Welcome to the Neighborhood

Good Bite

Pictured: At The Fat Rabbit, the 1/2 pound burgers are made with short rib and brisket and served on a brioche bun. Photo courtesy of Fat Rabbit.

Shawn Diehl and John Kuemmel first met in the corporate world when they worked together and had neighboring offices. Over time they went their separate ways professionally–Diehl took a job with Ernst & Young, while Kuemmel served as the CIO at IRONMAN–but they maintained a friendship. Both had busy schedules but they managed to meet up one Thursday night when they were both home in Tampa to have a beer and catch up at a corporate chain restaurant. The company was great, but the rest of the experience was underwhelming.

“John and I had a couple of beers and we were sitting there and we noticed the service was terrible, the music was terrible, three of the TVs didn’t have anything on them, they were just dead,” Diehl recalls. “I said, ‘We could probably do a better job,’ and he said, ‘You know, I think we could,’ and all of a sudden we were signing the lease on the building.”

That lease was for the original location of The Fat Rabbit Pub, which opened in New Tampa in 2017. Neither Kuemmel or Diehl had experience owning or running a restaurant. However, as frequent business travelers who dined out a lot, they knew what they were looking for in a dining experience and felt confident they could bring that to their own customers. Namely, a restaurant with good vibes, friendly staff, and a menu with a limited number of items all prepared exceptionally well. They translated all of that into an upscale neighborhood pub concept that quickly became a beloved local mainstay in New Tampa. In May of 2024, Diehl and Kuemmel opened a second Fat Rabbit location on Main Street in downtown Sarasota.

What corporate restaurants lack the most is a sense of identity or personality. That can be found in abundance at The Fat Rabbit, from the decor to the menu. In addition to installing a high-quality sound system, Diehl personally curated a music playlist for the restaurant with over 4800 songs. The walls are adorned with vintage memorabilia from groups like The Pretenders and The Go-Go’s, much from Diehl’s personal collection.

“John Hughes, the filmmaker from the eighties, used to say Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was his love letter to Chicago,” Diehl says. “The Fat Rabbit is my love letter to my adolescence, to my youth.”

The Fat Rabbit is well-known for a few menu items. One is their wings, which are unbreaded and fried, then tossed in your choice of scratch-made dipping sauce. You can crank up the heat with Cayenne Horseradish, or go tart and tangy with Key Lime Mustard. People also love the ½ pound burgers which are made with short rib and brisket and served on a brioche bun. Don’t forget to check out the Spuds section of the menu, which is entirely devoted to potatoes. And of course a pub isn’t a pub without a drink menu. In addition to wine and draft beer, The Fat Rabbit has creative craft cocktails including their signature Sugar & Smoke, which is their take on a classic old fashioned cocktail.

The Fat Rabbit in Sarasota is open from 11am through 11pm Sunday through Thursday and from 11am through 1am Fridays and Saturdays. It’s the perfect place to grab a late night snack or an after-dinner drink, but it’s equally great for a low-key lunch.

The Fat Rabbit Pub, 1359 Main Street, Sarasota, 941-780-1151.

Pictured: At The Fat Rabbit, the 1/2 pound burgers are made with short rib and brisket and served on a brioche bun. Photo courtesy of Fat Rabbit.

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