Black and white restaurant facade of mattison's forty one in sarasota florida
The first year of Savor Sarasota was 2006

Savor Sarasota: 15 Years of Tasty Tradition

From humble beginnings, Savor Sarasota has grown from around 25 restaurants in its first year to nearly 100 in 2019. Here’s what else you might not know about our restaurant week’s 15-year history.

May 13, 2020

2020 marks the 15th year of Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week—an annual two-week celebration of our award-winning culinary community beloved by locals and visitors alike. From June 1-14, dozens of restaurants offer special multi-course, prix-fixe menus for $16 (lunch) and $32 (dinner).

A little history lesson

Visit Sarasota County’s commitment to helping create a vibrant, evolving destination often had to go beyond the beaches. In 2006, it meant listening to the needs of the community, and searching for a way to help locally owned and operated restaurants thrive in the summer, formerly an “offseason” for local dining.

Those who visited Sarasota County for the turquoise water, warm weather, and even the white, quartz-crystal sand of Siesta Key rarely ventured beyond their beach oasis. Little did they know that away from the shoreline, an impressive palate of culinary experiences awaited.

In 2006 Savor Sarasota was born with about 25 restaurants participating in first year. A positive sign was Michaels on East, Sarasota’s only AAA Four Diamond Award restaurant, being among the first to sign up, and a consistent participant in the program ever since.

Savor has not been impervious to experiments along the way, including the name. In the first year, the promotion was called "Spirit of Sarasota"—an attempt at a clever play on words to promote liquor sponsors. Restaurants were invited to create a tasty cocktail using those liquors, but few obliged, feeling more strongly that the food flavors showcasing the restaurants and their chefs outweighed the creation of fancy libations. Rest assured the following year, the name was changed to Savor Sarasota.

From humble beginnings, Savor has grown from a couple of dozen participating restaurants to nearly 100 in 2019—including 16 new restaurants—each dedicated to delight even the pickiest of palates. This is a welcome sight to those who worked hard to turn an annual restaurant week from dream to reality, but even better news for customers with more menu options than ever to enjoy and experience.

A Few Tips

Savor Sarasota is available through special pre fixe, multi-course menus curated by each restaurant. If you are like me, however, you may want to know before you go. Simply browse our searchable Savor database to find participating restaurants and their online menus.

As a daughter of a chef, I love learning about the people who grilled my salmon, placed it over the colorful bed of lettuce and arranged the small wedges of juicy tomatoes that is about to meet my lips.  After perusing the menus take a minute Meet the Chefs. These online bios help give us a glimpse into their culinary extraordinaire. I remember my own father sharing stories from his work at the old Colony Restaurant on Longboat Key in the late 1950s and early 1960s. To dad, food was art, an extension of himself that he gave to others and felt most connected to his community.

Hopefully, you too can find a small connection back to those chefs.

Why I love Savor Sarasota

I love communities supporting one another and being part of a bigger picture. I am also fond of food; connections grow while sharing a meal. At times I feel nostalgic during restaurant week because I wonder where my parents would go if they were still around. One of their favorite places to eat was the Golden Buddha. It was located on North Tamiami Trail and shaped an early love of Chinese food and peppermint ice cream with a fortune cookie. My sister’s order—fried chicken—is something we still bug her about to this day. Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week wraps up those ideals of community, connection and cuisine and has become one of my favorite times of the year.

Just writing about restaurant week and remembering how each year our staff at Visit Sarasota County divides and conquers several participating Savor Sarasota restaurants for lunch is enough to make my mouth water. Excitement permeates the office in anticipation of where we will go for lunch and it spills over into the restaurant even before we are seated.   

Last year’s lunch excursion led me to Alpine Steakhouse and Meat Market.  My diet consists mainly of veggies, whole grains, some chicken and fish, so eating at a steakhouse and meat market that’s known for beef, brat and Turducken (a handmade combination of chicken, duck and turkey with stuffing layered between each bird) was quite a stretch of my comfort zone. But that is what so great about Savor Sarasota – the special menus and pricing allows you to become adventurous, and sharing the experience with friends, co-workers and loved ones.

Fun Facts

Guy Fieri of the Food Network was also intrigued with the Turducken, so he traveled to Alpine Meat and Steakhouse in 2010 to learn more and take a stab at cutting a turkey.

According to Upserve, the idea for a restaurant week originated in New York City in 1992.  The program was created by Tim Zagat (think Zagat Survey) and Joe Baum, a renowned restaurateur in New York City who created themed restaurants like the Four Seasons Restaurant, which changed their menu based on seasons.

Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week -a tasty tradition that brings a community of family, friends and good food together, it does not get better than this.

So, get adventurous, grab someone to share the experience with and eat well.

Your meal is waiting.