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Aug 12, 2010 01:59 PM

Best of Sarasota's hidden gems

Will be spending a week in Sarasota...5th or 6th time visiting the area. Have been to the majority of the well known and well reviewed restos ( Derek's, Beach Bistro, Bijou, Mosaic, Selva Grill, Ophelia's Euphemia Haye's etc) We are looking to try some not so well known but equally as delicious places for dinner. For example, looking for good mexican, cuban, chinese, thai, bbq, indian, italian.
Thanks in advance! Looking forward to some new culinary experiences!

Beach Bistro
6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

Selva Grill
1345 Main Street, Sarasota, FL 34236

Euphemia Haye
5540 Gulf of Mexico Dr, Longboat Key, FL 34228

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  1. If you are here in Early Sept. Bologna Cafe will be back from vacation, this is truly an experience you will not find in very many places. All the cheese, Salumi, (cured meats) olives etc. are imported from italy. Pasta is made fresh daily, Barbara is the cook, and Claudio makes fresh mozzarella daily too, sometimes it is still warm! fresh baked breads round out great treats here. The antipasti di Torrre is a must have appetizer.

    Very good Vietnamese Pho and bun dishes are at Pho Cali, Main street Sarasota, very reasonable.

    1. Have you tried Libby's, Lan, or Vizen Sushi? All three are excellent.

      26 Replies
      1. re: fepey

        Fepy....Rumor has it (Creative Loafing) that Libby's is maybe going to go "Poooff"

        1. re: ospreycove

          I have no info whatsoever on Libby's going "Poooff" or not -- but I'd be shocked. It's always crowded and the patrons represent all age groups, include young.

          1. re: Longboat

            LBK....Check back a few issues in the freebie newspaper, "Creative Loafing", the writer alluded to thie subject event.

            1. re: ospreycove

              I can't find it by Googling "Creative Loafing Libby's" although I certainly don't dispute that you saw it. The only articles I do find on Creative Loafing are favorable to Libby's. Either way, I've been to Libby's maybe a dozen times, including out of season, and it's always either busy or packed. People can say anything, including Poooff. I feel confident that Libby's isn't closing anytime soon.

              1. re: Longboat

                Only time will tell on this one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                1. re: ospreycove

                  Time has told! Turns out that Libby's is just fine and is suing the journal that published the rumor of its demise:


                  Restaurant files libel suit after news report
                  Libby's owner says magazine didn't call to check rumor of closing

                  1. re: Longboat

                    As one said....."The rumor is"...........not coorborated by a second verification

        2. re: fepey

          have not tried Libby's but just looked at the menu and my mouth is watering! Is that in the neighborhood behind the hospital? What kind of cuisine is Lan?

          1. re: stack_c

            Yes on Libby's location, it's called the Hillview section. Libby's is close to the corner of Hillview and South Osprey. And here is Lan's website -- you can see their menu.

            1. re: stack_c

              We went to Lans in May, right before we came back north for the summer. We had the price fixed meal, and it was very good. We will definitely return when we go back down.

              1. re: Mother of four

                What is the intel. on "Retropolitan" in Burns Court; apparently same ownership as Galileo, next door. I think it is dinner only.

                1. re: ospreycove

                  a) Lans is a excellent restaurant. Great chef/owner and open late. This is where the local chefs go to eat after their restaurant closes.
                  b) Have not heard anything about Retropolitan, but not sure that Galileo is still open. Does anyone know ?

                  1. re: irwin

                    On Galileo:

                    From the Herald Tribune: Restaurant owner accused of videotaping employees


                    1. re: Longboat

                      Yes, I saw that. What a nut. Is the restaurant still open?
                      Also see that Selva Grill closed.... too bad--very good restaurant. Sarasota seems to have way too many restaurant closings !!

                      Selva Grill
                      1345 Main Street, Sarasota, FL 34236

                      1. re: irwin

                        Selva Grlll closed? I was last there on July4th but had a very good meal. I can't find anything online just yet about it closing but sad to hear that. Seems like you hear about a new place closing almost every week.

                        1. re: irwin

                          Very interesting; Selva is open, I heard it closed too. Galileo is also open as of today. Another "rumor" the old Sarasota news that reopened as a cafe and Apple reseller called "Media on Main" is "having trouble" and being quite vocal about it.

                          1. re: ospreycove

                            I also think Selva is open. The founder and chef, Darwin Santa Maria, has left though and is opening a restaurant on Siesta Key called Cottage on the Key.


                            Santa Maria Restaurant
                            135 Avenida Menendez, Saint Augustine, FL 32084

                            1. re: Longboat

                              2 newplaces opening, on St Armonds circle. In the space held for a long time by Maus and Hoffman, men's clothier, there is a sign for a "Traditional Mexican" restaurant. In the space that was occupied by Cork and Bottle shop, a "Japanese steakhouse and Sushi......Both signs state "opening soon", we will see.

                              1. re: ospreycove

                                Hemingway"s in St. Armands Circle is closing -- I just read, but not because lack of business, but because landlord would not renew lease, so they are looking for another location according to the Longboat Observer.

                                1. re: irwin

                                  Wow, There is an institution without a home!!!!

                                  1. re: irwin

                                    Irwin..... A quote from Hemingway's website," Hemingway's Retreat Has Closed!
                                    .........for now.

                                    We have accepted a generous offer from our landlord for an 'early-out'
                                    from our lease which was to have expired in June of 2011.

                                    We are currently negotiating with other spaces and will certainly keep you
                                    informed of our whereabouts. As soon as a new opening date is set, you
                                    will be the first to know.

                                    We thank you for a wonderful 21 year run at 325 John Ringling Blvd and
                                    look forward to welcoming you when we celebrate the opening of a new
                                    Hemingway's Retreat.

                                    Thank you all for your wonderful support and patronage through the years.

                                    Please feel free to stay in touch via email at: ."

                                    Who knows what is next???

                                    Hemingway's Retreat Restaurant & Bar
                                    325 John Ringling Blvd, Sarasota, FL 34236

                                  2. re: ospreycove

                                    When Cork was closing, they said they were going to reopen as an island barbecue place. We were surprised to see that it will now be a Japanese steakhouse and sushi place. Tango recently opened as an Argentinean steakhouse and sushi place. Odd that Cork would choose something so similar. I liked what they were before (foodwise).

                                    1. re: LJBTampa

                                      LJB The landlord was open to all who wanted to lease the building. To date very little activity, besides the sign.

                            2. re: Longboat

                              Not Guilty and sueing the city of Sarasota, Saraota Police Dept. and all related others involved in this case.

                            3. re: ospreycove

                              Retropolitan. Went last week. No one to greet you at entrance at 7pm on a Friday night. OK menu, but scattered service (waitress, overheard: " I'm so BORED tonight."...then why weren't you checking your tables?) Slow cooked pork was distressingly bland. The sauce "The chef isn't doing a sauce for meatloaf right now" very dry, had to resort to ketchup. Said they'd been open a month. There's no energy or interest from the management -- with only 4 tables occupied while we were there, you'd think they'd stop by to check in. They do have patio seating. We're full-time Sarasota residents, and this isn't on our "return to" list. Galileo next

                      2. Two restaurants I think of as 'gems' that are never mentioned much are Curry Creek Cafe and Roessler's Restaurant, both in south Sarasota. I've been to Curry Creek Cafe twice now for lunch and have been quite impressed. Talk about a small hole in the wall in the middle of nowhere... A mix of Indonesian, Italian and American food. For lunch try the soft shell crab sandwich or the crabcake sandwich along with the seafood stew. I keep hearing their curry is to die for. They are running a special of extra 10% accrual off the bill every time you go up to 40% off on your 4th visit.

                        Been to Roessler's many times, very fine dining and $$$, but worth it for special occasions. The baked onion soup is a masterpiece, and the boneless duck new orleans is just amazing. The place gets packed so reservations are needed.


                        Roessler's Restaurant
                        2033 Vamo Way, Sarasota, FL 34238

                        Curry Creek Cafe
                        920 Tamiami Trl S, Nokomis, FL 34275

                        1. The original comment has been removed
                          1. For Mexican the best in Sarasota is El Toro Bravo on Stickney Pt. Road. Rueben is the owner they came from New Mexico and do a great job.

                            It is a little hole in the wall place but the owner cooks and comes to greet you.

                            They do excellent rellenos, fajitas and salsa.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: cereme

                              Cereme....Totally agree with you on "El Toro" Ruben is so passionate about his food; he takes the time to throughly explain each dish to the uninitiated and has the patience of a Saint for those who need to "Redesign the menu". We are currently planning, with Ruben, a dinner for about 30 guests. He wants to be there and set it up fo us and explain his dishes to the servers so they are informed on the ingredients, techniques, etc. Looking forward to the dinner!!!!!

                              1. re: ospreycove

                                Follow up to the above post about planned catered dinner from El Toro Bravo.
                                Ruben is a trip, he came out the day prior to the "Event", really just a casual get together; just to see the layout. He appeared at the agreed upon time and without a sound setup the buffet of Enchiladas, seasoned rice, beans, spiced beef, shredded chicken chopped tomatos, onions, 2 kinds of shredded cheese, cilantro, a micro green salad, soft corn and flour, as well as his own crispy tortillas, for tacos, green and red NM sauces, Pico de Gallo. House made Guacamole and Salsa for the chips rounded out the display. We had thirty guests and paid for that number we could have easily served another 15! Ruben's price was very reasonable, that included Bain Maries with plenty of fuel to keep everything at perfect serving temp. Along with his knowledge of food, commentary and stories made for a enjoyable evening
                                We are more than pleased with El Toro Bravo's food and professionalism!