Exploring Siesta Key: A cozy house party

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Taco treasures, a bevy of beers make Island House Tap & Grill a must-visit

By Jane Bartnett

Hanging out at Island House Tap & Grill with owner Troy Jenkins felt like being on vacation. Jenkins has a way of making everyone who drops in at the cozy casual eatery, in the heart of Davidson Plaza in the Village, feel at home.
It was a Taco Tuesday and the busy lunch-time hours had passed. “Yeah, we had a busy day so far,” said Jenkins as he looked around at his outdoor patio that still had a fair number of tables occupied at 3 p.m. “We have indoor seating for 22 and a comfortable number of tables on the outside patio that we share with (neighbor) Gabbiano’s.”
Tacos filled with chicken, gulf shrimp, tuna, lobster, and the very popular grouper cheeks are just one of the menu items for which Island House Tap & Grill is known. Jenkins highly recommends the grouper cheeks in a taco or in one of the restaurant’s signature bowls.
“Tacos are a big focus. Our chef creates 25 sauces that are unique to us. They’re a labor of love,” Jenkins said.
Having tasted them, I’d say he’s right about that.

Troy Jenkins serves one of 12 craft beers on tap at Island House Tap & Grill in Davidson Plaza. Below, the critically acclaimed Steakhouse Burger. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

Speaking of neighbors, Jenkins can’t say enough about all the small businesses in Davidson Plaza. “Gabbiano’s is a great neighbor. It’s a great little plaza. We all work very well together,” he said.
Looking across the parking lot, he noted that “the Siesta Key Wine Bar owners are also good friends, and we deliver directly to their customers who just tap into our app, place an order, and we walk it right over,” Jenkins said.
He also noted that when the new Kilwins Siesta Key ice cream and dessert emporium opens he expects that both businesses will also complement each other.
When asked if there are any future plans for his restaurant, Jenkins paused thoughtfully and said “I’d love to expand into the space next door to us,” referring to the area formerly occupied by Edward Jones Investments.
Before Island House, Jenkins spent most of his career in the Sarasota real estate market. “I bought my first house at 19 and got my real estate license in 2002,” he recalled.
In addition to managing the restaurant, he is also an owner/managing broker at Realty Executives, based in The Landings Shopping Center. So, just how did a successful real estate guy get into the restaurant business?
“I was looking for a craft beer location,” he said. “Good food, scratch kitchen, farm to table.”
In 2018, when the Davidson Plaza space became available, he decided that it was the perfect location for this new venture. It has come to be a favorite casual Siesta Key dining spot.
Island House burgers, I told Jenkins, are starting to rival the tacos for star billing. When the popular Sarasota restaurant blog “Sarasota Bites” called Jenkins’ Steakhouse Burger a “big, delicious burger” and one that “tastes like a burger should: meaty,” the word was out. The blog also praised Island House Tap & Grill for having “one of the best craft beer selections in Siesta Village.”
A delicious burger and good craft beer, we both agreed, make for one great meal.
Craft beer, Jenkins explained, is the kind of beer you don’t find at any old place. My mind drifted back to my college days. One day at Fordham University’s college bar, known then as The Ramskeller, a fellow student taught me the fine art of tapping a keg. I’m pretty sure it was Budweiser. Craft beer was much too fancy for us.
Thinking about the more plebeian types like me who still like the old boring stuff, I had to ask — and he assured me that yes, Bud, Bud Light and Stella are on the menu. For those with a more refined beer palate, you’re in luck too.

The Steakhouse Burger

On any given day, Jenkins advised, Island House offers 12 draft beers and 40 different packaged beers in cans and bottles.
“We switch out the selection every week. Some of our beers are constant but the others are from small distributors,” he said.
European beers, beers from all around the U.S., as well as local Sarasota and Florida beers await the visitor.
“People really like Belgian beers,” Jenkins said. “They also like what I call candy cane beers. They’re sweet tasting.”
Several non-alcoholic beers in bottles and cans to stay or to go are also available.
“We also have a great wine selection of reds, cabs, chardonnays and hard seltzers,” he added, “Some of our 25 wines are sold by the bottle.
“We’re a family place and we also offer a kid’s menu and soft drinks.”
The location is 5110 Ocean Blvd. Happy hour runs every Monday through Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. and there’s live music every Friday and Saturday evening.
Menus and more are on the restaurant’s website at islandhousetapandgrill.com. Or call (941) 487-8116. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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