Sandwiches now share center stage at Big Water eatery
A steaming-hot grilled Reuben sandwich, packed with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing, between two slices of rye bread.
It’s a wonderful thing to behold.
It’s even better, when done properly, as you sink your teeth into it. For transplanted New Yorkers, it’s a taste of home.
For all those who long for the hot deli sandwiches and subs that they enjoyed “up north,” the long wait is over. Look no farther than Big Water Fish Market’s new deli in Crescent Plaza on Midnight Pass Road. This is where deli lovers will find these perfect delicacies.
Scott Dolan, who owns the shop, is a big fan of Reubens and other such sandwiches. The Midnight Pass Pastrami sandwich, Reds Pressed Cuban, Big Ten Brisket Hero, and East Coast Roast Beef sandwich complement a selection of other favorites such as bagel and lox sandwiches, egg salad on a wrap or sandwich bread, and chicken noodle soup.
While it’s all authentic deli fare, the steamed offerings are the creations that Dolan is most proud of.
“I’ve got deli in my blood,” he said, recalling his early days growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“There were lots of delis in Ann Arbor,” he added, and Dolan broke into the food business helping his father with a produce facility and indoor farmers market.
After college he relocated to a booming Atlanta market that was a big draw for many northern residents. In 1990, he opened a New York-style deli that grew to three locations, in addition to a baseball concession stand.
“Atlanta was young and growing and transplanted New Yorkers were especially missing their delis,” he recalled. “I was one of the first people to open a deli.”
In 1999, Dolan sold his Atlanta deli, packed his bags, and in 2000 relocated to Sarasota. In 2011, he decided that the time was right to open a fresh fish market and restaurant serving Siesta Key. He called it Big Water Fish Market.
“Before we opened here in Crescent Plaza, people had to cross the bridge and travel to the mainland for fresh fish,” he said.
This November, Dolan will celebrate Big Water’s 10th anniversary. Part of the party will be acknowledging the success of the deli portion of his business, which launched in January.
“We had planned to open of the deli in March 2020, but we had to put the brakes on that,” he said, referring to the start of the pandemic.
As 2020 wore on, the seafood operation remained open and the business continued to serve the needs of the community.
“We were considered a vital business and we were lucky in that we didn’t have to close the market,” he said.
Almost a year after Dolan originally had planned, the timing appeared right to open the deli. He gauged it correctly, and the risk paid off. As tourists flocked to Siesta Key, the entire Sarasota area was lifted by a very busy winter season.
Word spread about the new deli inside of the Big Water Fish Market. The hot sandwiches were a hit among beachgoers and for tourists on and off the Key.
“If we didn’t get a season this year, we would have been in trouble,” Dolan said with great sincerity.
The deli now under the watchful eye of manager Pete Taylor. It joins Anna’s Deli in Southbridge Mall as the second deli on the south end of the island.
“Anna’s had been the only sandwich shop in town and I give them great credit,” he said, “but they don’t do hot sandwiches. That sets us apart.”
Dolan noted that the Big Water Market Deli’s fresh lobster rolls are another big hit with customers.
“We get a delivery from a truck from Boston every Thursday with lobster, cod, halibut and clams,” he said. “The lobster delivery includes live hand-picked lobster meat for the sandwiches.”
As summer begins, Dolan looks ahead to maintaining a steady stream of customers. He’s also looking forward to having his college-student nephew Patrick Dolan behind the deli counter, learning to create the perfect Reuben.