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SRQ DAILY Jan 23, 2024

Tuesday Dining and Food Edition

Tuesday Dining and Food Edition

"We tend to be very chef-driven in the menus that we produce."

- Tommy Villani, the Managing Partner for OTW Restaurant Group

[The Dish]  A New Taco Spot on Fruitville
Laura Paquette, laura.paquette@srqme.com

Let’s talk about tacos. They’re tasty, ubiquitous and versatile, with flavors based on everything from Mexican culinary traditions to Asian fusion twists. If you’re looking for a variety of tacos, then check out the new location of Irma’s Tacos in Fruitville Commons.

In 2017, Tommy Villani, the managing partner of OTW Restaurant Group which owns Irma’s Tacos, and his Executive Chef Mike Leopold owned Off the Wagon Brewery in Venice. After Hurricane Irma struck, Villani went to the restaurant to see how it had fared in the storm. Unlike most of the surrounding area, the restaurant still had power, so he and Leopold decided to open it. “He came in and looked at his inventory and said ‘I can make tacos. Chicken, steak and shrimp tacos are the only thing we can make,’” Villani says. “I think that day we served about 500 people, and we ended up selling out of tacos. There was one open Publix, and I think we bought them out of tortillas. At some point, we had to use pita bread that we had frozen to finish the orders up. That was something that got our name out into the community with Off the Wagon.”

Two years later, Villani expressed to Leopold that he wanted to change gears and do something different. Leopold shared his idea for a taco concept, which meshed well with Villani’s love of tequila and traveling to Mexico. In July 2020, the duo opened the first Irma’s Tacos in Wellen Park and sold Off the Wagon in 2022. The eatery's name stems from Hurricane Irma, which inspired the taco concpet. Many of the tacos on the menu are named after storms that, like Irma, occured in 2017. In October 2023, they opened the second location of Irma’s off of Fruitville, where diners can enjoy a variety of tacos in a vibrant and upbeat atmosphere. “We never claim to be an authentic Mexican restaurant. My Executive Chef Mike Leopold graduated at the top of his class from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and is a classically French-trained chef with an incredible background and creativity,” Villani adds. “We tend to be very chef-driven in the menus that we produce.” The menu features contemporary ethnic craft tacos, encompassing Old World favorites like carne asada and al pastor to playful combinations such as the Korean short rib taco.

“The al pastor is one of my favorites, and is a much more traditional Mexican-style taco with a housemade salsa verde, pineapple and onions and corn or flour tortillas made to order in-house,” says Villani. He also recommends the Arlene, with Korean short rib, kimchee, avocado and cilantro-lime crema. The menu features vegan and vegetarian options, like the Rina, with Nashville hot-fried cauliflower, lettuce, pickles and hot honey. Guests can pair their meal with a cocktail or sample the over 120 tequilas and mezcals on offer and can count on the educated and passionate servers to help them choose from a menu that encourages even non-tequila drinkers to sample the beverage. “We have an unbelievable staff that’s well-versed in all the food and oftentimes takes tequila classes and has good recommendations,” he adds. “From the minute you walk in there, with our amazing staff and the feel, you feel like you’re in a big city having the opportunity to enjoy contemporary, forward-facing food.”

Irma’s Tacos, 3080 Fruitville Commons Blvd., Unit 100, Sarasota, 941-217-6594, irmastacoswp.com. 

Pictured: Irma's Tacos is the place to enjoy tasty and inventive tacos. Photo Courtesy of Irma's Tacos.

Irma's Tacos

[Festival]  Temple Sinai to Host Annual Jewish Food Festival February 4, 2024

Temple Sinai is proud to host the 16th annual Sarasota Jewish Food Festival where thousands will enjoy a tantalizing day of traditional homemade Jewish delicacies. This indoor event is Sunday, February 4, 2024, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Temple Sinai, 4631 S. Lockwood Ridge Road (enter only from Proctor Road), in Sarasota. Temple Sinai members, “chefs and bakers,” will prepare a wide range of traditional Jewish food. The menu features hard-to-resist corned beef and pastrami from Carnegie Deli, bagels and cream cheese, kugel, blintzes, knishes, matzo ball soup, stuffed cabbage and more. Delicious home baked goods include cakes, pies, pastries, and cookies. The festival is free and open to the community. Tickets will be sold for attendees to purchase food. In addition, there will be craft and jewelry vendors, unique treasures, and an art sale. Suncoast Blood Bank will have a mobile unit on site all day and blood donors will receive a coupon for a treat from the food festival. A portion of the collected blood will be sent to Magen David Adom, Israel’s national blood bank.  To sign up to give blood, visit: tinyurl.com/yc4zr4yj This beloved event is in partnership with Aravilla and All Faiths Food Bank. All left-over food, books and other small treasures will be donated to those in need. For more details, contact Patty Glah at pmglah@gmail.com. 

Pictured: Jan Joseph, Marv Rosen, and David Weiss enjoying last year's Jewish Food Festival.

[Competition]  Pinellas Taco Fest 2024

Calling all taco masters and food fanatics! The Pinellas Taco Fest is back for its 3rd year, bigger and tastier than ever before! Get ready to witness a fierce culinary competition, indulge in endless tacos, and celebrate your love for all things taco-rific! Mark your calendars: January 27-28, 2024 (10 AM – 5 PM)  at England Brothers Park - 5010 81st Ave N, Pinellas Park, FL 33781. Here's what awaits you: Battle of the Bites: Over 20 local chefs will battle it out for the coveted title of "Best Taco in Tampa Bay 2024" in various categories, including chicken, beef, pork, seafood, and even "other" for the ultimate creativity showcase; Expert Judges: Food bloggers and community influencers will meticulously analyze appearance, flavor, and flair to crown the champion taco; Bonus Awards: Look out for the Most Creative Taco and the Most Craveable Taco awards, sure to tantalize your taste buds; Beyond the Tacos: Live music, a paw-some pet talent show, adorable adoptable pups, and a dedicated kid zone make it a fun-filled fiesta for the whole family; Give Back with Every Bite: Support a good cause! A portion of the proceeds benefits local animal rescue organizations. Ready to prove your taco prowess? Enter the Sunday-Funday Taco Eating Challenge and see if you can conquer a mountain of tortillas! (Entry fees apply) Admission and parking are COMPLIMENTARY! So come hungry, come thirsty, bring your dancing shoes, and get ready to experience the ultimate taco extravaganza! Follow us on Facebook (@pinellastacofest) or text  the Saucy Queen at 813-299-3600 for more info. Don't miss the Pinellas Taco Fest! It's gonna be legen-wait for it-dary! 

[The Dish]  JRS Packinghouse Cafe Now Open on Sundays

Due to popular demand, JR’S is now open on Sundays with a relaxed Funday menu. The new Sunday menu offers some of OPC’s favorites like their award-winning wings, BBq pork sandwiches, pork nachos, and an awesome Miami pork philly. Enjoy the new juicy Smash burger served single, double, or triple topped with American with fries and coleslaw just to name a few. The menu also offers fried queso chicken sandwich with fries and slaw, shrimp po boy with fries and slaw, fresh roast pork loin, mojo spiced, gently shredded and served with grilled onions, black beans, rice, and garlic toast. The award-winning Cuban sandwich and a Fisherman’s platter with fried basa, fried shrimp, and fried clam strips served with fries and coleslaw. JR’S Old Packinghouse Café is located at 987 South Packinghouse Rd. in Sarasota. 941-371-9358. 

[New Homes]  Seven Furnished Villa and Single-Family Model Homes Open in Brightmore at Wellen Park

Mattamy Homes debuts Wellen Park’s vibrant new lifestyle for active adults with the Saturday, Jan. 27, grand opening of seven inspiring, fully furnished model homes in Brightmore. The public is invited to attend the grand opening from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to tour models, enjoy refreshments and more. The models include paired villas and single-family homes nestled along cul-de-sac streets, lakes and wetland preserves.Wellen Park’s first community for 55+ active adults, Brightmore offers both paired villas and single-family homes with future robust resort-style amenities catering to lively and leisurely pastimes. The professionally decorated models represent Mattamy Homes’ 12 unique and inspired home designs, which feature coastal, transitional and craftsman exterior architecture and open-concept floor plans with large, light-filled main gathering spaces and lanais for outdoor living. Homes also have versatile flex rooms for dens, home offices or hobby rooms. At the heart of Brightmore’s robust experiential lifestyle are the future clubhouse and campus-inspired amenities featuring distinctive architecture and favorite gathering destinations for time with friends and family. The 21,000-square-foot clubhouse will offer a social hall, clubroom, cafe and bar, fitness center and group fitness studio. Engaging activities, entertaining events and programs will also enhance social opportunities and camaraderie with new friends and neighbors. A full-time lifestyle director is busy planning a year-round calendar of events, clubs and classes for residents to enjoy as soon as they move in. Residents will enjoy two pools – a 2,800-square-foot lap pool and a 3,700-square-foot resort-style pool with sun shelf and spa and a sloping beach entry. The resort experience will include abundant gathering areas, outdoor amenities including a sandy beach, shade cabanas with loungers and multiple firepit destinations. Brightmore’s 11-acre amenity campus will also have eight pickleball courts with a ninth stadium court, plus a yoga lawn, dining area and separate paw parks for large and small dogs. The neighborhood’s land bridge at its gated entry along West Villages Parkway is designed as an interactive green space with landscaping and a tiered fountain.Brightmore’s three paired villa and nine single-family home designs start in the low $400,000s. For more information about Brightmore, visit wellenpark.com/neighborhood/brightmore. 

Pictured: Mattamy Homes debuts Wellen Park's vibrant new lifestyle for 55+ active adults with the grand opening of seven inspiring fully furnished model homes in Brightmore.

[Forage]  Deep Roots
Andrew Fabian, andrew.fabian@srqme.com

DEEP ROOTS | New marquee Wellen Park concept brings style and ambiance to south county, January 2024. 

Read Here!

[SOON]  FOOD: Cooking for Wishes , February 22, 6pm
Save the date for the 14th Annual Cooking for Wishes 2024, presented by Exceptional Dentistry of Sarasota. The event features an interactive cooking dinner where guests at each table will prepare a one-of-a-kind 4-course meal led by Chef Jamil Pineda and Phil Mancini of Michaels on East. Guests will also enjoy specially-selected wines curated by Michael Klauber. The dinner and Wizard of Oz-themed gala will feature an exciting raffle and Live Auction for a festive evening of cooking, fun, and fundraising. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.cookingforwishes.com.
[SOON]  GALA: SRQ Social Valentines Formal , February 10, 7:30 to 10:30pm
The SRQ Social Valentines Formal on February 10th will be held in the exquisite Sarasota Art Museum lobby. This exclusive event promises an enchanting evening filled with waltzing, live music, and sophisticated entertainment, creating a classy affair with formal attire, a live violin performance, a photo booth, delectable food and drinks, and even a touch of poker. SRQ Social is a group dedicated to building a vibrant community of young adults in Sarasota. To learn more, visit facebook.com/groups/srqsocial or instagram.com/srq.social.
[SOON]  FOOD: Forks and Corks Food and Wine Festival , January 25 – January 29, Various times
The 2024 Forks and Corks Food and Wine Festival, hosted by the Sarasota Manatee Originals, will take place January 25 to 29. Grand Tasting tickets go on sale in October. A full five day slate of food and wine themed fun is planned, including the University Master Classes, wine dinners at area restaurants, wine shop tasting events, a trade tasting and the much anticipated Grand Tasting at The Ringling Museum of Art. Due to the unprecedented demand for tickets, ticket sales for The Grand Tasting launch on two consecutive Tuesdays: On October 10 at 9 a.m. there is a presale of the VIP and Early Access tickets and on October 17 at 7 p.m. General Admission tickets will be available and historically have sold out in a matter of minutes. All Forks and Corks Grand Tasting tickets will be available online only. For more information, please visit www.eatlikealocal.com.
[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Not Your Typical Trivia Night , January 10 – June 12, 6:30-8pm
Trivia is back at Hamlets Eatery in 2024 with a twist. Not Your Typical Trivia with co-hosts Mark Klecka and Scott Malouf of Sarasota Street Talk Podcast starts Wednesday, Jan 10. These two will not only test your knowledge but keep you entertained throughout the night. There will be Weekly prizes for 1st, 2nd and Place and surprises throughout the night. You can also join the cool kids club and win prizes just for coming each week. Doors open at 5:45 for dinner. Trivia starts at 6:30pm and will end at 8pm. Reserve a table for your team by calling 941-445-1938. Hamlets is located in the courtyard of The Bazaar on Apricot and Lime. 821 Apricot Ave. Seating is outdoors under a covered patio. For more info visit www.Hamletseatery.com.
[SOON]  SCIENCE AND NATURE: Coffee with a Scientist , December 12 – March 26, 10am

Join us for our Coffee With A Scientist series, a free public event held on Tuesdays in Boca Grande and hosted by Mote Marine Laboratory. Hear from Mote scientists on January 16, February 13 and March 26 as they share with you the latest in their groundbreaking research and their plans for the future with a Q and A session to follow. On Visit mote.org/pages/coffee to sign up and for more information.

[SOON]  FOOD: Late Night Happy Hour at Geckos on Hillview Street , November 29 – May 31, 10pm-Midnight
Join your friends, after-work buddies and the team at Geckos for our new Late Night Happy Hours. Every Friday and Saturday from 10 pm to Midnight, we will offer food, wine, cocktails and beer specials sure to prolong your weekend fun. Join us and ask your friendly barkeep or server about our Late Night Happy Hours. ONLY at Geckos on Hillview Street in Southside Village. GeckosGrill.com.
[SOON]  FOOD: Siesta Key Rum Distillery Tours , September 2 – September 30, Various times

Siesta Key Rum runs free year-round tours for guests to learn the story of the craft distillery, the awards they have won and the secret to how they make their rums taste so good. During our 30-45 minute tour we will discuss the following topics: history of Siesta Key Rum, an overview of the awards our small company has won, what makes our rums taste so good, the rum-making process from mashing and fermentation to distillation, barrel aging and bottling of our rums. After the tour, we welcome you to sample a freshly made Siesta Key Rum cocktail, stock up on your favorite rums and browse our gift shop. 2212 Industrial Blvd., Sarasota.

[SOON]  BUSINESS: Lets Connect at Oscura in Old Manatee , August 31 – December 26, 8:30-10am

Connect with local business owners at every Thursday at Oscura. Lets Connect is a community of collaborative business professionals from the Manatee and Sarasota County areas. RSVP on Eventbrite to attend, admission is free.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Geckos Grill and Pubs Trivia , July 1 – June 1, 7:30 pm

Geckos Grill & Pub’s Award-winning Trivia-Think While You Drink! If you love Trivia, join the fun at Geckos all year round. All Trivia starts at 7:30pm. We will have prizes, giveaways and specials plus the Geckos made-to-order fare, signature cocktails and hospitality you love. Monday trivia will be held at the Clark Road location in Palmer Crossing and on Tuesdays at the SR 64 location in Braden River Plaza. The SR 64 location will be taking a break from Trivia in October, but will start back up in April. On Wednesdays, trivia will take place at the Hillview Street location in Southside Village. www.GeckosGrill.com.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Fresh Harvest Farmers Market at Wellen Park , June 25 – December 29, 9 am to 1 pm

Visit Fresh Harvest, the newly launched weekly farmers market in Downtown Wellen. Fresh Harvest offers a selection of local goods from nearly 40 local vendors. Fresh Harvest takes place every Sunday in Downtown Wellen from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees can peruse different vendor booths and stock up on a variety of goods. Vendors will offer a wide variety of locally grown and produced food, including herbs, spices, cut flowers, teas, canned and preserved fruits and vegetables, syrups, baked goods, pickled foods, fresh seafood, meats, poultry, eggs, milk and prepared food and beverages. A limited selection of craft vendors also participate in the farmers market. For a listing of participating vendors and more information on Fresh Harvest Farmers Market, visit wellenpark.com/events/fresh-harvest-farmers-market. Downtown Wellen, 19745 Wellen Park Blvd., Venice.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Sights and Sounds at Waterside Place , July 28 – May 31, 6 to 9 p.m.

Head out to Waterside Place for a rocking evening as part of the Lakewood Ranch Sights and Sounds Program. Enjoy a live concert in partnership with Easterseals and EveryoneRocks, featuring artists who are rocking their spectrum. This event is free and open to the public; there is limited seating at the Plaza, but attendees are welcome to bring their own seats. Food and beverages will be available from numerous Waterside Place merchants. For more information on shows, dates, and times, visit lakewoodranch.com/sights-sounds/. Waterside Place, 1560 Lakefront Dr., Sarasota.

[SOON]  FOOD: Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch , September 3 – September 30, 10am-2pm

Experience some of the best food and flavors of the region with more than 100, and still growing, curated vendors. The Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch has fast become a favorite weekly tradition for people from all over the region seeking farm-fresh produce, delicious prepared foods, and specialty items and gifts. Aside from all the goodies you can shop at the Farmers Market, find your flow in a free yoga class or have the kiddos get creative during weekly-hosted workshops. 1561 Lakefront Dr., Lakewood Ranch.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Bradenton Market Returns , October 7 – May 25, 9am-2pm

Realize Bradenton is happy to announce the return of the Bradenton Market to its weekly schedule. This beloved community gathering will be held Saturdays through May 25, 2024 from 9:00 am - 2:00 pm on Old Main Street in Bradenton. Founded in 1979, the Market has expanded to include more than 90 local vendors. In addition to the weekly shopping and music, the Market hosts special event days throughout the season. Halloween at the Market will be held on Saturday, October 28. This family-friendly event includes trick or treating with vendors, face painting with Manatee School for the Arts Academic Team from 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, and a dance performance by Slick Motion Studios at 10:00 am. For more information, visit RealizeBradenton.com.

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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