When we tallied the voting in this issue’s “Best of 2007” readers’ poll, 227 winners and finalists rose to the top, in categories from best new restaurant (Rustic Grill) to best controversy (those 18,000 undervotes in the District 13 election, of course). That’s an impressive number of “bests”—but as the anything-but-impartial editors of the city’s magazine, we happen to think Sarasota has even more. One of the joys of our job is keeping tabs on what’s new, noteworthy and wonderful about living in this sensational place; so we’d like to share some of our personal “Bests of 2007.” With thanks to these editors and contributors: Susan Burns, Dan Denton, Ilene Denton, Judi Gallagher, Kim Hackett, Kay Kipling, Mary McCulley, Megan McDonald, Bob Plunket, Bill Speere, Richard Storm and Hannah Wallace.
Best quick trip to
Best reason to go to the movies: How about a waterfront cinema that serves coffee and wine? Sarasota Film Society’s new lakefront Lakewood Ranch Cinemas also has stadium seating, state-of-the-art projection and sound, and a smart mix of top
Best beach to experience the essence of
Best new outdoor dining: Under the sheltering arcade at 5 Points Plaza, the tables outside Americano’s are the perfect place to watch the
Best place to find top chefs on their night off: dining on the Hawaiian fusion specialties and sampling the world-class wine list at
Best blow against global warming:
Best way for grown-up guys to get their game on: the pick-up basketball game from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Berlin YMCA on Monday, Wednesday and Friday attracts execs, journalists, former NBA players and city officials, but the only position that matters is the one you fight your way to under the basket.
Best place to take a meeting: At O’Leary’s at
Best highbrow party: The opening of the new Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing at the
Best South-of-the-Border comfort food: The Mexican women who took over the deli at the Shell station at the corner of U.S. 301 and Northgate are ruining our diets with their beef mole over rice and tamales wrapped in corn husks.
Best coffee shop: Metro, where your latte or chai comes with designs imprinted in the foam, folks get out their guitars and play, and a hip young crowd considers the tables and sofas their living room away from home.
Best rising stars: The hamburgers at Greer’s Grille in Gulf Gate and Americano on
Best revival: The Merchants Association’s decision to bring downtown’s New Year’s Eve celebration back with a bang; this year, 22,000 people heard three bands, cruised the outdoor bars and food vendors and watched a gigantic orange drop at midnight.
Best cross-cultural creation: the brisket quesadillas at the new Lee Roy Selmon’s in
Best new reason to love living downtown: the new Publix at Broadway Promenade combines suburban abundance with a smart, city-style layout.
Best way to chill out at sunset: At the Ritz-Carlton’s little Bay View Bar & Grill, order a blood orange daiquiri and a lobster quesadilla while watching boats bob in the marina and the sun sink slowly into the bay.
Best populist theater: At The Backlot, where every little group doing anything from cabaret to piano jazz to edgy performance art has a chance to find an audience. Power to the people!
Best breath of fresh air: the new young retailers who are serious about making downtown a shopping destination, investing heavily in their inventories and staying open late and for special events.
Best show of optimism: In a down real estate year, Lakewood Ranch opened The Lake Club, where 1,100 glamorous residences will sell for $1 million to $8 million, with nary a beach or golf course for miles.
Best place to read the Sunday Times: Over buttermilk pancakes or the Mexican omelet at the counter at Word of Mouth in Gulf Gate—and the scones may be the best in town.
Best spot in the expanded
Best proof that
Best trip back in time: The 50th anniversary of the Hob Nob Drive-In should inspire every true Sarasotan to take a seat at those outdoor tables along U.S. 301 and order a wax-paper-wrapped cheeseburger and a red basket of fries, topped off by a root beer float.
Best place to eat at the bar: The intimate downstairs bar at the new
Best way to get your groove back: Drive up to
Best way to start a weekend morning: With eggs Benedict at Chef Paul’s diner at the Days Inn on the North Trail. The Hollandaise has just enough tang, and the home fries are out of this world.
Best brand-new beach: A $12 million restoration project on south Siesta Kay has enormously expanded once-narrow
Best cannolis: Those cheese-filled dreams at Paisano’s Italian bakery on
Best places to set up a mobile office downtown: Since the city’s wireless service is still spotty, roaming workers head to Whole Foods, with its own network that works both outside and in, or Selby Public Library, with wireless, tables—and big windows for people-watching when your focus wanders.
Best local version of Cheers: Shakespeare’s English Pub on
Best unofficial park: On Bird Key, people are hanging out at the pretty green space by the Ringling Causeway and enjoying one of the best views in
Best grade point average: This year our own New College of Florida was named the No. 1 public liberal arts college in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and No. 1 Best Value by Princeton Review.
Best Asian salad: Believe it or not, it’s at a Scottish bar in Lakewood Ranch—McAllister’s Asian chicken salad with ginger dressing.
Best free entertainment and enlightenment: Every week, our eight bloggers sound off on politics, food, theater, nightlife, shopping, city issues, their personal lives and much more at sarasotamagazine.com. They range from hard-partying GenXtra girl to a comic novelist turned real estate junkie; you won’t find a more engaging mix of