Our Vacation Reviews - Siesta Key & Sarasota, FL (LONG)
First, forgive me for the length of this post, but I figured this was the easiest way to put it on CH. And since there was little recent posts for Siesta Key and Sarasota, I thought I’d had my 12 cents.
My husband and I vacationed for a week in Siesta Key, FL through May 7. Other than the love bug infestation (which locals said was very bad this year—lucky us), this beach vacation would have been perfect. Prior, we had enjoyed Ft. Myers Beach and dining in the Naples, Bonita Springs area. I think I like Siesta Key better since the sand is marvelous and gulf is so clear and blue. Anyway, I wanted to write in the places we ate. Noting that since it was a beach vacation, we mostly enjoyed breakfast in our gulf-front rental condo (highly recommend Siesta Breakers) and lunch on the beach, but we enjoyed our dining-out evenings immensely.
WALT'S FISH MARKET - Stopped here on our way back from the SRQ Airport. Enjoyed incredible Stone Crab Claws and Fried Shrimp special for $10. I also had the best raw oysters here while I was down there. I enjoyed the service and the staff and overall, everything tasted very fresh. My husband had shrimp and fish-n-chips I believe. They served us some smoked tuna for an amuse bouche with crackers that I did not like, but I guess it is popular down in this area.
MILLIE'S - Breakfast place - OMG! This place was incredible. You read other reviewers saying that this is like dining "at grandma's," they aren't kidding. It is so cute, decorated in toile wallpaper and white curtains. We had the sweetest server named Christi, who was so wonderful to us, that we went back a second day for breakfast. The first visit, I had apricot and cream cheese french toast (see pic) which was to-die-for. The second day, I had swedish crepes with lingenberries. I'm not sure which I preferred more. My husband had pancakes which he said were also wonderfully light. I had heard about this place from a bartender--they always are a wealth of information, huh?!
YODER'S AMISH RESTAURANT - Had to try this place since it was on Man vs. Food for their fried chicken. First of all, it is the oddest thing that there are Amish living in Sarasota. Just seems so out of place. But, by God, I think this is probably some of the best fried chicken we had ever eaten. The sides were just OK--I had macaroni and cheese and jello salad (yes Jello!); I think my hub had corn and something else that was mediocre. And they are known for their pies--especially their peanut butter cream pie, but I couldn't do it. My hub had apple and I had chocolate cream pie. I thought the cream pie was just OK--the cream didn't taste real to me. My hub enjoyed the apple. The fresh bread on the table was typical amish white and yummy. (see pic of placemat; Sorry no chicken pics--we ate it too fast!)
BIJOU CAFE - We hated this place. It was much too stuffy and pretentious for us. My husband was dying and couldn't wait to get out. I have to tell you what happened. We are not wine drinkers; we are foodies (three/four courses) and beer and cocktail folk, so we are used to getting that annoyed reaction from our server because we don’t want wine. Anyway, we sat down and our snooty waiter came over (I think it MAY have been Tom), and I asked for a Malibu Bay Breeze. He looked at me quizzically and said, "what's in that?" I told him, I wasn't sure; just that I like them. So then our bartender comes over and asks me about the drink and then told me he would have to go to his storage room to get the right rum but it wasn't a problem. I asked him to feel free to recommend something else, but he insisted on making me my requested cocktail. So a bit later, our server brings me the cocktail, which was delicious. He then said to me, "We don't get much call for drinks like these in a place like this." Then our bartender came back to ask how I liked it. I told him it was delicious and then when I told him what our snooty waiter said to me, he replied, "TELL HIM TO GO BLOW IT OUT HIS A$$!!" That made our night. The amuse bouche was great. My beet salad was unremarkable. Can’t recall what my hub had for app; may have been crabcakes. I had a veal dish that was just OK. My husband had steak au poivre. That was so peppered, it was almost inedible. Later, we heard a different server nearby warning his table about how peppery that dish was; ours did not. And then, prior to our ordering, I overheard another server reading specials. I had a feeling ours was not going to tell us the specials. Sure enough, he never did. I had to ask, “are there any specials?” Then, he tells us that most of them were gone, no fish special, etc. Ugghh. That is one of my biggest pet peeves, and it happens to us all the time. Like we don’t look the part, drink wine, etc., so we don’t deserve to hear the specials. I have to tell you that I am white and my husband is black. Sarasota is predominantly white and my husband felt very uncomfortable at this restaurant, stared at by other diners, etc. I felt that the transplants who live down there are very friendly and the long-time lifers more old-fashioned. The tourists were also very friendly. Anyway, we did eventually get our server to warm up, but it was not a place we would ever go to again. I must say that others there all seemed very friendly. But our server did not make us feel welcome at all.
MATTISON’S CITY GRILLE – We had a wonderful evening at this restaurant. I believe there are three different Mattison’s down in Sarasota. This one seemed to have the nicest vive and included live entertainment with dining al-fresco, which we love. We had a nice seat outside under the covered patio equipped with fans galore and gas-lit torches that added to the atmosphere. Again, we had a waiter that did not tell us the specials until we had to ask. But I have to say that their artichoke’s Esther Style were one of the most incredible items (see pic.); the lemon caper topping was lick-the-plate yummy. My husband had their crab cakes (see pic.) with red pepper coulis and jalapeno tartar sauce that were equally delicious. I had the filet mignon with bourbon onions and my husband had rack of lamb. Both dishes were excellent, but the vibe in this place is really what gets you. I could’ve sat there all evening.
ROY’S HAWAIIAN FUSION SARASOTA – OK I know this is a “chain,” but I first experienced Roy’s in Bonita Springs, FL that was wonderful, so I had to dine here again. It was perfect again. First of all, greeted by a lovely hostess. Our server, Eduardo, just made the night. How lucky Roy’s is to have him on staff. This gentleman was a complete gem. All the runners and bussers were also super friendly but unobtrusive. Fresh steamed edamame were on the table, and we were started with an eggplant amuse bouche. When our runner placed our Roy’s Canoe Appetizer for two, the runner described each item to a tee “Lemongrass Shrimp, Szechuan Pork Ribs, Tempura Spicy Tuna Roll, Golden LobsterPotstickers, Blackened Island Ahi.” My husband notes to me, “she sounds like one of the chef’s on Top Chef describing her own dish, and we are the judges.” It was so true. Eduardo worked so hard to please us and offer wonderful suggestions, etc. Although, he treated all his guests this way, he had a way of really making you personally feel special. Throughout the evening, we were able make small-talk with him and what a great guy. He worked hard for his TIP, and we willingly gave because he made our night. After our apps, we ordered Creamy Kahlua Blue Cheese Wedge Salad with Hawaiian Macadamia Gremolata & Balsamic Glazed Red Onions (see pic; this was not your ordinary wedge salad), Maui Wowie Shrimp Salad with Capers, Sweet Onions, Crumbled Feta Cheese & Caper Lime Vinaigrette (an excellent chopped salad; see pic.). For our entrees, we had Roy’s Roasted Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi with Lobster Butter Sauce (this was cooked to a tee, melt-in-your mouth, not overly crusted and the sauce was incredible) and husband had Braised & Char Grilled Beef Short Ribs with Bacon & Brussels in a Natural and Beurre Blanc (looked incredible). For dessert, my husband had the typical lava cake, only it was cooked to perfection, soufflé-like and oozed gloriously. I had a raspberry bombe that Eduardo had suggested that was a beautiful finish to a terrific dining experience. Eduardo even took our picture and placed it in a Roy’s frame—I know you’re thinking that this sounds hokey, but it was a nice gesture that some servers were doing with their patrons. It was a nice memory for us. All in all, I will go to Roy’s again and again; I have never been disappointed. And Always Made to Feel Welcome!
CARRABBA’S – OK, here we go again with the chain, but we decided to stop here because we were out late and just wanted to sit in a bar near our condo and get a quick bite. I had to write in because the scallops that I had here were some of the most incredible I have ever eaten--Spiedino Di Mare Shrimp and sea scallops coated with Italian breadcrumbs, grilled and topped with lemon butter sauce. I opted for all scallops. Now, I know you are thinking basic scallops, but these also were grilled to perfection, only lightly with a delicious sauce that I would love to replicate at my home. Everything else was decent, and our server here (I wish I could recall her name) was also lovely. And there is always a long wait, so they must be doing something right.
CAPTAIN CURT’S CRAB AND OYSTER BAR – We dined here on our first night because we were exhausted and it was right across the street from our condo. My thoughts were that the place was loud. And the food was just mediocre. The “award-winning” clam chowder was ok, needed salt, but not anywhere near the best of any chowder I have eaten in my life. My husband and I both had the broiled grouper. They gave us two pieces each and it was way overcooked. Left an entire filet. Great place if you have rowdy kids as no one would hear them. Drinks were good.
OLD SALTY DOG (the one near Mote Aquarium) – Typical fried food bar place. It felt dirty to me—you know sticky tables, etc. (makes you wonder what the kitchen looks like). But I did have a pound of their special steamed shrimp that is tossed in butter and old bay. I can’t remember what they called them, but they were delicious and MESSY! My hub decided to be brave and try the Old Salty dog with cheddar, kraut, bacon, onions, etc. (also as seen on Man vs. Food) (Waitress suggested he get it loaded). Halfway through (couldn’t see through all the stuff on it), we noticed that it wasn’t battered and deep-fried like it was described. Our server said it was wrong and then brought us out a plain old salty dog cooked the right way but she put nothing on it. Kind of a disappointment. I had an incredible blue cocktail here that was so delicious, I ordered a second.
BONE FISH GRILL – I usually like this chain, but we just had a mediocre meal here, and the place was so loud and tables crammed together that it was unenjoyable, not to mention that they rush you through your courses to get you out quickly. Server was pleasant. Drinks were cold. Wolf fish special (piccata with scallops and shrimp) was decent; I had never had wolf fish. It was cooked perfectly, but I thought the fish itself was very very mild.
DUTCH VALLEY RESTAURANT – (local diner) – This was our last place, quick for breakfast, just so we could hurry and get to the airport. Typical diner. Staff were friendly. Breakfast was decent, nothing to write home about. But safe and seemed clean, albeit a little worn out. Funny, I had apricot stuffed French toast again here, but it was no where near as good as Millie’s version.
NEXT TIME WISH LIST: I’d like to try Derek’s and Ophelia’s, Bologna Café (supposed to be very authentic Italian), Phillippi Creek (never made it), Mediterraneo, Divino (Eduardo recommended it and he is from Italy), One of the many Peruvian restaurants in the area (Columbian, Javier’s, etc.).
You must go to Phillippi's. It is our favorite place in Sarasota. I have been coming to the Sarasota/Siesta Key are for 20 years. We go every time, sometimes twice a week, and it is always good. They have a huge menu, great food, not everything is Friedman,the service is wonderful. My only problems are it is overly crowded, takes forever to get a table and the wait is long but it is always worth it. My favorites are the Gator Bites, the gumbo, the blackened grouper sandwich and the fried oysters. I love sitting on the patio and watching the catfish. It is wonderful.
We love Curt's. We were the first people in today at 11 am. Had raw oysters (which were ok, not great) and a basket of fried clams. They were great, as were the fries. My son had the Garlic Mussels and they were delicious. Hubby had fried shrimp that he thought were ok but he isn't big on fried foods in the first place. It is loud but if you go for lunch it is better and less crowded.
Yoder's is wonderful. They have the largest pancakes on the planet, homemade pie and the nicest wait staff,
The Carrabba's, altho it is a chain, is the best one ever. We always love it and try to go once every vacation. Appetizers are wonderful, great pasta, pork chops, and they always have something my picky 15 year old will eat. If they have that appetizer with the melted Italian goat cheese and tomato sauce over the top, it is f-in amazing.
We love Cafe Continental in Siesta Key. Owned by a British couple, they serve wonderful English breakfast and also American. Unfortunately they found out a few days back that the landlord wants them out in month because they found someone who will pay more for the space. They have been there for 20 years. It is a real shame. The landlord should be ashamed of himself. They are really nice folks, the food is always wonderful, they have good coffee (and they leave a thermal pot on the table), and their version of Bubbles and Squeak is out of this world.
The Village Cafe on Ocean Blvd in Siesta Key is great too, as is The Broken Egg. Our other 2 faves here.
And I can't forget Big Olaf Ice Cream in Siesta Key. Always a favorite. Had Key Lime Pie Ice Cream with chunks of pie in it the other night. TDF.
Also you must go to Floribbean Flo's Bakery and Gifts on S. Tamiami Trail for the Frozen Key Lime a pie with Chocolate Covering on s Stick! Excellent. You must love dark chocolate though. $4.95 for a slice but sooo worth it.
Good to know that Bijou isn't all that great. Sounds stuffy to me. Not my kind of place.
5221 Ocean Blvd Unit 6, Sarasota, FL 34242
Key Lime Cafe
211 Colorado Ave, Stuart, FL 34994
7620 N Wickham Rd, Melbourne, FL 32940
Broken Egg Restaurant
140 Avenida Messina, Sarasota, FL 34242
3434 Bahia Vista St, Sarasota, FL 34239
I couldn't agree with you more about BIJOU CAFE, will never return there again. I emailed them when I returned home and got a very nice phone call the next day apologizing and offering a GC for my terrible veal dinner which I refused as I didn't plan on returning. In that price range I would much prefer Ophelia's which is on Siesta...good food and a pretty view.
You are right on about Bonefish concerning the rush to get you served and gone, but we have had very good fish there, and always tell them we do not want to be rushed as we are seated.
Next time try Libby's . We were there last night and had a wonderful meal and great service. It is noisy though, but it was a Sat night, maybe try a night during the week.
Another restaurant we like is Lans which is on Main St downtown, price fixed at $40 with three courses.
Have never been to Walt's although I know it's been around a long time.
Great review cheereeo !
Enjoyable read for sure. We have been to many on your list and concur with your raves about Millie's.
You must try Blase Cafe in the Village. Their "Pasta Cynthia is amazing...a creamy Penne dish with artichoke and shrimp...
We love the food at Javier's We look forward to stopping in at Walt's now ..on your recommendation. Always seem to pass it by.
Another place near Walt's is the Alpine steakhouse which is known for their "Turducken" featured on Diner's , Drive-ins & Dives. Yet to check that out..
Another quaint spot with great food is French Affair...in the Gulf Gate area on Mall Dr. A real loyal following of regulars there. Small place with some authentic French cooking.