Dinner & A Holiday Show: Performances & Restaurant Pairings
Plan a meal downtown before or after catching a performance at one of the theaters nearby with these 10 pairings
Who doesn't love dinner AND a show? And luckily, Sarasota County isn't called Florida's Cultural Coast® for nothing.
Enriched by its myriad of arts and culture offerings, that if you can't be walking the busy streets of Manhattan to catch a Broadway show, you might as well be here, with a slow-paced yet electric performance scene. Theater, playhouses and performing art venues are all around town – but even better, they are located close by to some of the county's best dining neighborhoods and downtown sectors.
So plan your holiday trip to Sarasota around a double-dipping night out with an astounding local restaurant and showstopping performance to really get you in the holiday spirit. After all, 'tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. Here are 10 dinner and a show pairing ideas to keep you fully entertained for your holiday getaway – in no particular order!
Within a two-minute walking distance from one another, both Sage SRQ restaurant and the historic Florida Studio Theatre both reside off of 1st Street and Palm Ave of Downtown Sarasota. Begin the night with an international culinary fine-dining experience with some of the best craft cocktails in the city and one of the best rooftop views of downtown.
Keep the car parked and walk right down the street to Florida Studio Theatre (FST), providing intimate and engaging settings for high-quality performances. Snag tickets to Deck The Halls, brand-new rendition of everything that makes Christmas and Hanukkah in Sarasota special, or one of FST's hilarious Improv shows, which will certainly have your belly is in stitches from all the amazing food and laughs.
Right across the street from one another on Pineapple Ave, the French-inspired Bijou Garden Cafe is the perfect place to have a few glasses of fine wine and global fare in an intimate ambiance before strolling over to the Sarasota Opera House, with the perfect size and acoustics for live opera. You’ll leave the outside world behind for an unforgettable experience of music, lights, costumes, sets and vocals.
And while the concert season doesn't technically begin till February, The Sarasota Cuban Ballet School will be presenting holiday favorite, The Nutcracker at the Opera House, featuring classic choreography and the beauty of Tchaikovsky’s score, with scenery and costumes conceived exclusively for the school by legendary theater designer Steve Rubin. There will be two showings on select Saturdays of December – don't miss this magical evening!
For the more daring, hip theater buffs, this is a pairing for you to lock in a weekend night out. Both located right in the heart of downtown on 2nd Street, and within a one-minute walking distance of one another, 99 Bottles Taproom & Bottleshop is the perfect place to stop before AND after a thrilling performance at the intimate, black box-style Urbanite Theatre.
Though much of its season doesn't get going till after the New Year, many will be happy to hear that The Burdens was extended till December 4, a zany, twisted and inventive dark comedy that reminds us it’s much easier to write what we could never say face to face. Top off the evening with a matching dark brew, perhaps a winter stout. At 99 Bottles, you'll find 34 rotating craft beers at any times, as well as a nice selection of wine and an elevated bar bite menu or pop-up kitchen from a local chef.
The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida (WBTT) is the only professional black theatre company on Florida's west coast. Through the years, WBTT has received numerous awards and gained a reputation for high-quality, original, thought-provoking and sizzling performances. Located in the artsy neighborhood of The Rosemary District, one will be able to catch a show close to Downtown Sarasota (about a 5 minute drive) and then make their way back downtown to the fun, lively taco and bourbon joint known as Circo. Enjoy artisan tacos a la carte, paired with a bourbon or mezcal cocktail to wash it all down!
Grab tacos and drinks before or after catching WBTT's presentation of Langston Hughes' Black Nativity, its Christmas card to the community, adapted anew every time its staged. Black Nativity is a celebration of the nativity story, with gospel, blues, spiritual and Christmas music, paired with the poetry of Langston Hughes and the creativity of WBTT. All ages will enjoy this high-energy, inspiring show, which runs multiple nights throughout the month of December.
Historic Downtown Venice
Further south in Historic Downtown Venice, share a bottle of wine or mixed cocktails over shared tapas at Cafe Venice Restaurant & Bar, an intimate, bistro-style restaurant and dishing up New American cuisine. Right across the way, one block over and through the scenic Centennial Park, make your way to the nationally acclaimed, community Venice Theatre.
And if you're here for the month of December, don't miss one of the many performances of the classic Christmas Carol musical. Travel to Victorian London for its original musical adaptation of Dickens’ classic story, where you’ll meet Ebenezer Scrooge as he reflects on his past, present and possible future with original book and lyrics; original music and additional music.
Over in Englewood, make your way to Farlows on the Water for tropical cocktails and unique flavors of the Caribbean with a delicious southern twist. Fresh local seafood and hand-cut steaks served in our indoor and outdoor dining will set the scene for a fantastic meal before heading over to Lemon Bay Playhouse, just a short 6-minute drive away.
The Lemon Bay Playhouse is Englewood's community theatre that produces seven plays every season, such as You Know I Can’t Hear You When The Water Is Running, a comedy of mini skits – including I'll Be Home For Christmas, light and humorous but at its base, is serious and touching as it shows parents discussing the sex education of their almost adult children.
For a truly magical evening, cruise over to Sarasota's Bayfront Park to catch sunset at the waterfront location of Marina Jack, featuring four restaurant concepts in one spot: fine dining, outdoor patio, indoor piano bar and lounge with live music nightly, and a banquet room. After a nice dinner, head straight up on Tamiami Trail to the iconic purple building of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall to have a seat at one of the 1,741 seats of its Roskamp Auditorium.
Throughout the month, have your pick at any number of shows and performances – from the Sarasota Orchestra's Luminous Colors and Cirque Musica: Holiday Wonderland, to Million Dollar Quartet Christmas and different variations of The Nutcracker, including re-mixed, re-imagined hip hop rendition and the more classical one from the International Ballet of Florida, plus more! Shows at Van Wezel sell out fast so check out its box office to lock in an audience spot!
Conveniently, both of these spots are located in The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Right on Bayshore Road, find Asolo Historic Theatre, an elegant Italianate theater reconstructed from an 18th-century original staging of a jewel box setting. In the midst of the Art of Performance season, Asolo's popular program presents six different performances – featuring relevant and provocative time-based art across a range of performance disciplines that include dance, music, theatre, puppetry, mixed media and performance art, as well as contemporary circus arts.
Depending on whether you attend a matinee or an evening show, walk across the way to The Ringling Grillroom for lunch or dinner to enjoy the museum's Modern American restaurant, located on the ground floor of the McKay Visitor's Pavilion and overlooking the grounds of the beautiful Ringling estate.
Historic Downtown Venice
Downtown at the Venice beachfront, treat yourself to a Gulf view and seafood meal at Crow's Nest Marina Restaurant, famous for its tide-to-table, fresh-caught and local seafood, as well as choice steaks and chops, and an unbelievable wine list. Dine upstairs in the dining room for a lovely view of the marina or at its more casual downstairs tavern.
Just a short 7-minute or so drive back into Historic Downtown Venice, save your applause for Venice Institute of Performing Arts, where many different upcoming events will take place during December – including The Nutcracker by The Sarasota Ballet School, Holiday Harmony by The Venice Chorale; Venice High School Band's Winter Concert: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year and more!
Nokomis and Venice
Catch the sunset over the water at Pop's Sunset Grill in Nokomis for tropical drinks and delicious seafood favorites. This waterfront landmark is well-loved by locals and tourists alike for its casual island atmosphere and fresh local fare. Straight down the road on Tamiami Trail, about a 6-minute drive, pull into into The Venice Symphony, whose concert season includes a mix of masterworks, modern classics and popular symphonic music.
Saturday night plans should include catching the popular Saturday Nights at the Symphony to experience acclaimed Music Director Troy Troy Quinn, the musicians and renowned guest artists – right from the front row of the balcony or the best seats in the orchestra.
As of now, all three Saturday night showings of A Holiday Season Spectacular, featuring the Sarasota Key Chorale are sold-out, but you can still call 941-207-8822 to get on the waiting list for a chance to experience a symphony of sounds from your favorite holiday songs and melodies. If you can't squeeze into this one, try again for the next show in the series at the start of the new year!