Why such an immediate response from the public? It is not because of the grand opening fanfare — there is none — nor the saturation of ads with discount coupons, which are non-existent. This gushing public desire comes from the anticipation and expectation of a great dining experience in a new Caragiulo restaurant. Pent-up demand, created and cultivated over the years, the result of consistency, quality, experience and value — all critical success factors in the Caragiulo formula.
All new restaurants deserve an initial period of time to work out operational details (menu, staffing, food quantities, etc.) and to train staff in real-time operating conditions. The Shore Diner is no exception. To be fair, I would usually not review a restaurant with such short tenure. However, given the velocity of the diners and the trajectory of the restaurant’s popularity, I thought it fair to share initial thoughts while holding space for a more formal review in the future.
South Beach Comes to St. Armand’s
One word sums up our first visit to Shore Diner: “WOW!” The space is impressive — a large, open-air area divided into three distinct sections with the bar taking center stage. The front of the restaurant overlooks John Ringling Boulevard and offers outdoor table seating, a dark, wooden slatted floor, couches and large cantilevered umbrellas; certainly a touch of South Beach. The bar area is expansive and bright with terrazzo flooring, tables and open doors to the outer rooms. The back room is transformational, a covered space by day and an open-aired alfresco dining space by night, all made possible by the retractable roof which is opened nightly.
An Eclectic Menu
The menu at Shore offers a number of choices from small plates, salads, entrees, desserts, and of course drinks. We chose the following:
- Shore Cocktail: Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain, cucumber, mint. $10.00
Cool and refreshing, the taste of summer in a glass.
- Roasted Beet Salad: Myakka cress, local grapefruit, Alabama goat cheese, beet green pesto, sherry vinaigrette. $9.00
If you like pesto and beets, you will love this salad.
- A Nice Salad: Local baby lettuces, shaved olive oil-marinated vegetables, herb vinaigrette. $7.00
Fresh and colorful, nicely presented, a little light on the shaved veggies but good nonetheless.
Sweet and tangy, a wonderful combination of taste and texture.
Fried Oyster Sliders: Kimchi, Tabasco tartar, butter lettuce. $12.00
- Maine Lobster and Shrimp Tacos: Blackened cabbage, corn slaw, chipotle-avocado cream. $15.00
A delicious combination of flavors and textures with a little kick from the chipotle.
- Tom’s Mother’s Meatloaf: Griddled peas and carrots, smashed potato, mushroom gravy. $18.00
A vertical plating of soft-textured, flavorful comfort food.
- Key West Shrimp and Scallops: Lemon risotto, local greens, roasted cherry tomato, lemon oil. $27.00
Good-sized portion. The risotto was flavorful and creamy, the fish was sweet (but the scallops were a tad too salty for me), all in a nice presentation.
As one should expect from any new restaurant, the menu is being “tweaked.” A few items we tasted but did not write about because they are no longer offered. There is no bread service at Shore.
A Sure Thing
Life has surely taught us there is no such thing as a sure thing. This is especially true in the restaurant business where people expect perfection all the time. In six short weeks, we observed significant changes from the staff at Shore Diner. The abundant anxiety of inexperience has morphed into energetic, engaging confidence. This staff development, coupled with the wonderful ambience and the Caraguilo formula, make this new restaurant a Shore Thing.
465 John Ringling Blvd
Sarasota, FL 34236