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Looking for the best restaurants in Florida w/in driving distance of sarasota/ft myers

My wife and I were thinking it would be fun to spend a weekend or two driving to the "best" restaurants in Florida. We live in Port Charlotte, and restaurants in the area are decent at best(although I will give props to Donato's, and Laishley Crab House has the most fantastic Oysters I have ever had!).

We both love all types of food, the only stipulation is my wife has a stomach condition and can not eat anything at all spicy. Other than that, we are open to anything. Any suggestions for food destinations worth driving to?

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  1. define driving distance? an hour? two?

    1 Reply
    1. re: askdrtodd

      Lets say up to 4 hours. If the place is really spectacular, we might be willing to stay at a hotel in the area check out local sights. The better the food, the longer we are willing to travel!

    2. How long have you been in the area? Have you been to Perfect Caper in Punta Gorda? Bern's Steak House in Tampa?
      What about Miami-Lauderdale?

      4 Replies
      1. re: RevrendAndy

        Go to Tampa for a day, do Pane Rustica for lunch and Bern's for dinner. That'll be a pretty amazing food day.

        1. re: askdrtodd

          We have done Bern's. To be honest, it was good, but I did not think it was great. The steak was amazingly tender, but tasteless. My wife's was as well, and the Lobster Bisque had far too much Sherry in it.

          We have not done the Miami-Lauderdale area.

          Pane Rustica is a new name for me. I will check it out!

          1. re: macleody2k

            Try Sideberns. Vey upscale and great cocktails

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            Sidebern's
            2208 W Morrison Ave, Tampa, FL 33606

        2. re: RevrendAndy

          I just recently heard of Perfect Caper. I plan on checking it out, people seem to love it!

        3. Right in Sarasota, Derek's Culinary Casual is hard to beat...he was a semi-finalist for a James Beard award last year. Ezra's in Bradenton is always spectactular...go there for their bento lunch box (with some of the best fried Apalachicola oysters and asian calamari caesar salad) then drift down to the Rosemary District in Sarasota to Derek's for dinner...you won't be disappointed.

          http://www.ezrafinefoods.com/
          http://www.dereks-sarasota.com/

          4 Replies
          1. re: laboheme

            Great suggestions! I lived in Sarasota for a couple years, but had never heard of these! Thanks for the links as well!

            1. re: macleody2k

              The Beach Bistro on Holmes Beach (Anna Maria Island) has the highest Zagat food rating in Florida. And it deserves it.

              1. re: Longboat

                true. beautiful view, location, restaurant. excellent food. bring your wallet though.

                1. re: askdrtodd

                  I looked The Beach Bistro up online. Looks amazing! I see what you mean about price, though. Still, we will add it to our list.

          2. It's worth driving down to Naples to try Escargot 41, IM Tapas, USS Nemo's, Angelina's Ristorante (Bonita Springs), and Truluck's. All have been reviewed in detail here and in Insatiable Appetites blog.

            1 Reply
            1. re: TomOHaver

              Well that would use up a few trips! Great recommendations, thanks!

            2. i have only been to sideburns (not Berns) but if you want to try a steak place that i think is the best i've ever been to (and its in Naples) try Preston's. its small and reservations during season are hard to get--but you won't be disappointed. great choc cake too made by the Mrs.
              Inca's Kitchen is worth a look --not much for decor but the food is just fabulous.

              Sea Salt--mixed reviews. i had a great food but the service was awful--maybe start-up problems...but the chef was the sous chef for Galileo in DC when it was the #1 rest there (Washingtonian Magazine). plenty of good places but those are the only destination places i can think of.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Zeits

                Cool. Looks like a trip south is in order! Thanks!