Shore Restaurant at St. Armand’s

Shore Diner doesn’t even have a website.  Well, not really.  You can go to shopshore.com if you’d like to see a bit on the diner’s downstair’s uber-cool, surf-inspired boutique, but no real mention of the sharp, swanky restaurant that hovers overhead.  If you really want to get a taste of what this eatery is all about, you’ll have to come in for a bite.

 

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Here’s a shot, from their site, of Shore boutique (below) and restaurant (above), located on St. Armand’s Circle.  If this hip pic doesn’t make you want to wander in, then…umm, I guess you and I have different tastes.  I will full on ‘we’re-not-worthy’ worship at the door of a delicious hole-in-the-wall, but I’m also a sucker for chic and snazzy.  This restaurant is exactly that – stylish, modern and trendy.  Plus they make one hell of a fried chicken.

 

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Many moons ago, I chatted with the visionary behind Shore Diner (and other Sarasota favorites – Nancy’s BBQ and Owen’s Fish Camp), Mark Caragiulo, about his unique approach to eating out.  If you are a local, you know the aforementioned restaurants are like mini-theme parks replete with on-point details and tons of motif adornments that keep the thread of the concept alive from the bathroom stalls to the bar glasses.

 

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It’s been a while so I forget most of what Mark said – sorry, Mark – but I do recall that he spent years creating stage sets for the theatre.  Or something like that.  Mark’s background of ‘setting the scene’ for the audience overlapped with his love of food (his family has owned and operated restaurants since the Jurassic Era) helping him to create boutique style restaurants that are whimsical, delightful and delicious.

 

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We went the other night, with a few friends, and had a grand ol’ time chatting and chewing and cheers-ing.  Forgive my too-dark pics, it’s pretty dark in Shore and, alas, the whole nighttime thing obscured my natural lighting.  So, I didn’t take shots of most of the stuff you would actually want to see, like say the food and the restaurant, because I still have an iPhone 4, which, in the camera world, might as well be a wind-up disposable camera.  Remember those?

 

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Anywho, I can tell you that it’s fucking sweet in there.  It kind of reminds me of old-school Vegas, but with a little Americana surf spirit thrown in for good measure.  The bar is a real beauty and the blonde bartender knows how to make a mean martini – even when asked to put said martini in a Big Gulp cup since I am totally inept at drinking out of something shaped like one of those Chinese bamboo conical hats.

 

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Seriously – who came up with that shape for a drinking glass?  Give me something shaped like a rain barrel and a straw and let’s call it a day.

 

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We ordered a wide variety of dishes, but I must say that the calamari was my favorite.  It had some kind of sweet and spicy sauce happening and was fried to perfection.  And the scallops were pretty killer – my totem for judging all restaurants.  Here’s what we thought of the calamari:

 

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The fried chicken is their famed stand-out.  I’m pretty sure they use local, organic chickens too, which pleases me, plus they put the hot sauce in the batter – creating a not-greasy, super-crispy, totally juicy piece of meat.  Oh, and we gobbled down those truffle fries as if it were a Survivor Challenge reward.

 

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Don’t even get me started on the chocolate cake.  Again, it was pitch black (in that hip, sexy way you want a restaurant to be) so forgive my lack of lighting and focus only on the sheer girth of this sweet confection.

 

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Have you been to Shore Diner?  How about any of Mark Caragiulo’s other dining establishments?  Tell me about it…