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Sarasota’s fun factor

Now, I’ve been given an edict to keep this column a little more focused on “fun” and last weekend I was a woman on just such a mission. Usually I work every day (ah, the exciting life of a struggling writer). But since last week went down as one of my personal worst weeks ever, I decided to blow off the entire weekend, punch a hole in my wallet, and have a little bit of fun.

As a result, I discovered two way-cool places; both of them ridiculously high on the fun factor.

The first place I wound up on Saturday was someplace I’d been hankering to go for as long as I’ve lived here – Sarasota Architectural Salvage, at 1093 Central Avenue.

Owned by local Sarasotan, Jesse White, SAS isn’t so much a salvage as it is a heavenly holding place – the special treasures found here haven’t died and gone to heaven, they’re just in a little karmic state of suspension waiting for you to reincarnate them in your own home or yard.

I hadn’t been there more than a minute, when my spirits lifted considerably; my heart was ka-thumping in excitement. All kinds of stone planters, urns, bird baths, wrought iron gates, statuary – and that was just on the outside. Inside was almost even better — so much to see, I could hardly contain myself. Doors, bed frames, mirrors, funky furnishings, knick-knacks; it’s all there.

I rollicked through the rooms just head over heels in love with the place. If I had any money, this is the one place in Sarasota I’d drop it.

But even for the financially-challenged like me, SAS has something to charm. I took home two tiny cast iron cat statues that now grace my front porch. The fact that I got them both for under 10 bucks only adds to the gush-factor.

Cost of browsing: absolutely free. Fun factor: absolutely 10.

Later that night, emotionally recharged from my afternoon of treasure-finding, I drove down Siesta Key’s main drag looking for a bite to eat. I glimpsed a constellation of starry lights, pulled over – and found dining nirvana – at Maximo Restaurant & Safari Bar (149 Avenida Messina).

(I think the gods were watching my back this weekend – it was almost as if they were tossing these little places of magic in my path to help me feel better about living in the real world.)

Maximo is absolutely my new favorite place to be. Talk about heaven? Talk about fun?

All I can say is: molto bene, Maximo! (Apparently there’s a real live Maximo and he’s the owner.)

Franco, my waiter, was low-key, knowledgeable, and perfectly attentive – not too much, not too little. The chef, Junior, served up a mushroom ravioloni which was stupendously good. I had a South African wine – a Brampt Shiraz that was to die for, and sat outside at a small corner table, where a sweet breeze and hundreds of little white lights transported me completely out of any remaining funk from my disastrous week.

Cost: I’ll be living on Ramen noodles for the next couple of weeks, but for most people, it’s pretty reasonably priced. Fun factor: Five stars; even on my writer’s budget, I’ll be back.

These two places restored my sensibilities. They reminded me that there are still some parts of Sarasota where you are encouraged to slow down, browse dreamily through the past, take your time in the present, and feed your stomach … not to mention your soul.

Sarasota’s fun factor isn’t just found in the society page fundraisers. I think it’s more importantly found in places like SAS and Maximo — little pieces of paradise — locally owned, impeccably managed… and loads of fun.

Posted on October 17th, 2006Comments RSS Feed

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