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SRQ DAILY Jun 4, 2024

Tuesday Dining and Food Edition

Tuesday Dining and Food Edition

"We were happy to be part of the First Watch initiative to reach its restaurant leaders with information on how they can support their teams as it relates to mental wellness."

- Colleen Thayer, Executive Director, NAMI Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

[The Dish]  Welcome to the Neighborhood
Kate Wight, kate.wight@srqme.com

Shawn Diehl and John Kuemmel first met in the corporate world when they worked together and had neighboring offices. Over time they went their separate ways professionally–Diehl took a job with Ernst & Young, while Kuemmel served as the CIO at IRONMAN–but they maintained a friendship. Both had busy schedules but they managed to meet up one Thursday night when they were both home in Tampa to have a beer and catch up at a corporate chain restaurant. The company was great, but the rest of the experience was underwhelming.

“John and I had a couple of beers and we were sitting there and we noticed the service was terrible, the music was terrible, three of the TVs didn’t have anything on them, they were just dead,” Diehl recalls. “I said, ‘We could probably do a better job,’ and he said, ‘You know, I think we could,’ and all of a sudden we were signing the lease on the building.”

That lease was for the original location of The Fat Rabbit Pub, which opened in New Tampa in 2017. Neither Kuemmel or Diehl had experience owning or running a restaurant. However, as frequent business travelers who dined out a lot, they knew what they were looking for in a dining experience and felt confident they could bring that to their own customers. Namely, a restaurant with good vibes, friendly staff, and a menu with a limited number of items all prepared exceptionally well. They translated all of that into an upscale neighborhood pub concept that quickly became a beloved local mainstay in New Tampa. In May of 2024, Diehl and Kuemmel opened a second Fat Rabbit location on Main Street in downtown Sarasota.

What corporate restaurants lack the most is a sense of identity or personality. That can be found in abundance at The Fat Rabbit, from the decor to the menu. In addition to installing a high-quality sound system, Diehl personally curated a music playlist for the restaurant with over 4800 songs. The walls are adorned with vintage memorabilia from groups like The Pretenders and The Go-Go’s, much from Diehl’s personal collection.

“John Hughes, the filmmaker from the eighties, used to say Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was his love letter to Chicago,” Diehl says. “The Fat Rabbit is my love letter to my adolescence, to my youth.”

The Fat Rabbit is well-known for a few menu items. One is their wings, which are unbreaded and fried, then tossed in your choice of scratch-made dipping sauce. You can crank up the heat with Cayenne Horseradish, or go tart and tangy with Key Lime Mustard. People also love the ½ pound burgers which are made with short rib and brisket and served on a brioche bun. Don’t forget to check out the Spuds section of the menu, which is entirely devoted to potatoes. And of course a pub isn’t a pub without a drink menu. In addition to wine and draft beer, The Fat Rabbit has creative craft cocktails including their signature Sugar & Smoke, which is their take on a classic old fashioned cocktail.

The Fat Rabbit in Sarasota is open from 11am through 11pm Sunday through Thursday and from 11am through 1am Fridays and Saturdays. It’s the perfect place to grab a late night snack or an after-dinner drink, but it’s equally great for a low-key lunch.

The Fat Rabbit Pub, 1359 Main Street, Sarasota, 941-780-1151. 

Pictured: At The Fat Rabbit, the 1/2 pound burgers are made with short rib and brisket and served on a brioche bun. Photo courtesy of Fat Rabbit.

[Mental Health]  Local NAMI Affiliate Presents to First Watch Restaurants Nationwide About Mental Health in the Workplace

NAMI of Sarasota and Manatee Counties this week partnered with First Watch – the Bradenton-based Daytime Dining concept – and its restaurant leaders across 530 locations throughout 29 states to foster open dialogue related to mental wellness in the workplace. Beth Walters, CRPS, peer development manager with NAMI of Sarasota and Manatee Counties presented, “Take the Moment: Fostering Open Dialogs, Cultivating Empathy and Understanding,” via a webinar that was recorded and viewed across First Watch’s internal network on May 29. The session focused on providing restaurant and Home Office leaders with information on how to give mental health support to those in need. Kate Kennedy-Lynch, director of external relations for NAMI National, also provided information during the webinar on how local NAMI affiliates are a resource in communities throughout the country. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. As a local affiliate, NAMI of Sarasota and Manatee Counties provides a variety of programs locally to raise awareness and provide support and education to individuals, families, and caregivers on their journey to mental wellness. “We were happy to be part of First Watch’s initiative to reach its restaurant leaders with information on how they can support their teams as it relates to mental wellness,” said Colleen Thayer, executive director of NAMI Sarasota and Manatee Counties. “Having the right workplace culture is a key ingredient toward fostering mental well-being among both employees and customers, and we are glad they asked us to be part of their initiative by providing this training.” With headquarters in Lakewood Ranch, First Watch is an award-winning daytime dining concept serving made-to-order breakfast, brunch and lunch using fresh ingredients and fostering a culture that puts its employees first. As a part of its “You First” culture, First Watch operates on one-shift-a-day, “No Night Shifts Ever” approach which allows its teams to enjoy their evenings and an improved quality of life. Because of these efforts, in 2023 and 2022, First Watch was named a Top 100 Most Loved Workplace® in Newsweek by the Best Practice Institute. May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month, First Watch focused its “Be a Better Human Learning Series” on mental health by offering a variety of presentations and resources to its employees. For more information about First Watch, visit FirstWatch.com. For more information about NAMI of Sarasota and Manatee Counties, visit NAMISarasotaManatee.org.   

[Arts & Entertainment]  The Sarasota Players Presents the World Premier of Happy Dale

The Sarasota Players is proud to present the winner of the 2023 Players New Play Festival, Happy Dale by local playwright Dan Landon, in a full production running June 13-23 at The Crossings at Siesta Key (3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34239). Synopsis: Due to outlandish behavior following his wife’s death, retired English teacher Ben Lieberman is remanded to “Happy Dale”, an assisted living facility. Lieberman is a natural rebel, and he quickly upsets Happy Dale’s dull routines and staff, turning his new friends and frenemies into accomplices and confidants. Can Happy Dale provide Ben with the education he doesn’t think he wants? Dates: June 13-15 and 20-22 at 7:30pm; June 16 and 23 at 2pm.

3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite 1130, Sarasota, Please park and enter the mall by Connor’s Steak and Seafood. 

For ticket information click here.

[Summer Activities]  There is Still Time to Register for Summer Art Camp at ACS

Join us for 9 weeks of creative fun where campers ages 6 - 14 will explore their creativity, learn about art, and create original masterpieces. (Select weeks are sold out. Please check website for availability.) June 3 - August 2, 2024, M - F, 9am - 3pm | Before and after care is available. Members: $275/week | Nonmembers: $350/week. Scholarships are available! Contact Holly at youtheducation@artsarasota.org if you feel you may qualify. 

To learn more, visit.

[Summer Activities]  Summer Youth Camp Aims to Boost Nature Connections and Knowledge

Limited spots remain open for a unique summer day camp that offers children and young teens a chance to learn more about nature and science while taking field trips to Sarasota County parks, preserves, beaches and more. Combining hiking, fishing, wildlife watching, exploration and other outdoor adventures with an array of indoor, hands-on, science-themed activities, the “4-H Exploring Your Environment" camp from UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County aims to help youth connect with and better understand the outdoor world. Studies have shown a marked decrease in the amount of time children spend in outdoor, natural settings. Having positive experiences in the natural environment, though, has been shown to benefit physical and mental well-being, as well as increase the desire to protect and preserve key ecosystems and settings. The “4-H Exploring Your Environment" camp, offered June 17-21 and open to youth ages 10-14, provides key steps on that journey. Camp runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (with before- and after-care available), starting each day at the Extension office in Twin Lakes Parks. From there, campers will travel to locations like Oscar Scherer and Myakka River state parks, Manasota Beach, and Mote Aquaculture Research Park for a day of outdoor experiences, before returning to the Extension complex. During field trips, planned outdoor adventures will showcase elements of nature, along with scientific methods to study and learn more about the experiences. Arts and crafts activities, food tastings, scavenger hunts and other youth development hands-on activities to further engage campers. Camp spots are limited, and advance registration is required. The five-day camp costs $200 per participant (scholarships possible), and includes activities, travel to and from field locations, and snacks during camp hours. For an additional fee, after- and/or before-camp care also is available. Learn more and register at https://srq4-hcamp2024.4honline.com, or get more information by emailing 4h@scgov.net or calling 941-861-9833. 

To learn more, visit.

[Recognition]  Sarasota County Honored with National Award

Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources (PRNR) has been honored with a 2024 National Association of County Parks and Recreation Officials (NACPRO) award, recognizing their outstanding achievements in 2023. PRNR was awarded the Outstanding Support Organization Award in acknowledgment of the invaluable support provided by Sarasota County’s Friends of Phillippi Estate Park. This group has devoted significant time and effort to preserve the historical legacy of the 60-acre Phillippi Estate Park, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Nicole Rissler, Director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, expressed gratitude for the Friends of Phillippi Estate Park’s commitment, “We are honored and delighted that the Friends of Phillippi Estate Park was recognized for their dedication and continuous support. Through a variety of fundraising efforts, they have contributed over $250,000 toward preservation of the history at the park.” The award is presented to an organization that has made significant contributions benefiting park and recreation programs, facilities, operations or organizational support. Friends of Phillippi Estate Park, a chapter of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks, is a nonprofit organization that promotes community support for Sarasota County’s parks. The awards ceremony took place during the NACPRO Annual Meeting on June 2, in San Diego, California. NACPRO, a nonprofit professional organization, advocates for official policies that promote county and regional park, recreation, and conservation initiatives. NACPRO is affiliated with the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).  For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 311 or visit scgov.net.  

[SOON]  FOOD: Geckos Grill and Pubs New Summer Menu , May 13 – July 31, 11am

NEW!! Gecko’s Grill & Pub’s have launched a special Summer Lunch Menu at all of our six locations.  With specials from our menu sure to delight you, including our award-winning ½ lb. USDA Choice Angus Gecko’s Burger, Sandwiches, our Signature 1992 Salad and more…for $8 you can enjoy our favorite time of the year with some of your fav Gecko’s dishes when you dine in with us for Lunch.  Always fresh, always made-to-order, join us to kickstart your Summer with our Summer Lunch specials from 11-3 Monday-Friday.  Dine In only. 

Gecko's, 1900 Hillview St, Sarasota, F

[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]  FOOD: Geckos Hospitality Group Iron Chef Challenge , May 13 – June 16, Various times

Join the Geckos Hospitality Group family of restaurants to celebrate the culinary creativity of your favorite Geckos Grill and Pub Chefs during the annual Geckos Hospitality Group Iron Chef Challenge. From May 13th to June 9th and June 10th to 16th each of our six Geckos will participate in a weekly special Iron Chef Menu, with several of our Chefs designing delectable and inventive fare, plus some tried and true favorites with a creative twist. The contest is a weekly competition between Geckos Kitchen Creatives, and guests may sample what the GHG kitchen pros have up their Chef Jacket sleeves. Whichever Iron Chef Special Menu is the favorite of our GHG guests for the week wins the Iron Chef title for that week and a cash prize with the Iron Chefs named after the competition knives have been cleaned and put away in June. There will be a Championship Final the week of June 10-16th, with the winning GHG location being crowned the Geckos Hospitality Group’ Iron Chef 2024 Champ. www.GeckosGrill.com.

[SOON]  FOOD: A Taste of Art , February 1 – January 31, 5:30-8pm
Longtime friends Chef Charles Amherst of Chaz 51 Steakhouse in Venice and Barbara Gerdeman, co-founder of Creative Liberties Artist Studios in Sarasota, have joined forces to create a series of interactive live art dinner showcases called A Taste of Art. The first of these events takes place Thursday, February 1, 5:30-8 p.m., at Chaz 51 Steakhouse, 549 US 41 Bypass N, Venice. The events will continue on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. Guests who visit Chaz 51 on these evenings will be able to witness the creation of captivating works of art in real-time. To make a reservation, call Chaz 51 Steakhouse at 941-484-6200. To find out which artists are scheduled for February, check out the calendar at CreativeLiberties.net.
[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]  FOOD: Geckos Grill and Pubs Trivia and Bar BINGO , April 26 – April 30, 7:30pm
If you love a made-to-order meal, cocktail specials and prizes while you play Trivia and Bar Bingo, join the fun at Geckos all year round. We will have prizes, giveaways and specials plus the Geckos hospitality you love. Monday TRIVIA will be held at the Clark Road location in Palmer Crossing with BAR BINGO on Hillview Street in Southside Village. Tuesdays is BAR BINGO at SR 70 and TRIVIA at Geckos on SR 64 and Stickney Point. On Wednesdays, TRIVIA will take place at the Hillview Street location in Southside Village. We will keep the good time flowing and make your week more fun. www.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]  MUSIC: Jazz Thursdays , January 11 – June 13, 5:30 pm-8 pm

Join us for live jazz at Sarasota Art Museum, hosted by the Jazz Club of Sarasota, featuring Hot Club of SRQ, and extended hours in the galleries, Bistro, and SHOP. Sip on refreshing cocktails and enjoy small bites in the Bistro. Each second Thursday of the month features a different style of jazz, from straight-ahead to free jazz, bebop to swing-programmed in partnership with Jazz Club of Sarasota. Galleries are open until 7 pm on Jazz Thursdays. Learn more and purchase tickets at sarasotaartmuseum.org.

[SOON]  SCIENCE AND NATURE: Summer Trivia Series , May 17 – July 19, 5-8pm
Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast is excited to announce the return of their monthly summer trivia series. Each month will have a different theme with a variety of questions covering categories ranging from history and pop culture to science and nature. The free community events will take place at the Bay Preserve headquarters in Osprey from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Trivia begins at 6:00 pm. Teams can have up to eight members and multi-generational teams are encouraged. Each month a different food truck will be onsite offering tasty options for the whole family to enjoy. One of our newest corporate partners, Sun King Brewery will also be present with samples of their award-winning craft beers. Be sure to stop by their Sarasota location on Thursday, May 30, when the brewery will be donating $1 to Conservation Foundation for every pint purchased. Learn more and RSVP at conservationfoundation.com/events.
[SOON]  MUSIC: Friday Fest , May 24 – October 4, 5-9pm
Friday Fest, the free, outdoor summertime concert series at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall returns with an exciting lineup of bands who will bring the audience to their feet. This year the festivities kick off in May. Each event runs from 5-9 p.m. on the lawn of the Van Wezel overlooking beautiful Sarasota Bay. Bring blankets or lawn chairs, take in the music and the sunset, and enjoy food and beverages from local vendors. Bringing in food, beverages and coolers from outside Friday Fest is prohibited. For additional information, visit VanWezel.org.
[SOON]  GALA: Celebrating Regional Art and Artists at Creative Liberties , June 1 – July 6

Creative Liberties Artist Studios and Gallery continues its season’s offerings with an all-packed June starting with the exhibit, “True Colors: Celebrating Pride,” June 1-July 6. Local artists will exhibit works in a color scheme that represents one of the colors on the LGBTQ+ Progress flag.

Creative Liberties, 901B Apricot Ave, Sarasota, FL 34237

[SOON]  FILM: Summer Movie Nights , June 2 – June 28, 5pm

Back by popular demand, the Summer Movie Nights provide a unique experience for everyone during the summer, while remaining fun and affordable. The 2024 Summer Movie Night lineup offers something for everyone. Summer Movie Nights will take place on most Sundays during the months of June and July, inside the stadium at CoolToday Park. The movies will be shown on the scoreboard and will begin at 5 PM each night. Children ages 3 and under will receive free admission, while tickets for ages 4-9 are only $3, and ages 10 and up are $7. Tickets are available now at the CoolToday Park box office, online at cooltodaypark.com/movies, or by calling 941-413-5004. Parking is free, seats will be available in the seating bowl. No outside food, beverages, or chairs are allowed inside the stadium. The Superior Pools Tomahawk Tiki Bar and Grill will be open for full dinner service.

[SOON]  SCIENCE AND NATURE: Piecing Together the Past , June 3 – June 7, 8:30

There are many things to explore and discover at The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature Summer Camp. Learn, explore, craft, play, snack, and have fun every day! Camp Times are 9am-3:30pm Monday through Friday with 8:30-9am Drop off & Pick up 3:30-4pm. $250 members/$300 non-members per week. Summer Science Camp is for campers in Grades 2-5, Ages 7-11 (starting second grade/Leaving fifth grade). What was Florida like more than 1 million years ago? Explore the animals and plants of this region during the Ice Age.

The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, 201 10th St. West Bradenton

[SOON]  MUSEUM: Wonder, Human Experience and the Arts , June 6 – June 9, Various times
As a museum complex featuring visual and performing arts alongside circus history and a Gilded Age mansion, all situated on a bayfront campus, The Ringling is truly a site filled with wonder. This interdisciplinary symposium explores wonder as a source of creative inspiration, artistic medium, and physical and social well-being. Join us for the full symposium or catch the not-to-be-missed keynote sessions, open to the public. To learn more, visit ringling.org.

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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