When the modern world meets “Old World Florida” it’s often in the form of construction. Such is the case on some roads that lead to the iconic waterfront eatery Snook Haven.
Today, however, nothing has changed at the restaurant haven named Snook.
“You have a year or more to experience dining ‘Smack Dab on the Myakka River,’ at the original Snook Haven.”
That’s the skinny from Justin Pachota, president of The Venice Pier Group, the parent company of Sharky’s on the Pier, Fins at Sharky’s and Snook Haven.
“I want to let people know that despite construction on River Road, the drive to Snook Haven is completely doable,” he adds. Once you turn onto the unpaved East Venice Road, it’s an easy ride down a mile-long stretch of Spanish oak and Florida palm canopy that’s as “wild and scenic” as it ever was.
“It feels like you’re entering a portal that transports you” to a time when Florida was all unspoiled landscape and native wildlife, he adds.
Snook Haven’s menu has also remained stalwart. “We are an authentic Old Florida smokehouse," says Justin. Options include award-winning fresh-smoked chicken wings, barbeque pulled pork, brisket, turkey breast and ribs, plus salads, sandwiches, tacos, gator bites, and fried fish and shrimp.
“We also have more than 20 craft beers that represent some of the best from around the country and Florida,” he says. That includes Venice’s 3 Bridges, Sarasota’s JDubs, and Tampa’s Cigar City.
In addition, Banjo Thursdays,” which is when members of the Gulf Coast Banjo Society show up to jam on the grounds, will continue to happen weekly – from now through May. Depending on who shows up, musicians may include saxophonists, violinists, harmonica and horn players, and singers.
Justin reminds us that there’s a whole lot of history built into Snook Haven. Local lore has it that the site was used by smugglers during Prohibition. In the 1930s it became a location for Hollywood filmmakers and, in 1988, the area opened to the public as a fishing camp with a restaurant.
Much of that will be lost when the Snook Haven building, which harkens back to 1958 and its origin as the fishing camp’s cook shack, is demolished as part of Sarasota County’s plans to revamp the entire area. "Eventually the county plans to rebuild food and beverage concessions that will be pulled back slightly from the river and elevated to allow for a clear view and for safety when river levels rise,” explains Justin.
However, “the county won’t begin construction until late 2023 at the earliest. That means people have 12 to 14 months minimum to experience the ‘original’ Snook Haven."
Local history and family are the things that Justin learned to value most growing up. After all, it was Mike Pachota, Justin’s dad, who launched the landmark Venice restaurant Sharky’s on the Pier more than 35 years ago, and where Justin cut his teeth in the restaurant business. Then, when The Venice Pier Group took over Snook Haven ten years ago his wife Cheri, who is the restaurant’s managing partner, was the first to lead its operations. It’s with sincerity and experience that Justin reports, “If you want to be a part of a history that started in the 1950s, the time is now."
5000 Venice Ave. E., Venice. 941.485.7221