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Jan 11, 2009 12:22 PM

Sarasota to Naples, Anniversary Celebration

We live in Punta Gorda and will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. For this special occasion, we are looking for a romantic restaurant with fine dining. We are willing to travel as far north as Sarasota, and south to Naples. Where would you go?

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  1. Some may say Beach Bistro is the best restaurant on the gulf coast, but I find the prices border on the ridiculous, especially given the room which seems to be an excercize in how many tables an owner can squeeze in a space before the patrons are sitting in each other's laps. Our go-to spot for that special celebratory meal is definately Ophelia's on the Bay on Siesta Key. Terrific food that is expertly perpared. Terrific professional service. An eclectic and fairly priced wine list. And the ambiance can't be beat. Reserve a spot outside on the deck if weather permits for a great up close view of Little Sarasota Bay.

    6 Replies
    1. re: CapeCodGuy

      You're not saying that the Beach Bistro doesn't have the best food -- you're really saying that you can't afford it. No shame there but the fact is, it does have the best food (per Zagat it has the best food in Florida) and I, for one, am perfectly happy to be squeezed into a small space to enjoy it. By contrast, I've had 3 meals at Ophelia's in the last year. The first was excellent, the second poor and the third OK. Ophelia's is not what it used to be. Also, be careful reserving on the deck since if it rains and the restaurant is full inside...well, they try to accomodate, but the wait can be painful.

      1. re: Longboat

        Actually, you are incorrect on both counts. I can afford the prices at Beach Bistro, but I feel they are unwarrented. Sure, the rack of lamb is expertly prepared, but at $63 I feel ripped off when there are a dozen places that do as well in their preparation at almost half the price. $30 appetizers? Again, perhaps this can be justified, but I don't expect to be elbow to elbow with the table next to me and have the chair behind me bump me every time the other diner cuts his/her food. I can't agree on the "best" rating by Zagat. Zagat, in my travels thoughout this country, often misses the mark of the "best of" listings and I believe that is the case here. I've always had consistently excellent meals at Ophelia's and that includes recent experiences. Yes, if it rains while you are outside you must wait for table inside. What do you expect...that they hold a table open for you inside in case of rain?

        1. re: CapeCodGuy

          I'm not suggesting that Ophelia's should hold tables inside in case it rains for those dining outside, but rather pointing out that there is a very real risk in reserving outside when there is any chance of rain. Caveat emptor. I forgot to mention in my prior post that since Ophelia's is on the bay, when the wind drops you have a very real chance of being swarmed by mosquitoes (not so much a risk in winter). This isn't theory, it happened to me. The waiters have cans of Off, but then you stink from that from the rest of the night. That certainly affects the "romance" of the evening. Oh -- and if you have to "justify" restaurant prices then your heart is telling you that you can't afford them. It's that simple.

          1. re: Longboat

            QUOTE: "if you have to "justify" restaurant prices then your heart is telling you that you can't afford them. It's that simple"

            There's a difference in one's ability to afford the finer things in life and recognizing when one is being gouged. Only a fool would not understand the distinction.

          2. re: CapeCodGuy

            Cape Cod Guy-you are absolutely correct.
            Beach Bistro is robbing us and some of us love it.
            A few weeks ago, the elbow thing happened to my wife as the lady in the table behind my wife was cutting her $63 rack, her elbow was hitting my wife's elbow.....
            This my friends is not gourmet dining, and Sean should be ashamed to squeeze us in like sardines so he can grab the last buck......
            No question his food and service is excellent, His prices are extremely high, but we only go on very special occasions which might be a few times in season.
            Sarasota has other restaurants that the rack is just as good for a lot less $$.
            In my book Zagat is a joke. Restaurants are not individually visited by a Zagat team, but rather a questionair is mailed out to their mailing list of people who visit restaurants frequently, and its the people who rate the restaurant....
            So, this means that awful restaurants can get 5-stars, and excellent restaurants can get 1-star, so please don't hold Zagat as a bible, but only as a rough guide.

            1. re: irwin

              You love to trash Beach Bistro (it's "robbing" us) but yet you and your wife still go on special occasions. I'm laughing out loud. That was what the original question that started this thread was about. -- a place for a special occasion. Anyway, all this is great for me since I eat there every couple of weeks and with you guys all searching for similar quality in Sarasota for lower prices (you won't find similar quality in Sarasota for any price) there'll be more room for me.

      2. Congrats on your milestone! What you should do is avoid the long drive after dinner, book a room at the Ritz Naples, and have dinner in the hotel. The restaurant is wonderful and may guarantee another 25 years. You'll score even more points if it's a surprise.

        1. Actually, before posting on the board, the first place my husband and I thought of was the "Beach Bistro." Then we sat down to calculate the drive time. From our home it is at least two hours each way. Getting there is great, but the two hour drive home when you are stuffed is really long. We were last there a few years ago when staying in Sarasota. The price for dinner is up there, but the food is excellent and it is a memorable place.

          We cannot stay in Sarasota or Naples for the night because we have a dog.

          I have never had dinner at Ophelia's - I'll check out their website.

          1 Reply
          1. re: brandessa

            Actually, this site lists many hotels which are pet friendly. They range from the Quality Inn all the way up to The Ritz Carlton. Take a peek:

          2. If you're looking for something romantic try the Turtle Club, in Naples, just north of the Ritz. My husband and I went in November...hadn't been there in years. We sat on the beach, had a wonderful dinner and watched the sunset. It was a beautiful night. I think you can reserve the table closest to the beach to get your own "private" sunset. Our only complaint (and we did complain) is that they allow smoking at the beach tables and there was a table of 7 next to us...they all smoked. While I realize we were outside, it was really strong and we weren't the only people complaining.

            1. Maison Blanche on Longboat Key is quite elegant, with upscale new French food. I think it would be a nice anniversary place if you don't mind the drive. Their website is, if you want the check out their menu.