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Nov 11, 2007 04:16 AM

Dinner in Sarasota?

Will be coming to Sarasota and am looking to go out one evening with friends. Food is most important standard for selecting a restaurant. Can you suggest the best options for getting a great dinner in an atmosphere where we can enjoy some time together. We are also willing to travel some distance if outside Sarasota might be better. What are the best 5 places to consider? Thanks.

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  1. I was just about to make the same post. My wife and I will be there this Thursday through Friday the 23rd, and hope to eat out often as my mother's cooking has deteriorated. However, if we have to eat at Barnicle Bills or the Lazy Lobster again I think my wife will divorce me. (I personally like the Lazy Lobster, but my wife had a bad experience there- not food or service related.)

    I can make some recommendations, however. While a chain, Bonefish Grill on University and 75 is very good, but if you have one in your area I would say try something that you can't get at home.

    There are two stops that we make with each visit, though not high end at all. First, the moment I feel tension between my wife and her mother in law, we declare we are making a grocery/liquor run and then head over to Salina's for a slice of Pizza and beer. They are inconsistent, however. The quatity depends upon if the owner is there making the pizza. We also make sure to stop at the Tommy Bahama cantina on St. Armands for coconut shrimp and crab bisque. I know it is touristy, but we love it.

    We had a nice meal at the Charthouse on Longboat Key a few years ago. Good single malt scotch selection at the lounge bar, but pricy food for what you get. Flemings Steakhouse was good, but is again a chain though high end. I heard there is now a resturant that is next door in the same building as Flemings. It is called Roy's- it is hawian fusion with japanese and sushi. My mother hated it, so it must be great. Each of the other good places we have been to seem to be closed the next time we try to go. One was an institution on Siesta Key, though I can't remember the name.

    I would love to find a "Lola's" from Cleveland, "Moto", or even "Lawrys" from Chicago in Saratota. Any good chef's tables in the area?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Pizzahound

      I really got a kick out of your post! Maybe I should start cooking some really bad meals when my kids come, then they will go out and hopefully invite us!! Hopefully you found some good restaurants, as we really do have quite a few, but in the future if you need more let me know. Also Alcook, it's a bit late for an answer but again, if you need some for another time, let me know. One that I do suggest that you stay away from is Zaks in downtown Sarasota. Just had a horrible experience with a very nasty owner!

      1. re: Mother of four

        I've actually had quite the opposite experience with Zaks and Zak himself. I find the food terrific, the quality of top steak restaurants anywhere. With regard to Zak, personally, he's been terrific with us. The first time I was in there we got to be talking about wine and he ended up selling me a not-on-the-wine-list pinot noir out of his personal cellar that had a "Do not sell" sticker on it -- and he gave me a terrific price on it, too. Now whenever we go in I ask him to pick out whatever bottle that he thinks we should have and he hasn't failed yet. He couldn't be nicer or more gracious. We've been there multiple times and love the place.

        1. re: Longboat


          1. re: Mother of four

            The restaurant is a tiny place and is not geared for a group of ten. I can imagine that you didn't have a very good time there with a group that large. That center table in the front room is probably where you were and that's good for maybe 6 people. I wouldn't take a group of ten to the Beach Bistro either.

            1. re: Longboat

              Trust me that was not the reason. The man is nasty, and aside from one other couple, we were the only one's there, and we were seated upstairs. Go to this website and read.

    2. On "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" last night, Guy was at the Alpine Steakhouse in Sarasota. It looks like a great place and their specialty, Turducken, would be the reason I'd pay them a visit.

      1. This Online WebGuide & their Online Magazine may help you.
        (and no need to leave Sarasota. there's 100's of places to eat)


        Magazine: (very cool!)

        1. I recommend the following (in no particular order):

          1. Michael's on East--I would call this "continental-ish" cuisine. This restaurant routinely is ranked in the top five outstanding Sarasota restaurants.

          2l Ophelia's on the Bay--This is located south of Sarasota and, again, is "continental-ish." I have not been to Ophelia's recently, due to its location far away from where I now live, but few people have anything but praise for this restaurant. The phone number is (941) 349-2212. The atmosphere overlooking the water is great too, but people go there for the food.

          3. The Columbia Restaurant--This is a Cuban restaurant located on St. Armand's Circle. The Cuban food is uniformly good, but I would particularly recommend the 1905 salad, the black beans with rice, the flan, and the sangria. A word about the sangria: there are two versions of it--a super sweet, cheap version and a drier, utterly delicious version that is much more expensive and is made with Spanish brandy (and wine). Go for the latter and avoid the former.

          4. Pacific Rim--This is a regional oriental restaurant with versions of foods from all over southeast Asia. It has good "word-of-mouth." It is located on Hillview Street, across the street (and weird parking lot) and opposite the south end of Sarasota Memorial Hospital. The phone number is (941) 330-8071.

          5. The Colony Dining Room--This continental restaurant is located on Long Boat Key and, like Michaels-on-East, is almost always listed in the top five of Sarasota restaurants. Interestingly, President Bush ate there the night before September 11, 2001. Al Gore has also eaten there, so I guess it appeals to both sides of the political spectrum. The food is excellent, especially the very fresh fish, which come with great sauces.

          12 Replies
          1. re: gfr1111

            Sorry gfr1111, but I disagree on some of the above....
            Michaels on East is highly expensive and very overrated.
            The Columbia is good only for the 1911 salad, all the rest is terrible including their attitude.
            Pacific Rim is excellent.
            Ophelia's is also very good.
            The Colony (father of Michaels on East) is not consistant, and could be hit or miss.
            I will list what I like and you can go from there:
            The Bijou is one of the best in town.
            Beach Bistro is one of the best inFlorida. Expensive but atmosphere to blow you away together with wonderful food and view. Its on the beach !!!!!
            Euphemia Hays on Longboat has the best duck we have ever eaten.....
            One of our favorite's who just got a award is Deja Vu. Small but excellent food.
            Ivo's also is chef owned as well as Deja Vu, with wonderful food. Chart House has gone down hill and Roy's Hawaiian is terrible. We love Flemings and for italian you must go to Divino on Main St.
            For breakfast or lunch you have to try YODER'S...on Bahia Vista and save room for the strawberry pie or any of their pies.... They sell over 3000 pies for Thanksgiving.
            Hope this helps, and again its our family's opinion, but we do eat out every night.

            1. re: irwin

              I agree with Irwin about the Bijou, Beach Bistro, and Euphemia Haye. These are all excellent restaurants, all equal to the ones I mentioned in my November 11 entry. Alas, I was limited to five by the request! Beach Bistro is probably the most well-known of the three restaurants mentioned. It also generally makes the top ten restaurants list for the Sarasota area and has received rave national reviews, as well. I have not tried Deja Vue. Thanks for the tip, Irwin.

              1. re: gfr1111

                Bijou is AWFUL and that's being kind. AVOID

                1. re: The Chowfather AKA sobe

                  Which Bijou have you been going to....certainly not the one in downtown Sarasota? On what basis would you define it as awful? Unless they've recently changed ownership (which I haven't heard but hey, anything's possible), the food is really excellent...particularly the crabcakes and lobster bisque. I've been there numerous times taking clients to lunch and have never had a bad meal...and everyone I know holds the place in very high regard as well. I guess it's possible anyone can have a bad meal anywhere, but I've not heard anyone before apply the word awful to the Bijou.

                  1. re: hibeta

                    I hate to tell you, but I would not go back to the Bijou either. The food is just so-so, and the prices are far from so-so! We have so many other wonderful restaurants that do so many new and innovative things with food. The Bijou is dull, dull, dull!! Sorry, but it's just my opinion.

                    1. re: Mother of four

                      No problem...after all, varied opinions are to be expected. I've found that many restaurants do certain things particularly well and others maybe not quite as well. I've become a fan of crab cakes over the years and find that those from Bijou, along with those from Barnacle Bill's and Zoriah's among others, are excellent. While perhaps crabcakes are "dull", they are certainly done well at these establishments. I do agree that Michael's is way overrated and overpriced...and I don't care for Columbia at all.

                      1. re: hibeta

                        worst crab cake I ever had was at Bijou. The whole meal was inedible. In all fairness, I was there 2+ years ago and only ate there 1 time (thank god) but I think it's the same ownership/chef.

                        1. re: hibeta

                          I would never call Crab Cakes dull, I just feel that the whole menu is stale and old. You know, each to their own! If we all enjoyed the same restaurants, there would be very few around. We went to try the Divino on Main St. last night, and really didn't have a wonderful experience. Two of us ordered the Veal Piccata and it was very thin and very overcooked. On of the men asked the price of one of their specials, the waiter said that he wasn't sure, but would find out....never ever heard the answer! OK, maybe they were having a bad night, maybe the chef was sick, but never the less, we most likely won't be back!! Someone else thought it was the best Italian restaurant in Sarasota (I must say we really don't have a lot of restaurants in that category that I would even call good).

                2. re: irwin

                  Agree about Michaels. The salad at Columbia ia 1905, and I love it, plus their black bean soup is great. Love Pacific Rim, but boy has it gotten busy. Ophelia"s good, but very pricy. I guess I am one of the few that is not a fan of The Bijou, food is dull, only word to describe it. Have not been to Beach Bistro, but have heard only wonderful things about it, just a very long trip. Love Deja Vu. Never heard of Divino's, but will look it up. Love The Rustic Grill and also The Selva Grill. Casey Key Fish House, good food, very casual ,on the water. Mattison's new 41 Grill, is wonderful and also Dereks, which is downtown. Always have had a good meal at Tommy Bahama's, and The Cork, that opened last year on St. Armands is excellent. OK, I'm done!!!

                  1. re: irwin

                    Thanks so much for the Yoder's suggestion - AWESOME. I was just there this morning for breakfast. I had the biscuits with sausage gravy and homefries which was a ridiculously huge plate of food for about $6. Big, fresh biscuits covered in plenty of sausage gravy with a mound of thinly sliced homefries. DC had pancakes which were fluffy but with a nice tooth. Got a big piece of wet-bottom shoofly pie to go, which had a nice molasses filling with lots of crumb-y topping.

                    Lots of Amish decoration, very friendly service, worth the trip (don't have places like Yoder's up here in Boston).

                    1. re: irwin

                      Irwin - I am another Irwin in the process of movijng to Sarasota area, Would like to share info with you. How can we interact?

                  2. Run don't walk to Derek's Eclectic Cuisine in the Rosemary District...the best restaurant I've found outside of NYC and SF (and that's saying something for a relocated SF girl).

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: laboheme

                      Had a meal at Derek's - very good - location is a little odd though

                      If you don't mind dives, Captain Curt's on Siesta is always a good bet during stone crab season (now) - go late enough and you'll also catch the Elvis karoke

                      1. re: laboheme

                        food is decent, but its the noisiest restaurant in Sarasota...................