Whether you call it “pandemic poundage” or “the quarantine 15,” it’s solid evidence that life under COVID-19 means less activity and lots more comfort food.
Blend that yen for treats with the newly perceived safety of outdoor dining, and you’ve got a whole new formula for success in downtown Punta Gorda.
October will bring Harbor Social’s open-air concept — wining and dining outdoors, with food trucks and all the amenities of indoor dining — to 212 W. Marion Avenue.
Tomorrow, another new social setting — PG Social House — opens on the corner of W. Marion and U.S. 41 South.
And Port Charlotte has even more sweet and salty treats.
EAT! DRINK! SHOP!
After Angela’s abruptly closed its doors at 258 W. Marion Avenue last November, “beer garden” topped the list of wagers for its replacement. We could only hope a new place would be half as much fun as Angela’s was.
The beer part, the garden part, the fun part, all pertain — but there’s more.
PG Social House, named largely for the little house that sits on the property, is a new mini shopping district that Punta Gorda sisters Alicia and Carissa Scott dreamed up years ago.
There, families can shop and indulge in sweets and drinks in a shaded outdoor courtyard.
Its motto? “Eat. Drink. Shop.”
“We want to be different,” Alicia said. “There are shopping experiences like this in Tampa, Asheville, Atlanta and St. Augustine, but this is Punta Gorda’s first furniture store with a bar inside. Once a month, we want to have night markets in the courtyard and support local musicians and crafters.”
“Punta Gorda and this end of Marion Avenue are on the verge of a big breakthrough,” Carissa said. “We’re excited to be part of it.”
Alicia renovated the main building as a beachy furniture, accessories and home goods store, filled with the eclectic contents of her Room by Room Furnishings, formerly housed in a 10,000-square-foot Port Charlotte location near D’Vines Wine & Gifts.
Angela’s bar remains in the new store, serving wine, beer, soda, coffee and “candy cocktails” like the Wait a Prosecco (topped with cotton candy) to shoppers.
“You can sit down with a beer or wine and go through our custom upholstery catalogs. We do a lot of one-on-one with our customers,” Alicia said.
Outside, the sisters have set up their own “park and rec” on the mahoe-shaded patio. Play stations for kids include giant Jenga and cornhole, interspersed with seating for their parents to enjoy beer and wine, and water bowls for canine kids.
Out of the main building’s tiny kitchen they’ll dish outrageous desserts ranging from authentic Super Day Express cheesecake and chocolate ganache cake to Mike’s Pies from Tampa and s’mores — and Cookie Monster-topped shakes.
The property’s cottage facing U.S. 41 (Cross Street) houses a sweet shop named The Candy Bar, where customers can scoop bagfuls of treats from old-fashioned glass jars and browse nostalgic candies from their childhood.
PG Social House ($-$$), 941-347-7888, 124 Cross Street and 258 W. Marion Avenue, Punta Gorda, now has summer hours Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday to 3 p.m.
LIGHT AND SWEET
They’re boldly opening, as established restaurants fall all around them.
Popcorn and ice cream shops — movie and fair favorites — are opening, doors away from each other, in Port Charlotte’s Peachland Promenade. Captain’s Creamery homemade ice cream is reportedly coming around Labor Day.
But the corn’s popping right now in the back of Nancy Rollin’s Southern Popped — in more gourmet flavors than you’ve ever heard of, from Oreo to strawberry (an unlikely best seller), blueberry, green apple, cheddar, caramel, garlic Parm, Heath Bar, Guadalajara hot sauce, you name it, 22 in all. Plus taffy, fudge, candied nuts, brittles and Buckeyes (because the Rollinses hail from Ohio).
“I gained a little weight because I had to taste everything,” Rollin confessed. “But now I’ve got testers at the salon next door.”
Southern Popped ($), 941-787-4031, 24123 Peachland Boulevard, is open Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday to 5 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
SWEET AND LOVELY
Port Charlotte’s PaddyWagon Irish Pub managing partner Dan Bernal (now working at Visani Italian Steakhouse and Comedy Theater) has been known to strut his promotional stuff in outfits beyond the human imagination.
The guy’s played a chubby Chippendale, donned a fuzzy yellow chick hat, tended bar with a cardboard box over his head and Photoshopped his face onto countless bikini-clad models. If his wife, Amanda, didn’t tell him when he’s gone too far, he’d crash the next Sports Illustrated swimsuit shoot.
He left little to the imagination in the thong photo he used to promote Saturday’s Bartender Rescue event at Visani, featuring local guest bartenders and DJ BeMix.
People might’ve thought twice about sharing his promo on Facebook, but they plan to attend anyway.
Bartender Rescue ($20 tickets, at visani.net) is Saturday, Aug. 8, 10 p.m. until last call at 1 a.m. All door proceeds go to out-of-work employees of Linksters and PaddyWagon bars. Limited menu available.
Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at email@example.com.
Average price ranges are $ = inexpensive (under $10), $$ = moderate ($11-$30), and $$$ = pricey (over $30), including tip and beverage.