This is our wonderful May issue, where every year the editors and you, the reader, choose the food, places and people that make Sarasota such a great place to live. Well, not so fast. I saw the preliminary list and I was appalled—so many important categories missing. So I’ve compiled my own Best of the Best list, complete with the real lowdown on whining, dining and who you should be gossiping about.
1 Best SchnitzeL | When the craving for a good schnitzel overtakes me, I head for the Schnitzel Kitchen at 6521 Superior Ave. in Gulf Gate. This real German restaurant has four kinds of schnitzel on the menu—Zigeuner, Jager, Krauterbutter and Holstein, and they’re all kostliches fensterblatt. Ask about Goulash Mondays and try the kugelhuph for a nice nachtisch.
2 Best Cemetery | When you come to think about it, this is an important life decision. I’ve decided on the old Palmetto Cemetery up in Palmetto, also known as the Yellow Fever Cemetery. (Gee, I wonder why.) It’s a tiny place, surrounded by old homes and a chain link fence. Second choice is the Manatee Burying Ground in Bradenton. But while I’m willing to live in Bradenton, I’m not sure I want to be buried there. It wouldn’t be much of a change.
3 Best Tattoo Parlor | Not all Ringling College students graduate and do animation for Pixar. The really good ones become tattoo artists at Oddity, Sarasota’s premier tattoo parlor, at 1178 Main St. The range of styles here is amazing, the cleanliness standards high. And they offer gift certificates for the gift that keeps on giving no matter how much you wish it would fade and disappear.
4 Best Big Sign Holder | Those poor people holding advertising signs by the side of the road certainly are the symbol of the recession. It must be a horrible job out there in the hot sun, forced to dance and wave. But on the other hand, they’re becoming local celebrities. I drive out of my way to see what Chandler, the guy in front of the gold-buying store on the Trail at Hillview, is wearing today. Or at least I call him Chandler, as he bears an uncanny resemblance to Chandler Bing from Friends. Many sign holders make fashion statements, but his is the best: sneakers with ankle socks, plaid Bermudas, a white button-down shirt with necktie.
5 Best Place to See Old Friends | These days, alas, it’s bankruptcy court. Can you believe how many businesses—and people—have managed to hang on this long, and then suddenly collapse?
6 Best Homegrown Star | Joey Panek. Two years ago he was a starving actor. Now he’s still starving, but he has morphed into Sarasota’s face to the world. First the Elf, now the star of Saratopia, that clever satire on YouTube. “Slow down, snowbirds!”
7 Best Knockers | This was tough. After much consideration of the many contenders, I finally settled on Kay Kipling. As our theater critic she has the rare ability to “knock” gently while bestowing praise. In a town full of extraordinary knockers, she’s way out in front.
8 Best Dreadlocks Maintenance | Go where I go—Organica Salon on Superior Avenue. Maintenance is $50 an hour. They play dope underground music from around the world, and all procedures are 100 percent cruelty-free. It’s also a great place to get pierced, and the head piercer, PeaT, specializes in genital work.
9 Best right-wing Firebrand | Rich Swier Sr. He makes Matt Walsh look like George Will, which, come to think of it, Matt Walsh does, anyway. Check out Swier’s posts on “Red County,” the right-wing blog. You learn the most interesting things. Did you know Iran has already tested a nuclear bomb? And that Anthony Weiner’s wife is a Muslim spy? And that bullying is actually good for gay youth?
10 Best Institute of Higher Learning | We’ve got New College, we’ve got Ringling College, but I’m voting for Fashion Focus Hair Academy. That’s where Greyling Johnson used to work as Academic Dean and Professor of Teasing. Students still go on field trips to see him perform as Lindsay Carlton in Drag Queen Bingo. That’s what I call a distinguished faculty.
11 Best Person in Town | Margaret Callihan. Yes, I know that she’s president of SunTrust and that SunTrust holds the mortgage on my house, and that I’ve missed the last two payments, but that’s not why I’m choosing her. I’m choosing her because she has done more for Sarasota than anybody I can think of. Her list of good works would fill the magazine, and she often can be found fostering shelter dogs and reading to the blind. And she’s so young. Imagine accomplishing all that before you’re 30. Vogue is begging her to model, but she tells them she’s just too busy making Sarasota a better place to live.