HOME > Chowhound > Florida >


First visit to Sarasota and Tampa

Hello everyone,

I am visiting Sarasota this coming spring and am so excited! It's my first time going there so I was wondering if there were any suggestions for awesome restaurants. I'm from Canada, so any good chain restaurants would also be a great help :)

Also, I might go to Tampa for a day or two, so any suggestions for restaurants there would be appreciated.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. knicho- welcome!

    My advice- Avoid most chains. See what the area really has to offer as far as mom & pop spots and explore some excellent ethnic food, if you search the boards you'll find that the members on here have visited some really excellent places. Where in Tampa will you be? Downtown? North Tampa? It's pretty spread out. In Sarasota I haven't been too many places, but I really enjoyed L'Europe in St Armands Circle, and Beach Bistro on Long Boat Key. I've heard both great and bad things about LAN.

    Beach Bistro
    6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

    5 Replies
    1. re: askdrtodd

      Beach Bistro is on Anna Maria, the next island north of Longboat. An exception to the chains in Tampa is Seasons 52 at Westshore Plaza. It's a chain in the vein of Houstons and is very good.

      Beach Bistro
      6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

      1. re: drjimdolan

        I disagree, Seasons 52, in Tampa at least, is mediocre at best.

        1. re: drjimdolan

          drjim- I have to respectfully disagree, this Seasons 52 is pretty weak, although it is a pretty space and a good concept. The Seasons on Sand Lake in Orlando was killer (although I haven't eaten there in over a year) but this one not so much.

          1. re: askdrtodd

            I've eaten in them in Phoenix, Tampa, Palm Beach Gardens and a couple of other places. For mid-priced chains, they're pretty good and in my experience, consistent.

            1. re: drjimdolan

              For a first-time visitor to Tampa, there is no reason to settle for "consistent". I;m sure you could do worse, but you could also do so, so much better in this town.

      2. If you like wine and steak, Tampa has a world class spot. Was there last night. Bern's, may be best wine list in world, and the steak is perfect as well. Also reasonably priced.

        1. Thank you all for your suggestions :) Much appreciated! As for where in Tampa I would be, I'm not sure yet. I haven't planned that much yet!

          1. yoders..
            best pie in florida imo

            1. Cafe L'Europe on St. Armand's Circle is a wonderful place to enjoy an al fresco spring lunch while watching the worldl go by. The lobster bisque is insane. I have no idea why you would actively seek out chains, though. I avoid them like the plague...you can do much better.

              Do you want to see Tampa for any particular reason? I think St. Petersburg (both the beach area and downtown) are much nicer and more interesting.

              1. I agree with Beach Bistro on Anna Maria Island...one of the best places in Sarasota/Bradenton. Ezra's in Bradenton is excellent eclectic modern food and Derek's in Sarasota is one of the best restaurants in Southwest Florida. I'm also a fan of Libby's short-rib stuffed burger. Enjoy your stay!




                Beach Bistro
                6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

                1 Reply
                1. re: laboheme

                  Second Derek's. Had a great meal there a couple weeks ago.

                2. By the water (BTW) Includes the Old Salty Dog on city island. Marina Jack Bar outside.
                  Both good for a lunch stop, sandwich and a beer and you sit just feet from the water. Marina jack has a valet.

                  Turtles on Siesta Key also waterfront and medium priced.

                  Higher end includes Michaels on East, Ophelia's, The Bijou, Roessler's Flight Deck.

                  The most consistently great food in Sarasota has been Italian: Cafe Amici, Mediteraneo, Cafe Baci and others, have been consistently great for years.

                  For Mexican the only place in town is El Toro Bravo on Stickney Point Rd. The owner is Reuben and his wife, you will meet them if you go there. Excellent salsa, rellenos, fajitas.

                  Bakeries you should visit are Ce'st la Vie on Main. They are a sidewalk cafe, serve breakfast and lunch, fresh croissant, baguettes, chocolate chip rolls and great coffee.

                  Paisano's Italian bakery has fantastic cookies, pignolis, corchidates, almond crescents and awesome biscotti. The cherry chocolate chip and the dried fruit are my favs.

                  Simon's on US 41/ Tamiami Trail is excellent for breakfast/ lunch.

                  Buddha Belly donuts on the corner of Main and US 301 supposedly has phenom donuts. I have never been but I have it from a reliable source.

                  So there is it tis, these are family-owned restaurants that have been consistently good for years (Buddha Belly is newer). I hope you enjoy your stay.

                  Cafe Baci
                  4001 S Tamiami Trl, Sarasota, FL 34231

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

                  The Old Salty Dog
                  1601 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, FL 34236

                  Marina Jack
                  2 Marina Plz, Sarasota, FL 34236

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cereme

                    Buddha Belly is out of business........
                    Paisano's is excellent with great variety, as well as Ce'st la Vie. Cafe E'urope is also excellent, and a new italian restaurant just opened on No. Lemon called
                    Salute.... Going there tonight for the 3rd time in a week.... Great food, big variety, decent pricing, easy to park, and situated in a "happening area"...

                    Buddha Belly
                    25 NW 16th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601

                  2. Thank you all for your help! Are there any great restaurants that are a bit cheaper than most of these? Thanks :)

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: knicho

                      Hey Knicho,
                      What is your price range?

                      1. re: JeremyEG

                        Well, the cheaper the better (I'm a student), maybe between 10 and 20$? I might splurge and try at least one of these places though, they all look delicious!!

                        1. re: knicho

                          the BTW places i mentioned are not expensive. You can go to the salty dog for a sandwich and beer for under $20.

                          El Toro Bravo is not expensive either.

                          The Italian places I mentioned are not real costly either. You can still get Fettuccine Amici at Cafe Amici with chicken, sun dried tomato and a fresh Alfredo sauce for $12.95, my favorite.

                          Many of these restaurants are open for lunch. If you can swing it you might want to try them then. You still get great food and atmosphere just smaller portions.

                          One thing I do is go to the hot dog vendor at the post office on Ringling Avenue. Buy a couple great bratwurst. Then go down by the water either at Island Park, South Lido Park or on John Ringling Causeway and eat your brats. You can do that for under five bucks and its a nice time.

                          1. re: knicho

                            If you are going to splurge I'd go with Derek's. Service is helpful and the food is creative and usually near perfect.

                            If you're here on a Tuesday and like Spanish food check out Ceviche. They have some decent $4 tapas plates on Tuesdays. Nothing amazing, but the atmosphere's fun and the food is solid.

                            I also recommend Ce'st la Vie, but stick to the bakery.

                            For a veggie place a bit cheaper than Simon's there is The Veg at gulfgate.

                            Lan has a fairly affordable late night (after ten) menu, and it's open past midnight unlike most of the city.

                            If you're looking for pizza, I'd suggest Rico's or Il Panificio.

                            For Tampa. Bern's dessert room is good, even if dinner is out of your price range.

                            Il Panificio
                            1703 Main St, Sarasota, FL 34236

                      2. I go to Sarasota at least once a year to visit my mom and it's a great city. Patrick's on Main St is the best burger in town. Michael's on East is nice if you want a special-occasion place. There are a few Amish places with plain and hearty food; Heritage is one of them and they have a great bakeshop attached to it. Lots of people love Carabba's for Italian; Bonefish Grill is very popular also. There is so much there - your only problem will be choosing a place to go.

                        Michael's on East
                        1212 East Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34239

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Scribbler

                          The Dutch Heritage bakery is good, but across the street "Yoders" is better, and now their products are available in their new "Market" next door.

                          Dutch Heritage
                          3713 Bahia Vista St, Sarasota, FL 34232

                        2. If you have to chain, Tijuana Flats is affordable and generally reliable faux Mexican- generally about $8 for a combo with beans, rice, and drink. Pollo Tropical has its share of fans.

                          1. By far the best place to eat in Sarasota I found is the Coco Grill.

                            It is in an unassuming location in a strip mall but it is easily one of the best places I have tried in ages. The dishes are tasty and interesting and there is a ton of variety but the sauces and really out of this world. Everything we tried was fantastic. Oh, and leave room for dessert. Very reasonable prices and top notch food. It is a small place, but well worth the visit.

                            Seriously the best true chowhound find.

                            1. cereme hit most of the restaurants that I go to, but I think I can add to the list. I'm slightly biased from living in the south part of Sarasota for 14 years, so some of my answers won't represent Sarasota as a whole.

                              This argument for me begins and ends with one place: Rico's. I've personally preferred the Gulf Gate location for about 5-6 years now. I've had several friends complain repeatedly about the Bee Ridge and airport locations, so I generally avoid them. I make a point to go there almost every time I'm back in Sarasota.

                              Unfortunately, there isn't really a great BBQ place in Sarasota. I've been to The Oaks a few times by 41 and Clark. Its BBQ, and that's about it. Not particularly outstanding, but if you need BBQ, there's the place.

                              Following with the great trend of BBQ, there also isn't a great Chinese place in Sarasota. Mrs. Chen's on 41 by The Oaks is my favorite for a buffet style that actually replaces food on a regular basis and isn't bad. There's another one right next to it that I believe is slightly cheaper and has more seating, but the quality is just a little lower.

                              Da Ru Ma is great, Joto if you want Teppanyaki and a bit of entertainment. Siesta Key location preferred.

                              I've been going to Thailand Restaurant in Gulf Gate (original name, right?) since I was much younger, and if you're in the area, its a great place to check out. Taste of Asia over on Main St. is, as much as I hate to admit it, far superior, and is a great place if you are vegetarian or vegan. It is, however, more expensive than Thailand Restaurant, so be wary.

                              Bars (since food goes well with alcohol):
                              Daiquiri Deck on Siesta Key- if you're over 21, you have to go here. If you're under 21, it could still be fine, but you won't be allowed into the upper deck. They've got some decent tourist trap food, but SKOB next door might be your best bet before you get totally inebriated.
                              The Gator Club on Main St. - This is one of the more surreal bars I've ever been to. Its an old-style club (the building dates to 1913), and has traditional furniture and decor, but at night they play rap. Something seems odd about this place, but I keep going back.
                              World of Beer - its a regional chain, but they serve good beer, and lots of types. They don't serve food, but they have a delivery/takeout menu for places that will deliver to your bar stool.

                              Drunk Food:
                              Munchies 420 Cafe in Gulf Gate. I would never really eat this food sober, but its just what you need when you're not. Conveniently, they also deliver and are open until 4:20am. They also have some ludicrous wing challenge involving pepper spray wings, but that's only available from 4:20pm-8pm if I remember correctly.

                              Geier's Sausage Kitchen on 41 south of Clark/Stickney Pt. If you are planning on eating cold cuts or cooking meat for even one day, this place is much better than any supermarket. Even if you don't plan on it, go inside and just browse for German/Austrian/Polish food items. Recommend the Wurst Salad.

                              Geier's Sausage Kitchen
                              7447 S Tamiami Trl, Sarasota, FL 34231

                              Taste of Asia
                              1535 Main St, Sarasota, FL 34236

                              Daiquiri Deck
                              5250 Ocean Boulevard Siesta Ky, Sarasota, FL 34231

                              1. Recs from this and other Sarasota threads I've put together on Google Maps: