court): This spot in the Rosemary District is a true haven, incredible energy and a wonderful group of diverse instructors! Michael McMillan (on Body Heat Hot Yoga): When I first walked in to a hot yoga class, I was welcomed with warm smiles from staff and students. Every time I take a class, it’s a wonderful experience. As out of shape as I am right now, I feel confident the instructors will keep an eye on me and get me to where I need to be. William Zoller (on Garden of the Heart): Best instructors, serious approach to alignment, foundation and careful practice.


Best Musical/Play

Winner Evita

If you come at the King, you best not miss, and Asolo Repertory Theatre dismisses all usurpers yet again, winning a Best Of award for the third year running. With Asolo Rep’s Evita, theatergoers thought they had been transported to Broadway, with incredible singing enhanced by a lush and lavish production design. Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe debuts on the list as first finalist with audiences begging for more In the Heights, and Florida Studio Theatre earns a second finalist finish with the Irish romance of Once. Closing out the bill, the Players Centre for Performing Arts’  Singin’ in the Rain came in at third finalist. —PL

Janne Ackerman (on Evita): The narrator created a most memorable performance. The set designs and set changes were executed without causing any interruption or disconnect to the story. The whole production was heads and tails above any other play I have seen as Asolo this year. Just phenomenal. Ruth Towlere (on Evita): Vocals were exceptional. Keith Cipielewski (on Evita): Production made me feel as if I was in New York on Broadway. Very well done. Marie Bonilla (on In the Heights):  The WBTT’s production of In the Heights was by far the best musical production I’ve seen in Sarasota! Having seen the original off-off Broadway production starring Lin Manuel Miranda, and then seeing the Broadway production also starring him and most of the original cast, I can say that the WBTT did a fantastic job of adapting the set and choreography to a smaller venue while still keeping the flavor and excitement alive. Ailsa Deitemeyer (on Once):  Talented performers in a small venue. Gary McKinstry (on Singin’ in the Rain):  Well done with real rain.


Best Massage Salon

Winner Diane Lane Massage

Sarasota is a top vacation destination across the country so, of course, it is of utmost importance that we have top-notch masseuses to ensure maximum relaxation. The best of the best massages in Sarasota, according to our readers, can be found at Diane Lane Massage Our first finalist was The Met Fashion House Day Spa and Salon, followed by Elements Massage and Kinetic Sports Massage with several personal mentions to Nani Brown, as second and third finalists respectively.—MH

Jane Caseyn (on Diane Lane Massage): Her expertise coupled with her compassion for her clients’ wellness is amazing. Received so much healing through her! Roy Mimbs (on Diane Lane Massage): She is very thorough, passionate about her work, and takes the time to make her treatment the best in the business. Kirsten Calandra  (on The Met): They are always good and their services feel very indulgent, but very reasonable for the quality and location of their services. It’s like being on vacation for a couple of hours as soon as you step through the doors.Vivian Owen (on Elements Massage): They have different massage artists depending on what you’re looking for —deep tissue, sports, relaxing, prenatal—and the therapists all seem to truly care about your wellbeing.  Maggie Bushey (on Kinetic Sports Massage): The therapists truly care about your needs and know endlessly about the body, how it works, etc. the list goes on and on. These ladies are absolutely incredible and highly talented.


Best Real Estate Agent

Winner Ryan Skrzypkowski

If buying a couch makes you sweat, then you’ll need some real help when it comes to purchasing a home, and the Best Of voters have you covered. Locals love  Ryan Skrzypkowski, part of the Michael Saunders & Company real estate team, carrying him comfortably to the Best Of position with personal tales of victory made easy in his capable hands. Also with Michael Saunders & Company, Kim Ogilvie, moved into the first finalist position and made herself at home. Interrupting the Saunders dominance, Roger Clyne of Atchley Properties brought home a second finalist finish by going the extra mile, while Shannon W. Roger of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty rounds out the list at third finalist. —PL

David Casey (on Ryan Skrzypkowski): He’s a rock star that has an approach to the business that is truly cutting edge. Local expert and has a huge heart. Great guy—can’t say enough good things about Ryan. Luz Abreuz (on Ryan Skrzypkowski): He and his team go the extra mile to provide the best service you can experience. He is knowledgeable and caring and your priorities are always on top of anything else. Shannon Paton (on Ryan Skrzypkowski): Ryan is a true professional, and he provides a premier real estate experience to his clients. He is responsive, knowledgeable, experienced—and he is a genuinely kind member of the community who cares about his clients and giving back to the community. Nancy Cavanaugh (on Kim Ogilvie): She sold our home that was basically unsellable. Sherry Watts (on Kim Ogilvie): She has sold three homes for us and makes things go smoothly for everyone involved. Kailey Williams (on Roger Clyne): He mowed my lawn while I was away!


Best Farm

Winner Worden Farm

To make the best meal, you have to start with the best ingredients, and the Sarasota-Bradenton area makes for fierce competition when it comes to best farm. Rising all the way from the bottom of last year’s rankings, Worden Farm harvests a heck of an upset to come in as Best Of, reclaiming its 2016 title. The 2017 champion,  Jessica’s Organic Farmstand drops off the rankings entirely, and Dakin Dairy Farms milks it for all its worth, coming in at first finalist after missing the 2017 ranking altogether. Hunsader Farms remains solid at a second finalist position, and Grove Ladder Farm debuts at third finalist —PL

Art Blum (on Worden Farm): Fresh, delicious and available at the Sarasota Farmers Market! Diane Lane (on Worden Farm): Organic. Family. Wonderful people every Saturday morning! Pablo Rodriguez (on Hunsader Farms): Great family fun. Nicole Ryan (on Grove Ladder Farm): The Clarksons are the hardest working people I know. Their dedication to providing Sarasota with the yummiest, pasture-based eggs is a real gift! Rhea Tankersley (on Grove Ladder Farm):  I love Grove Ladder Farm’s fresh eggs and chickens and the Thanksgiving turkeys are so delicious! I love the sweet family who runs the farm and their passion for real food that is raised in the healthiest way.


Best Resale Store

Winner Women’s Exchange

Hidden gems and treasures lie around every corner of Sarasota, if you know where to look! We Sarasota dwellers know better than anyone that aging makes everything finer, and the best establishment for resold riches, according to our numbers, went to Women’s Exchange once again. First Finalist, Goodwill Manasota, came in second for its secondhand goods and bargains, while last year’s third finalist, Laura Jean’s, traded up to second finalist. This year’s title of third finalist went to Designing Women Boutique. —MH

Shelby Isaacson (on Laura Jean’s): Working in marketing I am always worried about keeping my wardrobe fresh. Laura Jean’s has been my favorite “go-to” for years. In fact, a few years ago I nervously went in looking for an interview outfit and one of their team members helped me put together a dynamic look that was professional yet totally me. I felt so great going into the job interview that I landed the job right then and there. Catherine Carol Zurich Wus (on Women’s Exchange): Have been going for many many years. Love the upscale items and then with their prices sometimes you get the best buy—as a surprise!  Tiffany Dingley (on Goodwill): You can find everything you thought you wanted and everything you didn’t know you needed at Goodwill—all for an affordable price. Alex Miller (on Laura Jean’s): There’s a reason why most of the high end boutiques in Sarasota bring their overstock to Laura Jean’s, they’re the finest consignment clothing store in town. They’ve been around forever but manage to keep up with current trends and every time I go there I find something amazing. Lindsey McDaniel and her team are always helpful and super friendly. Dorothea Quinn (on Designing Women): Great value and great items.


Best Theatre Company

Winner Asolo Repertory Theatre

Competition rang fierce as Asolo Repertory Theatre and Florida Studio Theatre battled back and forth through the contest, with  Asolo Rep barely edging out first finalist FST by a margin of three votes to win the title Best Of and all those Broadway comparisons. Coming in at a solid second finalist position, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe wowed with an engaged and energetic cast and crew, while Urbanite Theatre and  Players Centre for Performing Arts came in at a tie for third finalist.—PL

Jean Farrington(on Asolo): Consistently stellar theater—best of the arts in the area! Highlights were Evita for fabulous staging, acting and costumes, and Morning After Grace for contemporary theater out of the ordinary. It dealt with issues of aging, which no one talks about. Funny and poignant simultaneously. Vivian Owen (on Asolo): The quality of their productions is far and away above the rest in town. Robert Trisolini  (on Asolo): The closest thing to Broadway. Jonathan Parks (on FST): Great shows, and they are at the cutting edge of improv in Sarasota. Christopher Collins (on FST): They do amazing work in the community for education that promotes literacy, as well as the performing arts. Regina Walker (on WBTT): Unique historical musical tributes and revues; addition of shows that tell the stories of other cultures of people of color such as the Afro-Caribbean culture. Bette Lou Cookson  (on Players): My affiliation with The Players goes way back. I started out on stage, got too busy at work and switched to being an usher. I have been doing that since 1985. Angelo Massaro-Fain (on Players): Great productions by our local community theatre. They have actually made a difference in so many lives. People don’t even know they have an excellent school that teaches theatre, voice and dance! Alex Miller (on Urbanite): Because I actually feel like I’m living in NYC for a brief moment. Cool and creative and very current. Jamie Coffey  (on Urbanite): So grateful to have this brave, real, smart company right here at our fingertips! Janice Bini (on Urbanite): Most creative use of small space to evoke setting. Thought-provoking plays, some work, some don’t, but they’re always interesting explorations and mature writing.


Best Brunch

Winner MADE

Quite possibly Sarasota’s favorite pastime, apart from strolling farmer’s markets and hanging at the beach. Prime brunching spots became a hungry topic for voters this year, with many praise for our winning competitor, MADE, who literally made a name for themselves with the renowned Billionaire Bacon. Station 400 held on tight to its first finalist spot, while both Tableseide restaurants, Libby’s and  Louies Modern sneak into the category this year for the second and third finalist rankings respectively, kicking State Street and Shore out of the running! Grab your brunch squad–it’s clearly time for mimosas. —BM

Gina White (on MADE Restaurant): Two words: Billionaire Bacon. Enough said. Christina Walker  (on Station 400): A long time favorite. Sure to please everyone, and keeps its standards high. Pablo Rodriguez  (on Station 400): Can’t say enough good things about it. Just a wonderful local experience. Dale Clancy (on Libby’s): The food and service are wonderful. They have vegetarian and gluten-free options and the Bloody Mary bar is fabulous! Holly Johnson (on Louies Modern): Fresh and made-to-order stations. Waffle with Nutella. Fresh seafood station. Yummy baked goods. Salad and fruit bars. $5 bottomless Mimosas. What’s not to love?


Best Private School

Winner Incarnation Catholic School

Many parents want to send their children to private school in the Sarasota-Manatee area. So what can readers teach us about the choices? Incarnation Catholic School graduated to the top of the class this year with our voters. The secular  Out-of-Door Academy came in at the salutary first finalist spot. Sarasota Christian School scored as the second finalist, with Cardinal Mooney High School and St. Stephens Episcopal School tying as third finalists in the category.—JO

Robin Serbin (on Incarnation):My son and daughter both attended Incarnation from kindergarten through 8th grade and we couldn’t have asked for a better educational and personal upbringing. The school was small enough that the teachers knew each student over the years and it was like a huge extended family. As adults, now in their thirties, both my son and daughter have fond memories of their Incarnation years and are still close friends with many of their classmates. I’ve recently been asked to serve on their school board and am extremely impressed with their strong STREAM curriculum, integrating science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math. Cynthia Pflug (on Incarnation): I have been inspired and greatly moved by the students’ compassion. I have witnessed fundraising and life celebrations in an effort to try to help a young student with cancer. I witnessed virtually the entire school attend her funeral, and knew how difficult it was for so many. I have seen students rally around a friend whose mother had cancer, and later flood the funeral in celebration of her life and to support the family, some who never knew her. I am inspired by the teachers I work with. They are innovative, fair and know their students and their job well. I am inspired by my students who are so invested in a book we are reading, they are laughing and crying when the robot gets in trouble. Aimee Odette (on Incarnation): What strikes me the most about Incarnation, aside from the highly committed teachers and faculty, is the way the students are with each other. From the youngest in the school, to the “oldest,” the 8th graders, they take care of each other, they look out for each other, they laugh, play and learn with each other. My children have learned to be assertive yet kind and loving leaders who were more than ready for their next challenge, high school. Angela Massaro-Fain (on ODA): The very best education by teachers who truly care. The graduates are college-ready and actually succeed in life. Kristin D’Agostino  (on Saint Stephen’s): Saint Stephen’s is not only an elite college prep school but it is a family as well. This school is the absolute best.


Best Bloody Mary

Winner Libby’s Cafe and Bar

Despite its namesake, even Protestants and Catholics can agree that vodka, spicy tomato juice and a whole slew of crunchy greens represent the true path to salvation. Or, at least, salvation from the last night’s hangover. Libby’s Café and Bar won over the voters this year with its huge selection of ingredients and penchant for customer customization, bringing home the Best Of crown. Close on its heels, the folks at MADE Restaurant left a staggering impression on their guests with the inclusion of the famous billionaire bacon to the mix, being named first finalist for their trouble. Following up, but with votes falling off considerably,  Shore Diner and Boca brought out the fans for a second finalist and third finalist finish, respectively. —PL

Helane Abramowitz (on Libby’s):  Normally, we would not order liquor during the day but our dear friends were celebrating the engagement of our son with us and wanted to “cheer” to The Bloody Marys. The bar is an “all you can drink and embellish” bar. The drinks were blended perfectly and “dressed to the hilt.” Everything was fresh and tasty. We couldn’t have been more pleased.   Bailey Spasovski (on MADE ): We’ve gone to MADE a handful of times before but after a great night at an amazing wedding we popped in here to grab brunch and a cure for the common hangover and the Bloodies were exactly what we needed. The staff at MADE was quick to accommodate our large group of 15 and were so hospitable in offering food suggestions for all of our drinks. The Bloody Mary was the perfect mix of food meets booze and the right amount of spice.  Arianna Fallacaro (on MADE): Because there’s billionaire bacon in it, duh. Jennifer O’Brien (on Shore Diner): Shore’s Bloody is the best because when you order one, it’s like having a Christmas present from that friend “who just gets you” delivered to your table—perfect every time! It is pretty special, not to mention intricate, with all of the garnishes they include. Janice Bini (on Boca): Includes all the must haves—olive and celery and spice and salt at rim.


Best Hair Salon

Winner Cutting Loose Salon

The competition for Best Local Salon cut it close this year. We witnessed a whopping three-way tie for third finalist. The people of Sarasota really care about their hair. Most entrusted with local locks is Cutting Loose Salon. First finalist for their daring ‘dos was  Nuovo Salon Group. Snipping away the title of second finalist was Fresh Salon and Spa. Third finalist was a tasty tie between Marmalade Salon and Boutique, Tangerine Salon and Yellow Strawberry—MH

Kaley Hazeldine (on Marmalade): Marmalade has a truly beautiful atmosphere. From the moment you walk in and get a whiff of their summery candles and the beachy atmosphere, you are immediately relaxed. Jenna, one of the owners, is personable and can totally be trusted with your hair.  I am a very easy client and usually just say ‘just cut it’ and leave it up to her. The entire staff is so friendly and I feel like I can spend all day there with them. Definitely a top notch salon with a casual vibe. Renee Williams (on Cutting Loose): I have been in Sarasota for threeyears now. I am not good with change in my life, so I was very nervous when it came to looking for a new doctor, new dentist, new everything. But, a new hair stylist was probably most worrisome, because if I’m having a bad hair day, I’m having a really bad day! I just happened upon Cutting Loose on Main Street. And, they just happened to have an opening with Carrie Bowman. I have loved her from the very first haircut. She does my cuts, style and highlights, to perfection. Two of my daughters live elsewhere and they both go to Carrie when they are in Sarasota.   Jan Young (on Nuovo Salon Group): Nuovo on First Street is a lovely and relaxing venue for many services. One that I use the most frequently is its pedicure service. I go to Camie for her to pamper me and my lower legs and feet frequently. She is great, the salon ambiance is soothing and the gals at the front desk [are] most welcoming. Lucy Baugh (on Fresh Salon and Spa): I love Fresh Salon and Spa because my stylist, Maddy Fenner, makes my hair look totally perfect every time. The team is always on hand with mimosas so you can truly unwind, and the salon itself is clean and luxurious. Linda Ann Remley (on Tangerine Salon): I’ve been going to Kelly Friend for the last 27 years following her from a high-end salon to this cozy location. She is a color expert as well as genius at cutting and styling! I get so many compliments on my hairstyle and I’ve sent all of them to her! She makes Sarasota more beautiful, one person at a time!


Best Furniture

Winner Studio Q

To find a couch to sink into or décor that makes a space “you” are simple pleasures in life, and most readers feel that Quentin MacDonald’s Studio Q is the best in Sarasota at making designer dreams come true. Closely following as first finalist was  Baers Furniture or its wide variety and fair pricing. Last year’s winners were this year’s second and third finalists. Our second finalist was Home Resource and coming in third was Blu Home. —MH

Nanyc Corror (on Baers Furniture):  A great deal of our new home, comes from Baer’s. We learned to shop the June sales. They carry the best, we have never been disappointed. Sales people are knowledgeable and intuitive. This is a good time to thank you all again for being a first class store! Zachary Akison (on Studio Q): Quentin is a brilliant mind and can make any idea become reality. Elliot Himelfar (on Home Resource): Best selection of modern furniture in Southwest Florida, and outstanding staff. Jessica Park (on Blu Home): They have wonderful people who care to make things beautiful in your home!


Best Legal Firm

Winner Berlin Patten Ebling

Who’s in your court? Voters in our annual survey say they most want the legal team at Berlin Patten Ebling representing their interests when circumstances arise. Readers adjudicated Shumaker, Kendrick & Loop as first finalist, and settled on Williams Parker as second finalist. Icard Merrill  claims credentials as the third finalist in this case.—JO

Andrew Canoboy (on Berlin Patten Ebling):  BPE cares about making their clients happy more than any other law firm possibly could. There is no better group of lawyers and staff to handle your real estate transactions and business needs.  Heather Austin (on Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick ): I have referred two very close friends within the last 6 months – year. Both have been satisfied with the firm’s representation. Both individuals have stated they would use our services in the future, if needed, and would refer our firm to others. Maria del Carmen Ramos in our immigration department. Maria stands out because she is diligent, extremely responsive, and has the highest level of professionalism. Her clients believe she exceeds their expectations and they are continuously referring new clients because of their appreciation for her hard work, case achievements, and dedication. Minta Getzen (on Williams Parker): There’s no one I’d trust more.


Best Home Builder

Winner Neal Communities

There’s no home sweet home without homebuilders in town laying the foundations of this community. Tops among them, according to our readers, is Neal Communities,  the creator of many a community attracting residents to the region for decades. Nautilus Homes won the first finalist spot, followed by a tie second finalist between  Josh Wynne Construction and Voigt Brothers Construction. And third finalist in this category came down to a three-way tie between Murray Homes, John Cannon Homes and Yoder Homes & Remodeling—JO

Nancy Kulaga (on Neal Communities):   We bought a home built by them and absolutely love our home and community! Don’t know about other builders in the area but I was first attracted to the house plan, the size, and location. Knowing we survived Hurricane Irma without any damage to our home tells us we picked the right builder.  Steven Hagan (on Nautilus ): Quality of product and attention to detail and customer satisfaction is always the highest priority. That professionalism is not typically found in this industry. Ben Heiderscheidt (on Murray Homes): The house is now done and have not changed my opinion. One of the smoothest building experiences I have ever gone through.


Best Veterinarian

Winner Cat Depot

People will do just about anything for their pets, and it’s understandably one of the more stressful, sometimes upsetting errand to have to take your fur baby to the vet. Cat Depot sprints ahead once again as winner with their remarkable feat of sustaining a “No-kill shelter for five years running.” Clark Road Animal Clinic, Bay Road Animal Hospital & Sarasota Animal Hospital all tie for first finalist this year! Meanwhile, Bee Ridge Veterinary Clinic tails closely behind as second finalist and Gulf Gate Animal Hospital barks its way into runner up. Who’s a good boy?!—BM

Sarah Harrington (on Cat Depot):  They help animals and people. Their vet services and grants makes us as a community strong. So strong that you can receive fantastic vet care on a budget. Wendy Hacker (on Clark Road Animal Clinic ):  Everyone there cares for you and your furry, animal family members. Marjorie Cullum (on Bay Road Animal Hospital): Superb love and care for my pets for 20 + years.


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Best Jeweler

Winner Diamond Vault

Ooh la la, who doesn’t love a fine piece of jewelry? The following jewelers are the top ranked in the business for their trustworthiness and efficiency in repairs, along with their assortment and pricing being key factors for their royal success. Diamond Vault keeps our community sold on why they deserve to be the the sparkle of your eye for the fourth year running! Readers recognize Carats who makes a debut into the competition, securing first finalist. Estate Coin & Jewellry Galleria  received glowing reviews as second finalist, while McCarver and Moser finishes strong as close runner up. —BM

Gabriele Harris (on Diamond Vault): I wanted something unique—a blush pink sapphire. When my fiancé went in and looked, they had stones sent in and gave him several options to choose from. Their staff was so helpful and the result is a stunning engagement ring that certainly stands out. Ryan Skrzypkowski (on Diamond Vault): Amazing company- Ali is an inspiration to the whole community, and his sons are raising the bar even higher. Dorthea Quinn (on Carats):  Reasonably priced, covering every end of the spectrum. Knowledgeable, courteous staff, I trust them in buying and in servicing my jewelry. Steven Lafferty (on Estate Coin & Jewellry Galleria): Best quality diamonds with the best prices, and they price match. Leslie Laven (on McCarver and Moser): Incredible jewelry, excellent customer care. It’s a fun experience even just to go in and window shop.


Best Romantic Restaurant

Winner Ophelia’s By The Bay

There’s a reason the word Amore seems as associated with love as food. Our readers let love lead them to  Ophelia’s On The Bay, where the views incite as much romance as the dishes. Indigenous earned enough affection for the first finalist spot, followed by second finalist  Michael’s On East. And plenty a magic moment has occurred at Beach Bistro and Euphemia Haye which tied in the third finalist spot —JO

Tine Pinho (on Ophelia’s): We shared a few anniversaries at Ophelia’s (married 57 years this June) and reminisced our years together over our dinners. We just love this restaurant and it is one of our favorites to go for the best food, best service, best view and just a delightful evening. Jamie Meaney (on Ophelia’s): The last romantic dinner I remember with my husband was there. We had the best night and I was nine months pregnant with our son. It was an amazing night with twinkling lights and the sound of the water and the moon with the reflection on the water. The food is amazing but that’s secondary to the way it makes you feel while there. My husband and I split up and he passed away on Father’s Day. So that’s a date I’ll never forget. Kathy Wehrfritz (on Michael’s on East):  If you have to ask, it is because you haven’t been there. Joy Randels (on Beach Bistro): The food, the drinks and the location are always simply perfect.


Best Local Doughnuts

Winner Five-O Donut Co.

To be fair, perennial favorites La Dona Donuts crushed the competition yet again this year, but with news of its imminent departure at the end of the month, the mantle of Best Of passes to the newcomers at  Five-O Donut Co. where Christine Nordstrom works her magic and crowds gather for fresh croissant donuts near every day. The newly renamed Peachey’s Baking Company (formerly Amish Baking Company) rises in the rankings to first finalist, on the back of its massive and piping-hot glazed donuts, made to order and still-dripping with goodness. Rounding out that last donut hole in the list, Goldstar Donut Shop garnered a second finalist finish, despite temporary closure for repairs. —PL

Aaron Carlton (on Five-O Donut Co): Have you tried them? Killed my new years resolutions without hesitation. Sarah Firstenberger (on Five-O Donut Co): There are no words of the experience that is 5-O. Go...Eat...Take a silly picture and enjoy your new favorite spot. Kathie Moon (on Five-O Donut Co):  OMG Cronuts! Perfection. If you are going to be bad, this is the place to do it. Five-O-Donut is the home of the best cronut in town, a sort of croissant that is fashioned into a square glazed donut. If you love regular glazed donuts, don’t miss this one. Warning: could become habit forming. My favorite experience is to arrive soon after they open at 7am, just for the wonderful smells of fresh donuts. Get a cup of coffee and cronut and drive down to Island Park for a waterside cronut picnic. When America’s annual National Donut Day rolls around on June 1, 2018, I know where I’m going— Five-O-Donut Company. LeeAnne Swor (on Peachey’s Baking Company): Absolutely the most delicious donut ever! Discovered them while they were parked on Pineapple Avenue for the Burns Court Sip, Shop & Stroll. Homemade, hot, huge, dripping with glaze! The pretzels are amazing too! Ended up hiring the truck for our neighborhood “12 Drunks” Holiday Party—Sadie and her crew could not have been sweeter! Great people with the best donuts on the planet!


Best Coffee

Winner Perq

In the biggest upset of the competition, Perq gets knocked off the top podium this year! Just kidding-–roasting fellow competitors and winning the cup for the FIFTH year in a row, these guys have “No competition,” according to coffee enthusiasts and die hard Perqians alike. Brewing the battery acid for our souls in a laid back milieu, The Clever Cup heats up as first finalist.  Kahwa initiates itself into the Best Of competition due to friendly baristas and fresh ground coffee every time. Buddy Brewtails tightly behind as third finalist with chill cafe vibes, serving up some of the best beanery Sarasota has to offer. Hope Starbucks isn’t too bitter about this. —BM

Andrew Marlowe (on Perq Coffee Bar): I consider myself a coffee lover and try to make my own espresso and flat white at home.  Every time I go to Perq they are my reference for what coffee is supposed to taste and smell like. Nobody else comes close. The atmosphere is relaxing and they treat me like I’m at home in my living room. Elizabeth Kough (on Clever Cup): The Honey Latte is actually to die for. The atmosphere is always welcoming and upbeat and filled with friendly people. Even if I go weeks without stopping in, the owner knows my name and my order. Joanne McCobb (on Kahwa):  Best Cappuccino and more so because it is served in an actual ceramic cup. Great low0key atmosphere that supports artists.


Best Dentist

Winner Dr. Michael Dorociak

Who would you entrust with a drill on your molars? Our readers endorse the dental wizardry of Dr. Michael Dorociak of Sarasota Family Dental. Readers also endorsed the expertise of Dr. Stephanie Cole at The Smile Centre, this category’s first finalist. Dr. Thomas Doan at Exceptional Dentistry of Sarasota carved out a spot as second finalist while third finalist  Dr. Kevin Krause capped off the list. —JO

Karol MacDonald (on Dr. Doraciak): My first visit to Dr. Doraciak’s office was over 22 years ago. Dr. Doraciak stands behind his work 100 percent. One crown that he did on a back tooth didn’t hold very long and he totally redid it at no additional cost to me. And the cherry on top is that he sings oldies while he works—and has a great voice! Jim Koeniger (on Dr. Doraciak): My Dad’s a retired dentist. I know great dentistry. Dorociak is the best. His office is pristine. His staff is fantastic. He’s amazing. He doesn’t oversell you on stuff you don’t need yet. Keeps your natural teeth going as long as possible. Scot Conrad (On Dr. Cole):  I was overwhelmed by her great personality and personal attention that I received during my visit. I haven’t been to a dentist before with such enthusiasm for their profession and positive outlook.


Best Architect

Winner Mark Sultana

Sarasota takes its architecture seriously. So who do our readers think can add to a streetscape filled with Rudolph and Lundy? Once again, Mark Sultana of DSDG Architects wins our poll, with voters celebrating his vision and design.  Jonathan Parks of Solstice Planning and Architecture adorns the first finalist space on our list. Javier Suarez of Apex-Studio Suareze holds design on the second finalist spot while Michael Halflants of Halflants & Pichette comes in as third finalist.—JO

Shelley Rubin (on Mark Sultana): Sultana’s visual style and POV: Clean lines. Simple but dramatic. Modern but timeless. Practical with a wow. Our home on Alderman Street—It’s all of the above. For the last three months we’ve had the pleasure of waking up in our new home, new city that was a great collaborative effort with Mark.Brian Jones (on Sultana): What makes a great architect is more than visual; it’s understanding how to actually build something. That’s one of the areas where he excels. But in terms of his design I appreciate his take on Sarasota Modern style and his use of organic materials. Christine Alexander (on Jonathan Parks): Jonathan Parks makes spaces I want to be in. I’ve performed at Florida Studio Theatre since 2001 and when the city proposed a parking garage on Palm Avenue, I thought maybe it would be an eyesore in my precious FST radius. And then suddenly, strangely, here was this cool parking garage with sails where I could hang out and get a cup of coffee or a bite to eat after a show (oh yes, and park!). Now with the Art Ovation Hotel, I feel like he’s really extended the streetscape and activated Palm and Cocoanut like never before! David Ohrenstein  (on Parks): He designs buildings that are thoughtful and considerate to the user and the neighborhood. He elevates the artful nature of Sarasota with each of his buildings.


Best Contractor

Winner Nautilus Homes

Taking on projects far more ambitious than a snail shell,  Nautilus Homes boasts a reputation among our readers for custom, ambitious contract work. Voters installed  Josh Wynne Construction into the first finalist place in this category. Willis A. Smith and Voigt Brothers patch a tie for second finalist while Tandem Construction and DM Constructors fill in the foundation in a tie for third finalist.—JO

Patty Dittman (on Nautilus): Very cutting edge and accommodating to all styles of homes. Wendy Cox (on Josh Wynne): Josh Wynne custom- built our home in Nokomis. He did a fantastic job and the house is beautiful. He can look at a house plan and will incorporate his creativity and inspired ideas to make the house uniquely yours. Each of his homes has character and reflects the thoughtful care and attention to detail that make it a Josh Wynne house. Josh will take the time to find out what the homebuilder wants in a house—even if it takes hours of meeting time. And with his skill and commitment to excellence you will see those ideas come to life before your very eyes. He knows how to pound a nail and understands the building process so he knows what needs to be done and how it should be done. And he stands beside his work. Jamie Coffey (on Willis Smith Construction): Nobody better in this town than this team of folks. Kameron Hodgens  (on Tandem): Peter [Hayes, founder] and his family are good, honest folks. Mike Bauzas (on Voigt Brothers): Excellent engineering and easy to work with. Herbert Kreppel (on DM Constructors): On time, in budget, safety conscious, great superintendents.


Best Paddleboarding

An outstanding new category to the Best Of SRQ competition, and clearly a highly regarded free-time hobby/workout for Sarasotans. Naturally water lovers here on the Gulf Coast, many voters had quality content to share, including the hot spots for easy loading and docking, ideal places for wildlife sightings and picture-perfect settings for calm currents and peaceful retreats. Favored destinations included much of Lido Key– South Lido Park, Ted Sperling, and the Mangroves. Turtle Beach in Siesta was understandably mentioned numerously, along with Big Pass/Longboat Key. Meanwhile, Myakka Park and Robinson Preserve also are noted as less crowded, adventuresome locations off the beaten path.—BM

Laura Gilkey (on Lido Key): Lido Beach is my favorite place to go paddleboarding. Depending on my mood, I put the board in the water at Shell Road, Ted Sperling Park, or near the Lido Concession Stand. Each spot provides a unique experience. When I want to paddle long distance for exercise, I begin at Shell Road (on Siesta), paddle across Big Sarasota Pass, and follow the South Lido coastline before heading back again. Ted Sperling is a magical launch spot for adventuring through the mangrove tunnels. And on a clear, calm day, there’s nothing like paddling from the Lido Concession Stand out toward the horizon. I’ve seen stingray, dolphin and manatee while paddling there. It has been such a blessing to me to be able to get away on the water and connect with the beauty and light that makes Sarasota so special. Robert Barylski   (on South Lido): Best variety, from overgrown mangrove tunnels to open bay and gulf. Jewell DeMarco (on Turtle Beach): Love paddling down the intracoastal on calm waters, then crossing to the gulf and heading back on the “rougher” waters. Vince Ciamaichelo (on Turtle Beach): There are so many different routes to take, it is scenic, there is a little history and a few locations you can run ashore and picnic without running into another person. Rob Brown (on Myakka Park): Surviving the alligators. Linda Ann Remley (on Big Pass): Little waves and lots of marine life. Joy Randels (on Robinson Reserve): Peace and quiet with miles of mangroves and beaches. The huge variety of sea life too!


Best Accomplishment

Winner Kill-Free Cat Depot

In a region filled with successful people, what do our readers feel stands out as the greatest achievement of the community as a whole? Saving the fuzzy felines among us. The fact Cat Depot closed out a fifth consecutive no-kill season earned high marks from our readers. Just behind establishing a pet paradise, hosting a successful World Rowing Championships at Nathan Benderson Park came in as the first finalist success. And of course, then the region managed to survive the wrath of  Hurricane Irma which secured plenty of hopeful votes from the still standing.—JO

Carolyn Simmons   (on Cat Depot’s successful season): Cat Depot has successfully accomplished a no-kill kitten season in Sarasota for the 5th year in a row. Jina Foltz (on the rowing championships): Being  able to host sooo many people from around the world while keeping the city locals moving was amazing!


Worst Community Blunder

Winner Bring Back Parking Meters

Just a few years after uninstalling parking meters won our poll as the community’s top success, the decision to bring the quarter-consuming robots back to the streets garners top blunder. Sigh. But there’s plenty of other problems irritating our readers. Like the endless construction of more roundabouts, our first finalist in the category no one wants to win. Plenty of votes also came in complaining about overdevelopment and constant construction, though in that race for scorn, nothing won as much attention as the rising of The Vue in Downtown Sarasota. And plenty of other blunders won fistfuls of votes themselves, from the tragic drowning death of Snooty, the world’s longest-living manatee. And take heed MTV, nobody in this part of the world has any use for your version of Siesta Key.—JO

Chris Voelker (on restoring meters): Reconsidering parking meters to make up for budget deficits, which could have been avoided if the commissioners had better planned and financed the parking structure. Kim Pletch (on not wanting her MTV):  The fallout around the time the Siesta Key series on MTV was set to premiere and the animal abuse by some local kids was highlighted. Ashley Light (on missing a manatee): RIP Snooty.


Best Manatee Elected Official

Winner Commissioner Vanessa Baugh

Exit polling put Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh in place for a repeat victory in this category. Just behind her was Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston, first finalist and another strong performer among the voting bloc that is SRQ readers. County Commissioner Betsy Benac secured enough votes for the second finalist, narrowly edging fellow County Commissioner Carol Whitmore who finished as third finalist in this critical election.—JO

John Fain (on Commissioner Baugh): Vanessa has been a trusted friend and active in the community since relocating her business to Lakewood Ranch. I immediately noticed that she was independent and had a passion for making Lakewood Ranch a better place to live. Vanessa has passionately worked to make government accountable and to work within a defined budget. This does not always endear her to everyone but she consistent and always stays the course on difficult issues.  Joy Randels (on Mayor Poston): I first met Wayne on a Saturday morning at the Bradenton Farmers Market. He was and is friendly and down to earth with a genuine interest in people in our community. These are unique qualities in my experience with most politicians. He takes the time to listen to people in the community, from kids to seniors and from every socioeconomic background, race and gender. He’s the kind of person I want helping guide our future. When Sarasota didn’t want Darwin Santa Maria’s craft brewery. Wayne called and welcomed him with open arms.


Best Sarasota Elected Official

Winner Commissioner Paul Caragiulo

Paul Caragiulo already announced he won’t seek another term on the Sarasota County Commission but at least one more election win was apparently in the cards. The spaghetti-hawker-turned-politician continued his winning streak in this category, which he’s been winning since his first term in city politics. Meanwhile, newly-minted Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody won the coveted first finalist slot, ahead of state senator-turned-Sarasota County Commissioner  Nancy Detert, the second finalist this year. Sheriff Tom Knight seized the third finalist position.—JO

Greg Twarowski  (on Commissioner Caragiulo): He has worked toward a better tomorrow for the biggest groups of people while not forgetting about the little guy. I remember looking at his Facebook posts when Irma hit us, showing all the extent of out-of-state contractors working day and night to restore life as usual.  Warren Simonds (on Commissioner Detert): Nancy and I first met some 20 years ago. Her record of public service both locally and in Tallahassee is incredible. I really appreciate her dedication to the arts. As a member of the Film Commission, I particularly appreciate her support of incentives to attract filmmakers locally. The return on those dollars is returned to the local economy five-fold. Dan DeLeo  (on Tom Knight): I first came to know him when we both went through Leadership Florida together several years ago and I found him to be a genuine, caring person who was guided mostly by common sense. Sherriff Knight has generally been about uniting the community as opposed to focusing on issues that divide us. He has been a leader on many criminal justice issues but especially the handling of non-violent drug offenders.


Thank you to the outpouring of our readers who voted in this year's Best of SRQ Local Readers Competition celebrating everything fabulous and local in Sarasota and the Bradenton Area! See you next year!