By Jane Bartnett
April is a wonderful month to be in Sarasota. It’s the perfect time to do some local exploring.
Visit downtown Sarasota and park in the convenient, low-cost municipal parking. Then, hop on the brand new, FREE, open-air trolley called the Bay Runner. It will whisk you over to St. Armands Circle and Lido Beach.
Running seven days a week from 8 a.m. to midnight, the brightly painted trolley picks up passengers every 20 to 30 minutes, inbound and outbound. There are central downtown stops. Both the Palm Avenue Parking Garage and the State Street Parking Garage are a short walk to a Bay Runner stop. On St. Armands Circle, the Bay Runner stops steps away from the Filmore Drive Parking Lot and the St. Armands Parking Garage. Lido Beach has three stops. Each trolley is wheelchair equipped. Visit sarasotabayrunner.com.
Heading north in the coming months? There’s exciting transportation news from Sarasota Bradenton Airport (SRQ). Beginning in June, Breeze Airways is offering discounted introductory one-way fares on direct flights from here to Hartford, Connecticut. Breeze will also offer special rates for direct flights from SRQ to Norfolk, Virginia.
In May, 2021, the airline began direct flights from Tampa to Charleston, South Carolina. Visit Flybreeze.com.
Avelo Airlines began direct flights from SRQ to New Haven, Connecticut in January. Visit aveloair.com.
Around town, we have some exciting news on the restaurant front to share with you.
In the thriving culinary land called Gulf Gate, Healthy To Go, at 6582 Superior Ave., opened its doors just weeks ago. Featuring fresh Mediterranean vegan/vegetarian cuisine, customers can create their own combinations of dishes in the restaurant, or order online and pick it up to go.
The online menu offers selections that include lentil and orzo soups as well as a delectable collection of enticing vegetable dishes such as stuffed artichoke bottoms, stuffed grape leaves, and Celeriac with orange, a tempting Turkish dish. Salads range from tabouleh to quinoa, and classic Greek. Tempting desserts such as baklava and walnut stuffed figs to which are hard to say no.
Call (941) 447-3700. Open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit HealthytoGoFlorida.com.
At 1920 Hillview Ave., in the Southside Village neighborhood behind Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the long-awaited Meliora restaurant has opened in the space formerly occupied by Blase Southern Style.
Run by a celebrated Michelin-star chef from Washington, D.C., the vibe here is comfortable and coastal.
Decorated in teal, black and white, Meliora offers a contemporary “new American” menu with small Tapas-style plates featuring seafood, pasta and pork dishes as well as an exotic cocktail menu. Open for dinner, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Call (941) 444-7692. Make reservations at resy.com.
This summer, The Landings Shopping Center on South Tamiami Trail will welcome Florence & The Spice Boys restaurant. The new eatery will open with an immediate fan base, seeing at it began as a popular food truck offering delicious Middle Eastern dishes.
Next comes the transition to a brick-and-mortar operation. Follow its progress on Facebook at Facebook.com/spiceboyskitchen/.
The UTC shopping center continues to welcome popular new eateries, and bagel fans are rejoicing. Jersey Girl Bagels is now open at 5275 University Parkway.
A family owned and operated business, it has the bagels made daily from scratch. Drop in and find plain, everything, salt, sesame, poppy, onion, garlic, wheat, cinnamon raisin and French toast bagels to which you can sink your teeth.
Bagels are sold individually, by the half dozen, and by the baker’s dozen (13). Specially bagels are also offered daily.
A selection of spreads and sandwiches, along with some sweet treats, are also on the menu. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call (941) 388-8910 or visit jerseygirlbagels.net/.
Meanwhile, Five-O Donut Co. is opening yet another location at the UTC Mall at 81 N. Cattleman Rd., near Target and Chipotle. Check out some of the most beautiful and fancy donuts that you’ve ever seen or tasted. There’s just no end to the creative talents of the Five-O. team. Open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., or until the donuts are sold out. Saturday and Sunday hours are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., or until sold out. Call (941) 358-7661 or visit fiveodonutco.com.
Two more great dining spots are expected to open soon at the UTC mall.
One is 3 Natives, a cafe focused on healthy juices, smoothies, aca bowls, salads and wraps. Look for it in the West District. Visit 3natives.com.
Another anticipated new arrival in the West District is the Lebanese-inspired Al Forno De Libano. Kebabs, pita bread sandwiches, and other fresh Lebanese dishes will be on the menu at its location of 83 N. Cattlemen Rd.
In other news around town, the Tidewell Treasures resale shop held its grand opening on March 14 at 5441 Palmer Crossing Circle, in the Palmer Crossing Shopping Center. Set in a bright and spacious locale, it’s just several doors away from Bealls, Office Max, and the Walmart Neighborhood Market.
Shoppers will find an abundance of great vintage and retro buys. Previously loved furniture, books, clothing for men, women and children, glasses, dishes, paintings and all kinds of unique treasures are waiting to be discovered.
Proceeds benefit the Tidewell Foundation. The foundation “provides grants to Tidewell Hospice for charity care, complementary patient services, and free grief service for more than 8,000 clients, according to the website.
Call (941) 552-7555. Open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit tidewellfoundation.org/about-us/tidewell-treasures/.
The Easter Bunny is coming to Lakewood Ranch on Saturday, April 9, 9:30 to11:30 a.m.
Hop to it and get to the annual EGGstravaganza at 7301 Island Cove Terrace, Waterside Park, Lakewood Ranch.
Kids can hunt for more than 10,000 Easter eggs by age groups and enjoy face painting, pictures with the Easter Bunny, and refreshments. A $10 admission for Lakewood Ranch residents. $20 for non-residents.