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Sarasota Originals

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Once again, I stumble into a uniquely Sarasota evening.   By Hannah Wallace   Some days, I might as well be in Omaha. Or Albuquerque. I’m surrounded by one-of-a-kind establishments—the pride of Sarasota—and I find myself bopping from Target to Starbucks to Bennigan’s, as if caught in some chain-brand tractor beam.   But other days, […]

February 28, 2008


Once again, I stumble into a uniquely Sarasota evening.
 
By Hannah Wallace
 
Some days, I might as well be in Omaha. Or Albuquerque. I’m surrounded by one-of-a-kind establishments—the pride of Sarasota—and I find myself bopping from Target to Starbucks to Bennigan’s, as if caught in some chain-brand tractor beam.
 
But other days, I’m pleased to report, I’m not such a corporate-zombie-consumer-drone, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. In fact, an unplanned night out recently reminded me of the varied grab-bag of recreation here—and how I keep getting drawn into it despite my inertia. My activities are guided by mood, impulse, finances and friends. If I happen to have done something related to my job, rest assured, it was by total accident.
 

That aimless Friday night began at O’Leary’s after work. CCB and I, tacitly agreeing not to plan more than one destination ahead, wandered up from the bayfront to lively Main Street for dinner at Barnacle Bill’s. There, we heard from Little J and Big J, who were meeting roommate Scooter at Utamaro. After hiking the three blocks to meet them, we’d burned off enough snow crab to enjoy some octopus nigiri for “dessert.”

 

Mmm…tako.

 
In the middle of sushi, a murmur of excitement passed over the restaurant: AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, hat and all, was getting dinner. We looked over at the rock star signing autographs, smiled and gave a little toast to the oddities of this town.

 

Brian Johnson likes sushi just like you and me.

 

From there, the five of us made the short trek to the other side of Courthouse Centre for my first visit to Evie’s Tavern. High-def TV in the floor as you walk in? Upstairs TVs surrounded by couches? I like this place. Even the crowd seemed less uppity than at Smoking Joe’s (which is otherwise similar). Maybe it was the sake; the whole place had a dream-like vibe. When I headed for the loo, walking through the door clearly marked “women,” I found myself in a stark-white hallway with four unmarked doors. And nothing else. It was like the Twilight Zone or something. Every door was locked. Eventually a girl walked out of one, and I could see that they were each individual stalls with their own sinks. What a cool idea. And how very confusing.
 
‘Course, the men’s room is even better. See those portholes along the wall? Yup, the boys can watch the TVs over the bar while they stand at the urinals. Lucky bastards.
 
[Random news brief: I’m told that the long-empty building next door—formerly Club Envy and Margarita Maggie’s before that—is set to become “The Venue.” No word on the nature of that place, but it’s a fantastic location, and a pretty cool (and pretty big) space, so I’m looking forward to getting back in there. In one of my first post-college Sarasota nights out, Little J and I happened upon Margarita Maggie’s (looking for night clubs in the yellow pages, heh) and were treated to a “Great Balls of Fire” stage show during which one of the bartenders lit some tables on fire and then gave everyone upside down margaritas. Good times.]
 
Now, as a capper to the evening, and I’m not sure how it happened, we decided to head to the Scoreboard, an establishment (of the naked kind) about which I have been severely warned. Actually, beyond the ‘80s neon décor, it wasn’t too bad. Each new dancer began her routine by soaking a towel in alcohol and wiping down the pole. Just like they do at Buckingham Palace.
 
Yep, Sarasota is a many-splendored thing.
 
Next week: Soccer! Fisticuffs! Wheelchairs! Lifesavers! The splendors of Sarasota continue on the field and in the theater.