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Sarasota - Vernona or Cafe L'Europe?

We're heading to Sarasota next week for our anniversary and looking for some place special for dinner. We are staying at The Ritz and wondering if the hotel's fine dining restaurant Vernona is any good and also considering Cafe L'Europe. Can anyone give me their opinion on either of these or recommend someplace else maybe?

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  1. Vernona is excellent and elegant. Although it’s not necessary (and you don't have to), it’s the only restaurant in the Sarasota area where I always wear a sports jacket. It just feels right. Some people on this board like Café L’Europe but I’m not one of them. To use a French expression in regard to a French restaurant, you have to look at the “le rapport entre la qualité et le prix”. Simply stated, there should be a relationship between quality and price. Café L’Europe, to my mind, is over-priced and under-qualitied. I’m told it once was excellent. Now, its principal value is sitting on its terrace or on its sidewalk and people watching. The other two restaurants that come to mind for a special anniversary dinner are Maison Blanche (on Longboat Key) and the Beach Bistro (on Holmes Beach).

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, Zagat rates Vernona 26 for food, 28 for décor and 28 for service; Café L’Europe 22 for food, 22 for décor and 22 for service; Maison Blanche 27 for food, 23 for décor and 26 for service; and Beach Bistro 28 for food, 24 for décor and 27 for service. In fairness, Cafe L'Europe is the least expensive of this group (but still expensive).

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    Beach Bistro
    6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

    Maison Blanche
    2605 Gulf of Mexico Dr, Longboat Key, FL 34228

    8 Replies
    1. re: Longboat

      Long, I agree that Beach Bistro is probably the best of the pack for an "occasion" dinner. I think they, (Beach Bistro), pay more attention to the food and do not rely on being the house restaurant in the Ritz. Also, B.B. is an independent vs. a corporate organization. One dish that I really like is the Bistro Bouillabaisse, their steaks are all graded Prime, and the wine list is acclimed by Wine Spectator.

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      Beach Bistro
      6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

      1. re: ospreycove

        Osprey, I love the Beach Bistro too -- although it's becoming more corporate than it appears. Sean has the other restaurant at some golf place out east and now he's also got 2 Eat Here restaurants. For Gary N69, the Bistro is a long way from the Ritz. If it were me, I'd just take the elevator downstairs to Vernona, have a martini before dinner (or some Champagne -- they have a wonderful Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose, it's his anniversary, after all!), some good wine with dinner and a cognac/armagnac/calvados afterwards. Than all he has to do next is stagger back onto the elevator. ;-)

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        Beach Bistro
        6600 Gulf Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

        Cuvee
        188 E Granada Blvd, Ormond Beach, FL 32176

        1. re: Longboat

          I happen to think Cafe L'Europe is excellent this year.... Not sure if its the same chef as previous years, but they are turning out awesome food, and a great place for food watching. Yes, they are a little expensive, but thats because of their excellent service, and expensive location.... They are also very busy, so it shows that people still love it there.

          1. re: irwin

            Sorry, I meant people watching......

          2. re: Longboat

            Irwin, maybe yopu are right: the LBK cops are lurking about!!!!!!LOL

            As for Sean Murphy's "Eat Here " place on AMI, I would not put my experience there in the "must return" catagory, as noticed in my thread of a few weeks ago.

            1. re: ospreycove

              I totally agree about "Eat Here"... Hopefully Sarasota location will be better the Anna Marie... We went twice, and I am not impressed at all. Two Kitchens-so food does not come out at the same time, service questionable, waiters with attitudes, so why do we need to wait to eat there ?

              1. re: irwin

                Does anyone know about an "early bird special" at Verona? I read something about it but dont remember where.

                1. re: lattelover

                  Not early bird, but they are offering the three course meal for $25, which many restaurants are offering. I think it lasts until the end of June.

      2. Thanks everyone. We ended up going to Vernona and really enjoyed it. Started out with some nice Grey Goose dirty martinis at the bar watching the sunset, then proceeded to the restaurant which was elegantly decorated. We were looking forward to trying the tasting menu, but it wasn't offered that night (probably because it was Tuesday). The menu is kind of small, but everything we ordered was excellent. Our only gripe was the portions were small compared to the prices (2 profiteroles for $12?). Service was very good as well.
        Here is what we ate:
        Apps-
        "Lobster Macaroni and Cheese" Organic Spinach, Acini di Pepe and Truffle Emulsion
        House made Pappardelle Duck Sugo, Spring Garlic and English Pea Tendrils
        Main-
        Main Diver Scallops Sunchoke, Hazelnut Picada and Beurre Noisette
        Braised Short Ribs Polenta, Rainbow Chard and Horseradish Gremolata
        Dessert-
        Peppermint Profiteroles with Hot Chocolate Sauce