Summer is almost always the slowest season for restaurants in our area. Some cut their hours and close their doors for renovations and vacations. When they’re open, it’s the locals who keep the businesses going.
This summer has not been good for most restaurants, and downright dismal for others. The worst red tide this area has seen in more than a decade — many will argue the worst bloom ever — has kept customers away from the waterfront and restaurants that are usually a magnet to locals and visitors.
The Englewood Florida Chamber of Commerce and area restaurant owners are hoping the 4th Annual “Let’s Eat! Englewood” campaign, September 14-28, will drive diners to dine locally. The Chamber estimates that since its inception the campaign has generated more than $300,000 of business. Aided by funding from the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Tourism Bureau, much of that business comes from outside of Englewood.
Marie LaForge, co-owner of Mango Bistro on West Dearborn Street, helped launch Let’s Eat Englewood four years ago. “This year will be particularly important for all of us who were affected by the red tide and the more people will visit us the better,” said LaForge. “The beach restaurants were hugely affected and hopefully people will visit them during Let’s Eat!”
As in previous years, participating restaurants will offer a $25 fixed-price three-course dinner and/or a $13 two-course lunch, with some offering menu upgrades, beverage specials and more. At press time 19 restaurants all over the Englewood area had signed on to Let’s Eat.
Just a few of the entrees you can look forward to, Pistachio Encrusted Fresh Grouper at Leverock’s, Baby Back Ribs at the Lighthouse Grill, Cornish Hen with Date Stuffing at Boca Royale and Blackened Snapper at Howard’s. Prime Time Steak and Spirits will allow diners to order items from its Let’s Eat Menu a la carte.
LaForge said, “As a restaurant owner, I feel that this event is a great way for us to showcase what we do best while making it affordable and approachable for more people,” Mango Bistro traditionally introduces new menu items during Lets Eat. This year it will be “Poke Bowls,” an Hawaiian style marinated ahi tuna dish, as well as a vegan-friendly black bean burger. As a diner, LaForge sees Let’s Eat as the chance to support other local restaurants and see what they have to offer.
Mike May, owner of Ricaltini’s Bar and Grille, said that last year’s Let’s Eat brought in more than 200 people for lunch and for dinner. This year’s menu boasts Ricaltini favorites, including lobster ravioli and an 8 oz. filet mignon. And new i-house desserts of cheesecake and sweet red wine chocolate cake. May knows that these two weeks in the slow season can make a difference all year. “We hope to showcase our food to new customers in hopes of creating lifelong regulars,” Let’s Eat Englewood.
Let’s Eat Englewood runs from Sept. 14-28. Participating restaurants will offer a special $13 two-course lunch menu and/or $25 three-course dinner menu. Some restaurants may continue to offer these menus after September 28. For a list of all participating restaurants and some menus, visit www.englewoodchamber.com. For more information, call the restaurant directly.