If you want to go to “dinner and a show,” especially a performance at the Van Wezel, the West Coast Black Theatre, Players Theater or any of the other fabulous live performance venues in the Arts District of Sarasota, the place to be is The Starlite Room, located on the corner of Cocoanut and 10th Street, a straight shot east of the parking lot of the Van Wezel.
But more importantly, if you want “a show at dinner,” go to Facebook and ‘friend’ The Starlite Room, Sarasota. It’s the only way you can keep up to all the performances taking place there. Be it Rat Pack inspired jazz quartet, Arias performed by a world class opera singer, or performances by locally and nationally recognized bands, the ambiance is as fun as the vibe you choose, with a menu that serves as both the star and supporting cast member.
The Starlite Room is a true, really cool retro bar/restaurants that actually pulls off that midcentury modern era they set claim to. From the terrazzo floor, Sputnik lighting, slick logo and menu graphics to the bar top made from an honest-to-goodness lane from a bowling alley, (minus the gutter,) The Starlite Room oozes the 1950’s contemporary cool of Sinatra, Martin, Lawford, Davis Jr. and Bishop. They didn’t forget a shot of Monroe on the wall, and fortunately, they keep the cigarette smoke to an outside seating area.
On the bar menu you’ll find classic drinks like the Sidecar, Pink Squirrel and the Starlite Old Fashioned, a drink Dean Martin would have certainly loved, composed of Old Forester bourbon, Bittermens Burlesque bitters and simple syrup served over muddled fruit. I’m guessing Dean and Joey would have had a few laughs over a drink like this! I know we did!
The menu features food that was all the rage in the 50’s and 60’s; sandwiches like the French Dip, deviled eggs appetizers and an oh-so-cheesy Chicken Parmesan entrée. Somehow, proprietor Tyler Yurckonis manages to keep that nostalgic vibe going strong, from the décor and menu presentation, all while upgrading classics to better suit the more sophisticated palate of today’s diners.
It doesn’t hurt that Yurkonis has a background in theater. He “gets it.” When you put on a production, you don’t stop half way and try to be something you’re not. What The Starlite Room creates is a supper club where gastronomic whimsy is paired with the right amount of creative flair to improve on the classic flavor while delivering a taste of nostalgia.
Our most recent visit will certainly not be our last. We started with a luscious pasta appetizer special, a Seafood Canneloni with homemade pasta. Filled with shrimp, crab, sea bass and ricotta cheese with fresh herbs, and mozzarella made in the kitchen that day, I could have stopped eating right then and there. This was a inspiring dish which showed excellent skill from the kitchen. We could not resist using those slices of garlic toast to mop up every last drop of the sauce. Pure heaven on a plate! (Please . . . make this a regular part of your menu Tyler!)
From the menu, I selected the 1/2 Roasted Rosemary Chicken resting on a roasted garlic pan gravy, served with fingerling potatoes, red onions and mushrooms and thyme. There was also a side of vibrant green broccoli, cooked just the way I like it. The chicken had an absolutely flavor- packed char on it, the skin peeled off like crispy wrapping paper over a tasty gift of moist, flavorful chicken. The plate itself was quite large, and after the appetizer, I simply could not finish my dish. Happy me! Lunch tomorrow would be a treat!
Mart ordered one of The Starlite Room’s most popular entrees, the Braised Short Rib. . . but with a twist. On previous visits we’ve ordered their classic Forever Short Ribs, with Au Jus, parsnip pierogies in a brown butter with carrot and onion straws. No complaints there. This dish is as classic as it gets. But on our most recent visit, the Chef suggested Mart try the Sauce Pizzailoa, a wonderful take on the classic preparation he so loves. The Pizzilioa sauce offers the flavors of tomato, garlic, oregano and basil, without taking away from the tried and true short rib flavor that resembles pot roast on a stick!
It wasn’t until we got home that we realized that I hadn’t taken a photo of the pierogies with the carrot and onion straws. Like the aforementioned pasta, the dough for the pierogies is made from scratch, making these delicious bites GONE before you know it!
Even though we were honestly too full to eat another bite, there’s always a way to find some room for a truly delicious Raspberry Ley Lime Cheesecake. We’d heard there some amazing cheesecake coming from The Starlite’s kitchen, so we ordered one, thinking we may end up taking it home. Not to worry . . . we enjoyed it on the spot, sharing bite for bite until it was history. We especially loved the hint of coconut in the graham cracker crust. . . or was that our imagination? You order one and you can decide.
Being a work night, we weren’t staying out late, so we didn’t head upstairs to the lounge, where so many parties have taken place in the year or so that Starlite Room has been open. Ringo Starr has made it over to The Starlite Room, as well as Joe Madden, former manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. And talk about the theater crowd! The entire cast of Hair Spray made it to Starlite, even posing as an ensemble on top of the bar.
As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, The Starlite Room is one of those restaurants/bars that you want to friend on Facebook. There’s no better way to keep up to all the events held there, including the weekly Karaoke Nights, and bingo nights on Wednesday – where everything you order is rewarded with free bingo cards. There are great prizes for if you win, and silly hats for those who yell “Bingo” wrong (I did that. . . no photo provided!)
Early evening is great for families and folks headed to the theaters, while the aura alters for the late night crowd. Meaning, no matter who you are, you can find delicious food and an entertaining evening of your choice at The Starlite Room.
Or as guest to the Starlite Room, Ringo Starr once sang in Back Off Boogaloo “Get yourself together now, and give me something tasty.”
Maybe he didn’t write that lyric for The Starlite Room, but he could have!