Back of the House

Old School Meets New School

By Abby Weingarten / Photography By Chad Spencer | January 15, 2016
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One of their classic burgers

It may not be the greasy spoon of wedge cap days gone by but, in many ways S’macks still retains that nostalgic flavor. The Sarasota locale is an homage to a 1930s hotspot that was once on downtown’s Main Street and had roller-skating waitresses. Today’s S’macks, which turned 2 in August, is less about those “curb girls” and more about community.

That community includes everyone from the guests to the staff to the farmers who provide the menu’s ingredients. S’macks has a rich network throughout Florida of hardworking food purveyors who keep the restaurant’s kitchen stocked with freshness.

“We have always had the commitment to fresh, local ingredients because it just tastes better, for one. We were doing this long before a lot of other people were, because we knew how much it meant to the people growing the food and to our customers,” says co-owner Mike Quillen of the Gecko Hospitality Group (S’macks is the newest concept for the Gecko’s proprietors). “And it supports the local economy. We grew up here. Our families grew up here, and it’s important to us that we support the people who work here.”

S’macks uses 100 percent hormone- and steroid-free, grass-fed bison burgers, sourced from Three Suns Ranch in Punta Gorda. Another favorite, the Better for You Burger, is made with all-natural Angus beef that is free of antibiotics and certified humane.

“We like serving this kind of food because there’s a story behind it, and the story is about the local people,” co-owner Mike Gowan says. “We’re supporting local people and supplying jobs in Sarasota, which goes a long way.”

The culinary diversity at S’macks also goes a long way, as there is an alternative for every patron. The Black Bean Burger is a vegetarian option, and there are gluten-free and Paleo-style lettuce wrap options. The fries are regular award winners, and guests crave varieties like the fire fries with jalapeño peppers and Cholula sauce. Old-fashioned frozen custard shakes are made daily in-house, in holiday flavors like gingerbread and pumpkin spice.

Alex Floethe, a managing partner at S’macks, enjoys serving guests who need a speedy food fix but do not want to sacrifice quality. When people are in a hurry, he can provide them with a “value-driven, more flavorful, and healthy alternative to fast food,” he says.

Guests appreciate the atmosphere, too. S’macks is located inside a former service station with wood ceilings and finished concrete flooring. There are high school mascot logos on the walls and ever-changing flavors on the chalkboards. It has a hometown, down-home feel with just the right amount of hipness, which encompasses the S’macks concept—a little of the then, a little of the now, and a whole lot of food-focused forward thinking.

S’macks Burgers & Shakes: 2407 Bee Ridge Rd, Sarasota, 941-922-7673; geckosgrill.com/smacks-burgers-shakes.

Photo 1: Grilling the burgers to perfection
Photo 2: A mini garden on the patio of a burger joint. Freshly picked herbs for the frozen custard shakes du jour. Locally sourced beef and vegetables in the patties. This is S’macks: a fast-food mecca with a slow-food mission.
Managing partner Alex Floethe and owners Mike Gowan, and Mike Quillen.
Article from Edible Sarasota at http://ediblesarasota.ediblecommunities.com/eat/old-school-meets-new-school
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