Another Beloved Restaurant Closed Its Doors Permanently

A beloved downtown Sarasota restaurant, best known for its gourmet sandwiches, support of local music, and serene setting, is permanently closing at the end of the month.

Simone Steiff opened Cafe in the Park a decade ago at Payne Park on the eastern edge of downtown Sarasota. Her cozy café earned a loyal following with handheld options such as a house-made chicken salad on a croissant and a thin-sliced roast beef sandwich served on a freshly baked baguette.

The restaurant, which offers covered outdoor seating overlooking the surrounding park, also doubled as a live music venue, with its popular Friday night music series featuring many of Sarasota and Manatee counties’ top acts. This Friday, April 12, Cafe in the Park will host its final concert, a couple weeks ahead of the restaurant closing.
Steiff has called the closing of her cafe “a happy ending to a very happy 10-year run.”

“We have adventures ahead and while hearts will be heavy, we are looking forward with joy and anticipation to the future,” she said via a public statement shared on social media April 3.
“We have loved our years in Payne Park and being such a long-lasting and loved presence in the downtown Sarasota restaurant scene, and especially all of the people, bands, musicians, families and supporters who have been such a part of our lives and who have allowed us to be a part of theirs.”

Cafe in the Park opens daily at 11 a.m. and typically closes in the late afternoon, except on Fridays, when it stays open until around 9 p.m. to host local music acts. When I called on Tuesday (April 9) just before 11 a.m. to speak to Steiff, a coworker said she was busy and would try and call me back.
I thought I could overhear Steiff taking orders at the intimate counter, the same spot where I first discovered the joys of her sandwiches and potato salad during a memorable visit in 2016. I spent that afternoon fondly noshing on her culinary creations while sipping from a can of locally brewed JDub’s Up Top! IPA.

My roast beef sandwich, served on a fresh baguette, was a spot-on mix of thinly sliced, slow-roasted sirloin layered with arugula and house-made horseradish sauce that I could’ve eaten with a spoon. In between bites of sandwich and sips from my beer, I enjoyed the richly flavored (capers were a nice touch) house-made red dijonaise potato salad. I relaxed while listening to the speakers play one of my favorite recordings, the Cowboy Junkies’ poignant version of Lou Reed’s classic “Sweet Jane.”
Dean Johanesen will be the closing act for Cafe in the Park’s Friday music night series, performing from 7 to 9 p.m. April 12.

A local resident, Johanesen is a gifted singer, songwriter and acoustic guitarist. He plays an ebullient style of music inspired by the likes of Django Reinhardt and Bob Wills. Johanesen calls his sonic stylings, with influences dating back nearly a century, “circus swing and American roots music.”

In fact, one could even call Johanesen’s music danceable, and perhaps there will be some dancing taking place at Cafe in the Park as the sun sets on the Friday night music series, which has hosted a rich, an eclectic roster of local music talent over the past decade.

Meanwhile, Cafe in the Park will continue serving its dynamic sandwiches, salads, sides, and sweets until it permanently closes on April 26. Cafe in the Park will be missed. The quality food and smart selection of beer and wine will be missed. The live music will be missed. And the setting will be missed.

Yeah, there are plenty of reasons to visit Cafe in the Park, as I noted back in 2016. One of my favorites was being able to take a post-meal stroll past children romping on the circus-themed playground, teenagers trying to land a perfect trick in the skate park, and disc golfers taking aim at baskets, all while feeling completely removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown Sarasota.

Here’s to hoping the city will find someone else to fill the space that Steiff did such a beautiful job of filling for the past decade.
Cafe in the Park is at 2010 Adams Lane, Sarasota, and has announced it will permanently to close April 26. For more information, call 941-361-3032 or visit

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