The Rosemary Brings Worldly Inspiration to Downtown Sarasota
With The Rosemary’s eclectic menu, George Armstrong showcases his favorite foods from cities where he has lived.
Growing up in a military family, George Armstrong was used to life on the road. His father was in the Air Force, and the family would move to a new city every two years. With every new home came new surroundings, new friends and most importantly, new foods.
The Bermuda native says he’s lived in more cities than he can count, and the thing he always remembers most about a city is its signature dish.
It All Comes Back to Food
“My brother and I talk about different places we’ve been,” he says. “It always comes back to food. My family was always really focused on food. We’ll talk about cities based on the foods we remember eating there.”
As the former general manager of Treviso, at The Ringling, Armstrong says he was given the freedom to experiment with different cuisines, and he built a loyal following among the arts enthusiasts who dined there. In June, Treviso’s contract with the museum expired, and TableSeide Restaurant Group won the bid to take over as the new on-site restaurant and catering company.
Armstrong saw an opportunity. Maintaining almost all of his staff, he decided to purchase a restaurant in the Rosemary district, formerly occupied by The Savory Street, where he could showcase all his favorite dishes from the different cities in which he’s lived.
The Rosemary, located at 411 N. Orange Ave., is a blend of traditional and contemporary American cuisine.
“My vision was to open a restaurant that reminded me of all the different places I’ve lived,” he says. “I used to eat in The Savory Street, and it always gave me the feeling of being somewhere else. I didn’t feel like I was in Sarasota. I wanted to create that environment for other people, too.”
Several weeks after opening The Rosemary, Armstrong sat down to talk about his new endeavor, his love for the neighborhood and the best way to re-use tortilla chips.
“My best ideas come to me when I’m under pressure. When we didn’t get the bid at The Ringling, I really didn’t know what I was going to do. Should I move? Should I buy another restaurant? But the pressure helped motivate me.”
“I spent a lot of time living in Austin, and you’ll see a lot of that on my menu. Of course, there’s the brisket, and there’s breakfast tacos, but we also have migas. That was my favorite food in Austin. It’s typically made with leftover tortilla chips, which are crumbled into a scramble of eggs, pico de gallo, Monterey Jack and red and green chile sauce. We make ours to order, but in Austin, today’s chips become tomorrow’s breakfast.”
“I don’t ever see myself not working. Life’s meant to be a sprint, and I like to fit as much in as I can, because when it’s over, it’s over. My aunt used to say, “You can sleep when you’re dead.'”
Downtown Sarasota Neighborhood Restaurant
“I threw around a lot of different names for the restaurant. I was going to call it Port of Call, as a tribute to Bermuda, but I stuck with “The Rosemary.” I love this neighborhood, and I hope to become a destination here.”
“If I weren’t in the restaurant industry, I’d probably be a travel editor. My dad used to be the travel editor for the Toronto Star, and I used to go on some of his trips with him.”
“I love restaurants because of how many people you get to meet. I like to talk to people and learn what makes them tick — what makes them happy. That’s something you miss out on if you’re not working.”
“Doing breakfast, lunch and dinner is tough. But I’m up for the challenge, and I really want to make it work.”
“If I could only eat one thing on my menu for the rest of my life, it would have to be the breakfast tacos. I like the fact that there’s not a lot of ingredients behind all that flavor.”
Article re-posted with permission from YourObserver.com.