Downtown Sarasota has gotten livelier as I’ve gotten older.
By Hannah Wallace
I turned 21 on a Wednesday in August several years ago. Downtown Sarasota was not exactly a happening party spot at that moment. And being an upstanding young lady (who’d spent her college years out of town), I had no idea where to go for my celebratory whiskey sour. My parents gave my companion and me directions to the Gator Club—which, on that day of the week at that time of year, was virtually empty, save for us two. The only other bar we saw was Tavern on Main, which we passed without hesitation, primarily because we’d looked inside and spotted some tough-looking middle-aged guy playing pool without a shirt.
I’m reminiscing about this now because last Friday (and many previous Fridays) I retraced my steps and had a completely different experience. Starting out with an hour at the Gator Club after work, I walked up to Utamaro near 301 to meet a group of friends (including that same 21stbirthday companion). After dinner (and ice cream from Cold Stone next door), we began our usual stroll down Main Street. Some nights we might have a drink or two on Esca’s terrace (overlooking the horde of teenagers that swarms on that corner), but this Friday we headed straight down to Tavern on Main for a little live music and an awesome variety of fashion: One guy wore a dapper pin-strip suit and fedora; another had his dreadlocks wrapped up a foot high on top of his head. We drank Flying Dog draft and chatted about starting a club in which authority was based on headgear—new members were consigned to baseball caps; our leader would wear a fireman’s helmet.
We hit the sidewalk again and headed farther down, past the corner of Lemon and Main, where Mattison’s and the Gator Club compete for Liveliest Crowd, past Smokin’ Joes and Patrick’s, where some nights we might stop to watch sports on TV, and past Cru Bistro, which used to be Good Times (and the Blue Parrot before that), where for a time we could hear other friends play in a rock band. Some nights we might have kept going to stroll around Bayfront Park, but this time we stopped in Selva Grill and relaxed for a while by the bar, sipping mojitos and watermelon-tinis.
From there we walked back.
(As an epilogue, the next afternoon I traversed Main again, jogging two and a half miles from my house to my car, which was still sitting patiently in the State Street lot, waiting for my sober return.)
The Gator Club, www.thegatorclub.com
Cold Stone, www.coldstonecreamery.com
Tavern On Main, www.myspace.com/tavernonmain
Mattison’s City Grille, www.mattisons.com
Selva Grill, www.selvagrill.com