This New Dining Guidebook Gives Sarasotans a Chow Down Cheat Sheet

Arts & Culture

Small and Shrewdly Specific, A Sarasota Dining Guide by Roxanne Baker. Photo Courtesy of Bookstore1Sarasota.

The guidebook is marked by a distinctive stereotype. Identifiable as a well-worn tome poking out of a duffel bag or a pristine beacon to new adventures waiting on the highest shelf at the bookstore, the guidebook lives in a land separate from readers’ real lives. But, how could a guidebook help people delve deeper into the places they experience every day in their own cities?

For Bookstore1Sarasota Bookseller Roxanne Baker, one could write a book about the myriad of ways that guidebooks could aid Sarasota residents, especially when it comes to dining. “Almost every shift, someone, from couples to families of four, comes into the bookstore asking where to eat,” she says, “and I wanted to tailor a book to them.”

Baker describes herself as someone who loves food, but not cooking, a combination that has led her to explore the nooks and crannies of the growing Sarasota food scene. In her new book, Small and Shrewdly Specific: A Sarasota Dining Guide, she shares 30 of her favorite local go-to establishments. “I wanted to create something specific and to tell people about the ambiance of a place, because that’s important. Whether you’re a family or a romantic couple, I designed a key with the specific items that people care about,” she adds. Unlike listing only the price and type of cuisine offered, Baker’s key reflects her careful observation of restaurant goers and their innate desires. She notes which restaurants offer valet service, a necessity for many elderly folks, and shares her intele regarding the dress code. “Sarasota is fashion conscious,” she says, and her guide helps readers avoid making the faux pas of wearing flip flops where heels are appropriate. No restaurant feature is off the table; Baker even provides handy information on the air conditioning intensity, saving many a diner from being so busy shivering at the table that they barely taste their meal. She groups the restaurants by general location, such as Downtown, the North Trail or Siesta Key, for readers to decide whether they can travel to their destination on foot or need a car, although renting a bus full of foodie friends is an ideal way to experience the restaurants listed.

Notable stops include Knick’s Tavern and Grill as well as Shilla Korean Restaurant. A small pub tucked away from the hustle and bustle, Knick’s serves up American food, including tasty burgers and charbroiled calamari, which in other eateries takes a back seat to its fried cousin. “I travel a lot, and there are some places where you don’t feel comfortable eating alone. Knick’s is friendly, and you can eat by yourself without feeling awkward,” Baker says, describing yet another of her selection criteria. A restaurant’s vibe also manifests itself in the pace of the meal, whether it’s a quick bite or a slow food experience. For the latter, she suggests sampling the Korean fare at Shilla, run by a mother-daughter team. “Everything is made to order, and the owners are so sweet,” she adds. “I wrote in the description that diners here have to make time to wait and not be in a rush.”

Baker’s guidance reads like the words of a friend because she aimed to give the book a fun and conversational tone accesible to anyone. But make no mistake, Small and Shrewdly Specific is as apt as a description for her recommendations as it is a commentary on the city’s culinary culture. “I once saw a famous singer eating somewhere that I would never dine at,” she says, “and I wanted to grab them and tell them to go somewhere really good.”

Small and Shrewdly Specific: A Sarasota Dining Guide will be available for purchase starting Saturday, July 22, in-store at Bookstore1Sarasota or online. Bookstore1Sarasota, 117 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, sarasotabooks.com.

Small and Shrewdly Specific, A Sarasota Dining Guide by Roxanne Baker. Photo Courtesy of Bookstore1Sarasota.

Bookstore1Sarasota

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