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Sarasota area-Good local restaurants?

  • m

We'll be visiting my inlaws in Sarasota for a week at the end of May. Last time we were down there it was for only four days and we ate at three chain restaurants for dinner (first night we ate at the house) and I don't think I can take that for a full week.

I'm looking for suggestions for locally owned places with great food. All price ranges (and cuisines) are welcome since we'll probably sneak off for a "nicer" dinner one night. And we're willing to drive to surrounding towns for good food. Well, I'm willing and everyone else will just have to agree.

I can't take another vacation eating bad food! Please help!

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  1. No one from Sarasota on the boards?

    5 Replies
    1. re: MMJ

      You might try doing a search here for Sarasota. There have been several posts in the past.

      1. re: MMJ

        what type of food do you like?

        1. re: irwin

          I did search but most of what I found was fairly old info. I'd figure the food scene would change quite a bit from year to year so I wanted to get more recent suggestions.

          As far as foods I like, pretty much anything goes. I'm a culinary school grad who appreciates a good meal and I live in NYC so I have access to all kinds of cuisines and I wouldn't say there's anything that's off limits, with one notable exception.

          I love seafood (all except eel & raw oysters) but my husband doesn't eat any fish and my inlaws stick to shellfish. So, sushi is out while we're in FL. We go to regular seafood places even with my husbands dislike since most will have a chicken dish or steak or a salad he can eat, but we try to stick with places that are known for their shellfish so my inlaws will enjoy it.

          Mostly, I'm just looking for locally owned places with well prepared, good food. If we're going to go out and spend the money on dinner for four (or more) then I would rather have that money go to smaller businesses rather than Applebee's, Outback, and my MIL's favorite, Carrabba's. But if I don't go with a list in hand, that's exactly where're we'll eat. And with Carrabba's, chances are we could end up there 3 nights out of the 7 we're there!

          1. re: MMJ

            I did another search & you are completely right, Nick. There are quite a few recent threads but I had to go past page 3 of the search to find them. Turns out the most recent thread was on page 9 (of 11!)

            I'll do some research on what I found and may be back with specific questions. Thanks!

            1. re: MMJ

              MMJ: are you going to tell us where you enjoyed eating?

        2. Although not necessarily locally owned, because the original is in Tampa, but I don't think you can go wrong with The Columbia on St Armands Circle. I have been to 3 of them now, Tampa-St. Pete Pier, and Sarasota. I would give the Sarasota location the thumbs up. My husband and I almost had our rehearsal dinner there. If you go two things you can't pass on are the sangria, and the 1905 salad.

          1. I have been coming to Sarasota area for over 20 years. As a matter of fact, I am here now, and was hoping to find some new ideas on Chowhound, but apparently not. Someone posted that the Columbia is great,...used to be....not any more. There are alot of chain restaurants down here, but some of the smaller ones, are okay. Barnacle Bills is low key seafood and there are a few of them around. The one by the airport tends to be best. If you go down on Main street, most of the restaurants there are very good. If you like sushi, Da Ruma is the best!!! Siesta Key has the lobster pot that alot of people seem to like. Anywhere on St. Armands, *except the Columbia) are ok, but for super nice dinner, Euphemia Haye on longboat has my vote. Also, do a search for Sarasota Magazine since they list alot of restaurants in it and you can often see the menus for these restaurants. They have a good reputation and usually are right on the money.. Hope this helps

            3 Replies
            1. re: nncc

              nncc for your information the Saraota Magazine only suggests restaurants that advertise in their book. They list Olive Garden as the best Italian restaurant in Sarasota, but you and I know different, so I wuld not rely on Sarasota Magazine.

              1. re: nncc

                My wife and I just went to Lido Beach, Sarasota for our 40th Wedding Anniversary. The highlight of our vacation stay was eating and drinking at the Columbia Restaurant. The food was great, the sidewalk table and fresh air was very enjoyable, and the Imported Sangria was the best we've ever had. Next time we'll wait a little longer to get the Paella.

                1. re: dthomas777

                  FYI - There's a more recent discussion of restaurants in Sarasota, in the topic at www.chowhound.com/topics/459360

              2. Harry's on Lonboat Key is a longtime favorite of ours. Aside from the restaurant they have a cute take out place that has "high-end" sandwiches and salads.

                1. I'm only an occasional visitor, but there are some unusual spots I like. One is Yoders, Amish or Mennonite owned, great pies, good breakfasts, haven't tried anything else yet. The Waffle Stop, Elvis decor, is another good breakfast. Have not been in years but Primo Restaurant, wood burning oven, near airport, used to be good Italian. Let us know what else you find, I'm going that way next month.

                  1. I have lived in Sarasota for 22 yrs. We have great restaurants. I love ethnic myself so I can't tell you much about plain American food.

                    My current favorite is Javier's on Siesta Key. Javier and his wife run it and have for 20 years. Great Peruvian food. My favorite is arroz con pato, which sometimes is not on the menu and you have to ask for it. Rice, duck and yucca fries. They have great aji amarillo hot sauce they serve with their bread. House salad dressings are great.

                    Other Peruvian: Selva Grill on Main St. Pricey but very good. Low cost is Maria's Chicken on Tuttle at 12th St. Get their half chicken with great yellow rice, black beans and a side. Order some extra secret pepper sauce!

                    Italian: Caragiulio's on Palm Ave downtown is very good and has been here a long time.

                    Asian: The best place is Pacific Rim on Hillview just east of Osprey. Expect an hour wait but the sushi, stir-fries, and noodle dishes are great. Some of the sushi is a work of art. Our favorite Thai is Thailand Restaurant on Gulf Gate east of 41. Best Thai around and they will make it Thai hot if you convince them you can handle it. They opened a sushi/steak house next door. Try the volcano roll, crab on top of normal sushi. Yume Sushi on Main St. is very good and not as crowded as Pacific Rim.

                    Greek: El Greco on Main is the only good one in town and has been here 20 years.

                    Mexican: El Pueblo is our favorite. The Venice one is bigger and has a lot more atmosphere but both locations have the same food. In Sarasota, it is on Bee Ridge at McIntosh. El Adobe is also good and was the first Mexican restaurant in town.

                    Pricey: All are great. Michael's on East is the standard bearer and has been for 19 years. Corner of Bahia Vista and 41. Euphemia Haye and Harry's Continental Kitchen on Longboat Key. Bijou Cafe downtown near the Opera House. And one of the best dinners I ever had was at Vernona in the Ritz-Carlton. Try the lobster macaroni and cheese! Really!

                    Lower-priced seafood: Probably Barnacle Bill's (several locations). Captain Eddie's in Nokomis.

                    Chinese: We go to Mak's on Gulf Gate near Thailand Restaurant.

                    French: Our favorite is Le Parigot off of Gulf Gate. Two Parisians own it and do a great job. Also good is Rick's Cafe on Siesta Drive east of 41, a small bistro.

                    Breakfast: Serving Spoon (2 locations), Word of Mouth in Gulf Gate area, and Millie's on Clark near Sawyer.

                    Indian: Tandoori at the corner of Clark and Beneva.

                    Diner style: Dutch Valley on 41 just south of Stickney Point. Expect a line.

                    Hope this helps.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: JOHNDOLANSKY

                      John: You did a wonderful job above. Great restaurants, good descriptions, but I need to correct a few. Serving Spoon has gone downhill. Blue Dolphin on St Armands or Longboat location is excellent, as well as Yoders on Bahia Vista. I also like Oasis on Ospray, which is the guy who started Egg & I, and started Serving Spoon, and sold both. For Italian, you cnnot beat Galileo on Stickney Point or Divino on Main St.
                      Ivo's on Siesta Drive is excellent, and so is Pino's.

                      1. re: irwin

                        On St Armands don't forget Fin and Crab...wonderful, and early bird specials. Avoid Hemingways though. Loved Blue Dolphin for breakfast and lunch.

                      2. re: JOHNDOLANSKY

                        An excellent list...but I would suggest some additions and deletions.

                        First, please eliminate Maks for Chinese. There is no adequate Chinese restaurant in Sarasota.

                        Italian: I would add Cafe Gabiano on Siesta Key....excellent italian food, good atmosphere...better than most others in town.

                        Japanese: While you are on Siesta Key, Joto's has excellent Sushi (don't go to the one at the airport though...).

                        French: Our favorite is French Affair, also in GulfGate. A real French bistro with wine priced at liquor store prices rather than 3x the price. Casual french at it's best.

                        The others are all good recommendations....


                        1. re: ghstudio

                          gotta add El Toro Bravo...for mexican on Stickney point near where it becomes Clark...way way better than others mentioned above......For Italian...Bologna Cafe or Ferraris or even Valentinos are my current favs.......We recently started going to Manhattan Bar and grill...in the former location of the XXX movie where Pee Wee Herman was busted..and it great for hamburgers
                          Simons on 41 near Independence is the best for breakfast and lunch

                      3. From someone who lives in LBK part time I would suggest a few additional options....
                        - Blue Dolphin as everyone says is great, very causal for breakfast - rather than wait in queue on the circle, they have a sister place (same name) up the key...
                        - Dry Dock is a great place - outside seating on the water - good casual food but get there early for outside seating (on the key)
                        - Tommy Bahama's has a great spot above the store with amazing cocktails and great salads and the friendliest bartenders in town
                        - PG's is wonderful pan-asian (on the key)
                        - Hemingway's is yummy and also has some outside seating which is nice (on the circle)
                        - Harry's as a few have mentioned is absolutely delicious (on the key)
                        Sunset Cocktail:
                        - The Colony - the outside bar is a tad casual but the view is stunning. They also have a fun piano bar (and what looks to be a decent restaurant - this is where Bush had dinner the night before 9/11) - also on the key

                        1. hi mmj,

                          i'm a native new yorker and a real brat about food. my boyfriend says he enjoys going to mediocre restaurants with me (most of sarasota) because my complaints are so descriptive and colorful. apparently it's entertaining...

                          anyway, i just wrote a suggestion for someone in SRQ here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/492316 (it's a slow work day...


                          the DP sounds like it could be a good option for you - you could have sushi and everyone else could have thai (they also have good salads, and while i'm not a wrap person, others seem to like them). as i said, the sushi is EXCELLENT - bank gets there at 5am every day to deal with the fish himself. he also gets a look like he's giving away a child when a new roll invention is passed to the customer who ordered it, and will wait to see your reaction....point is, there is some major attention to detail. please, please, please...don't go to applebee's, outback, or carrabba's. i don't think you'll be let back into manhattan if you do ;-)

                          1. I recently travelled to Sarasota for the first time, and I was disappointed by the variety of restaurants in the vicinity. Tried Carrabba's-typical chain food-drab and boring, another place called Phillipe Creek-all fried greasy food. On siesta Key, ate at a place called the hub, a little better but would not go back there. On my last day had lunch at a new place called the Boatyard, I tried the grouper sandwich it was very good and the view on the water is a perfect Florida vista. My recommendation is the Boatyard good and fresh food and a nice place to hang on the water for the day.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: potter21

                              Yes, Carrabba's, Phillipe Creek, Not sure about Hub, plus lots lots more all suck.....
                              For some great seafood, I love Casey Key Fish House and Barnicle Bills on Main Street.

                              Main Street Bar
                              335 E Main St, Bartow, FL 33830

                              7620 N Wickham Rd, Melbourne, FL 32940

                              Casey Key Fish House
                              801 Blackburn Point Rd, Osprey, FL 34229

                              1. re: irwin

                                For the freshest simply prepared fish and seafood, Lobster, full Belly soft shell (piss) clams
                                Captain Brian's north 41 just North of University. Now that it is cooler,
                                Star Fish in Cortez out side bay front picnic tables very good grouper, comes from the
                                A. P. Bell wholesale fish house (same owner, Karen Bell,) Back from holiday in Emilia Romagna, Bologna Cafe for authentic Bolognese cibo, all imported salumi, formaggi and he makes fresh mozzarella several times a week, Barbara and Claudio,owners.

                                1. re: ospreycove

                                  Hi all! I'm new to Chowhound, and to Sarasota (lived in NYC and St. Pete before) and just wanted to mention a few places I haven't seen on these lists.

                                  *Owen's Fish Camp -- downtown, great fish spread and grits, fun atmosphere, expect to wait
                                  *Ca'Rina -- next to Hotel Ranola, tiny husband-and-wife Italian restaurant, great food, feels like you're part of the family when you're there (but I think they're closed for renovations right now?)
                                  *Station 400 -- have only been for brunch, love the Eggs Benedict, my only complaint is that it gets noisy inside because it's so popular/crowded
                                  *Roy's -- I usually avoid chains, but Roy's on Siesta is always top-notch, expensive but I go to Aloha Hour (4:30-6:30) where drinks and meals are $5 each
                                  *Selva -- was mentioned above, but they also have a new happy hour that rivals Roy's, drinks are $5 and food from $4 to $7, 5-7 pm

                                  I'm dying to try Rick's Bistro and Bologna Cafe....