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Downtown Sarasota restaurant staple to reopen

The Bijou Garden Café will feature a new menu that incorporates classic favorites from the previous one.

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  • | 11:54 a.m. November 15, 2021
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  • Manatee-Sarasota
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SARASOTA — After being closed for three months, a downtown Sarasota restaurant staple is reopening. 

Bijou Garden Café is set to reopen Tuesday, Nov. 16, following a brief period of renovations and restorations to the building. The restaurant has been part of the area since 1986, although now it’s operating under a new owner. 

Earlier this year, the restaurant was purchased by Sharon Carole, The Realm Restaurant Group owner. Chef Jean-Pierre “J.P.” Knaggs, who founded the Bijou with his wife, Shay Knaggs, in 1986, initiated the sale and personally approved the new owners, an earlier press release states. The Knaggs planned to retire once the transfer of ownership was completed.

Carole began extensive renovations and restorations to the building in September, including the removal of several walls to create a more open space, the relocation and restoration of the classic bar, the addition of garden views from every table and bringing in a new baby grand piano, as well as other updates, a new press release reads. 

“This building has so much charm and character,” Carole says. “As we’ve renovated the space, it’s been important to me that we respect its iconic local history. I’m looking forward to seeing the restaurant really come alive with its changes, while still remaining a cherished part of the community.”

Courtesy. The new and improved Bijou Garden Café features a more open dining space.
Courtesy. The new and improved Bijou Garden Café features a more open dining space.

Customers will also notice new menu items alongside a few classic favorites from the restaurant’s previous menu. Christopher Covelli, executive chef at Bijou Garden Café, is implementing more greens, vegetarian and vegan options into the new menu. 

“The menu has a French and Californian influence that will very much match the setting of the building,” Covelli says. “We used many of J.P. Knaggs’ original recipes and while they’ve changed over the years as different chefs have evolved them, we believe people will really enjoy the authenticity and comfort they bring.”

The new owner kept on a majority of the former staff, including Jeffrey Knaggs, son of J.P. Knaggs, who was recently promoted to facilities manager.

“As the restaurant continues to evolve, I am proud and honored to be working in this new role at Bijou Garden Café,” Jeffrey Knaggs says. “It is a wonderful feeling to work with an amazing group of people who care about the business just as much as my family did.”

At the corner of First Street and Pineapple Avenue, across from the Sarasota Opera House, the Bijou Café building was built in the 1920s as a gas station. The 4,900-square-foot space and adjoining courtyard seats 134 diners.



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