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Sarasota: Best Seafood - Shrimp and Fish

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Okay, Chowhounds! Who has the best seafood in the Sarasota area? Particularly locally sourced fresh fish and/or shrimp from the gulf fish?

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  1. Probably Duval's which recently moved to Main St. Starfish is all local and just caught though it's not in Sarasota, but Cortez. Captain Brian's near the airport has excellent local seafood. Believe it or not you'll have a hard time finding a Sarasota restaurant that serves locally caught, fresh seafood. Phillippi Creek Restaurant gets their crab from ASIA!

    Good luck.

    2 Replies
    1. re: snobman

      Wow! Really? Being so close to the water, I am surprised the local restaurants aren't serving what is right at their back door. I miss gulf shrimp from living near Galveston bay for so many years; I was hoping to load up on some tasty seafood while on vacation.

      1. re: snobman

        The Lucky Pelican, fresh consistent and really good.

      2. We have a few local shops that sell fresh fish, but not all from FL. In the restaurants...who knows where it's from. You would think local, but not necessarily so.

        23 Replies
        1. re: Mother of four

          Local is going to cost more and push the price up. Those farmed shrimp from Asia are pretty cheap and that Basa fish can pass for snapper. Unfortunately people want good food and also want low prices which don't always coincide. I can say I've been to Duvals and Dereks and they both serve very high quality tasty seafood. Not cheap but tasty meals at both.

          1. re: scubadoo97

            Well, thanks for the feedback! I will lower my expectations on finding good seafood in Sarasota, then. I'm always seeking a tasty backet of fried shrimp or a fish sandwich anytime I'm visiting a location that is near the Gulf. Will check out the menus for Duvals and Dereks. Would you say these places are kid friendly? We'll be traveling with a 2 year old.

            1. re: princess00

              Not sure about Duvals since they moved but Dericks is fine dining so depends on the 2 yr old. Not the place for my kids when they were that age. We limited ourself to lower end, family and take out.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                Thanks, scubadoo97. After looking at the information on these restaurants, I was figuring they may not be very kid friendly. Our toddler is fairly well behaved, but we may have a more enjoyable dinner at a more casual location.

                1. re: princess00

                  I don't want to say that there is no good local seafood in Sarasota but there is a lot of dreck that cater to tourists. Maybe someone that lives there can chime in with some good casual locations to try.

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    Ah, scubadoo97 - I see your point. We've never been to Sarasota, but I've seen a few comments on the boards indicating that a lot of the more frequented spots also cater to tourists. We are tourists, so we'd probably enjoy a few of those, but I often find that my favorite meal is some dive that only the locals know about. Will keep digging and hopefully we'll come across a real gem during our visit!

                    1. re: princess00

                      I didn't mean anything derogatory about being a tourist. More a jab at the restaurants that offer poor excuse for food because they know the tourist will be gone in a few days and will remember the beautiful beach and not the average food they ate.

                      I'm okay with a dive as well. If the fish is fresh and they don't screw it up it's all good.

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        Scubadoo97 - no worries about the comment. i did not take it as derogatory at all!

              2. re: princess00

                Neither one would I take a small child to. Casey Key Fish House is great for kids, and their fish is wonderful.

                1. re: Mother of four

                  Thanks, Mother of four. The menu looks like a good option for our 2 YO. Would you recommend this spot for lunch or dinner?

                  1. re: princess00

                    Either, but your wait would be a lot less at lunch. Thet have a large fish tank that the kids like, plus you can walk around where the boats are docked ,which the kids will enjoy.
                    By the way, lot's of neat things to do with kids ,if it's not beach weather, in Sarasota.

                    1. re: Mother of four

                      That sounds great! I will definitely add that one to my list!

                    2. re: princess00

                      If the weather is good, take your 2 year old to Star Fish in Cortez, just up from Longboat Key across the Cortez Bridge on right. It is on the water, outside dining only, plenty of Pelicans, Herons etc. for entertainment. All their seafood comes from the next door wholesale fish house, (A.P. Bell), where you can see the commercial fishermen unloading their boats.
                      http://starfishcompany.com/starfishco...

                      1. re: ospreycove

                        That needs to be a Chowhound trip!! Never been there.

                        1. re: Mother of four

                          One of my top favorite restaurants... I love it there...
                          Had lunch today @ Hickory Hollow, Rt 301, Ellenton...
                          Wow---wonderful and very very cheap.... The owner told me today that they have been there 28 years. just so you know--cash only is accepted.

                          1. re: irwin

                            Irwin - is this a BBQ joint? If so, I think I found the website. Thanks!

                            1. re: princess00

                              It is a BBQ place but they have fantastic fried fish!

                        2. re: ospreycove

                          Ospreycove - I've seen this one recommended a few times on the chowhound boards. Looks like the type of place that we are seeking. Same question that I asked previously - should we try it for lunch or dinner?

                          1. re: princess00

                            Prin00, Star Fish is outside dining ONLY, so on a nice day in season be ready to wait for your order. This time of year they close at around 8:00 PM, I believe, so it might be better to go late afternoon, (very early dinner), as it is still light out and the doinner crowds have not appeared yet. The menu is the same lunch/dinner.

                            1. re: ospreycove

                              Thanks for the feedback. We typically eat pretty early to appease the toddler's bedtime. It is VERY helpful to know there is a wait for our order. I'm excited about trying this one out!

                              1. re: ospreycove

                                osprey, would you e-mail me? Thanks.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  Veggo

                                  Your Earthlink e-mail address was sent back as "unknown"

                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                    hard to read, in caps its VFL12@earthlink.net. Please try again.

                2. Check out www.halfshelloysterhouse.com , scheduled to open in Sarasota at 1991 Main St. on Jan. 10, 2012. I ate at their Gulfport location not long ago and thoroughly enjoyed their charcoal grilled oysters and gulf shrimp. It has a great vibe, too. Should be a welcome addition to our scene.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: Veggo

                    Thanks, Veggo! We are visiting in 2012 so I will certainly keep an eye on your recommendation.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      Half Shell's menu looks great....
                      Hope they do a good job in Sarasota and they will be packed...
                      They are opening in a great area....

                      1. re: irwin

                        We will be visiting Sarasota for the first time in February and a friend of mine recommended Madfish Grill. Any feedback would be appreciated.

                        1. re: irwin

                          Where exactly? I'm assuming it's in one of the recently closed restaurants. Zoria's?

                          1. re: Mother of four

                            Madfish is on Cattleman between Bee Ridge and Clark. Don't waste your time going there.

                            1. re: Mother of four

                              No not Madfish, would never go there, Half Shell. Where on Main St?

                              1. re: Mother of four

                                Half Shell is opening in the former Main St. Oyster Bar, a block west of Hollywood 20....

                                1. re: irwin

                                  Today, says their web site (January 10, 2012).

                                  1. re: irwin

                                    Former Zoria's. That's what I thought.

                                    1. re: Mother of four

                                      Anybody gonna try it and report? I won't be back until March.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        I'm sure one of us will be there before March and report back.

                                        1. re: Mother of four

                                          Ate there Saturday evening....
                                          Good food, good menu, nice atmosphere, great location, great pricing, but service was terrible. They staff needs lots more training. The house was packed and the wait staff was going crazy. Once this straightens out, it will be a great restaurant.

                          2. Captain Brian's near the airport has excellent local seafood and is very family friendly. It's especially good value at lunch. The shrimp salad is delicious, with flavorful very fresh local shrimp. The fried clams rival those in New England. The servers are very friendly and many have been there for years. It is no frills, but worth a detour.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: chowfamily

                              If you are interested in the quality, taste and freshness of the Seafood......I agree CAPTAIN BRIAN"S!!!

                              1. re: ospreycove

                                Make that #3!!! Just a bit far for us, so never think about it, but it is excellent fish..very fresh and a no frills place.

                                1. re: Mother of four

                                  Wow! Three recommendations for Captain Brians! I will have to add that one to my list!

                                  1. re: princess00

                                    Three chowworthy recs! Doesn't get much better than that.
                                    Check back with some feedback and have a great time on the Florida west coast

                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                      I am definitely going to try Captain Brian's but I want to put in another vote for a Chowdown at Starfish.

                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                        I will certainly let y'all know what we think! Thanks!

                                        1. re: princess00

                                          Although I agree that Captain Brian 's fish is absolutely fresh and top-notch, I find the place a bit depressing with its aging decor and insipid salad bar. It would be so much better if it were updated a little. That being said, service is professional and fairly speedy. Instead of the mediocre potato side choices, try the sauteed spinach which is absolutely delicious

                                          1. re: lattelover

                                            Lattelovr, Well, at least he added the big saltwater fish tank a few years ago! I notice that the decor matches the clientele; but I go for the food and ignore everything else. Brian is a really great guy too, a living encyclopedia of Seafood.

                                            1. re: lattelover

                                              I agree that it needs a makeover. There's also a fishy smell which is not a good sign of freshness.

                                2. Walt's Fish Market Restaurant (4144 S Tamiam Trail) has local fish and shrimp and prepares it perfectly. They've been in business since 1918 (as fishermen) and restaurant since soon after WWII. They've had time to get it right.

                                  Not all the seafood is local, because not all seafood is local. Maine lobsters do no grow in Florida, after all. But you can get Florida lobster almost always. Stick to things like snapper and grouper (usually three or four different kinds available at all times), pompano, cobia, tripletail, and the like and it cannot be fresher. They do offer other kinds of fish like swordfish and cod, but if you know what's local, you can buy and eat local. Walt's also buys from local fishermen as well as a wholesaler in Tampa.

                                  Because they sell fresh seafood at the retail level, you can just look in the cases to see what's available. You can request that any fish they have be prepared for you, whether or not it's on the menu.

                                  Walt's advertises itself as a 'Cracker' restaurant. What with frog legs and 'gator on the menu, that's not far off. Whatever it is, it is not Capt Brian's or Bonefish Grille-- and that's a very good thing! The food is simpler and honors the fish by not disguising it. Most fish can be prepared fried, broiled, or blackened. If that's not going to be good for a particular fish, the great staff will tell you. If you insist, they'll make it your way.

                                  This is not a restaurant oriented toward prom dates. It's a place that knows its products and how best to prepare them.

                                  Following a recent death in the family, Walt's has taken on a new part-owner. This had led to a freshening of the interior and slight changes in the menu, as well as somewhat higher prices. The value for money equation is still sky-high on the value end.

                                  If there's anything to ding about Walt's it's the quality of the side dishes (two come with most meals). They're typical for the type of restaurant -- cole slaw, french fries, corn on the cob, etc. -- but are mediocre, in my book. As I don't go there for the side dishes (I'm there practically once a week, though it's a ten-mile drive), I don't mind that much. They are all passable, just not as good as the seafood.

                                  16 Replies
                                  1. re: jfb1138

                                    +1 for Walt's

                                    1. re: jfb1138

                                      jfb1138 - thanks for the detailed description of Walt's. I'll have to check that one out too. sound just like what we are looking for!

                                      1. re: jfb1138

                                        This place reeks of fish. Our waitress had a filthy uniform. Very unappetizing. I won't return.

                                        1. re: wheaton24

                                          Wheaton24 - it seems like you have had a stinky fishy experience at walt's and captain Brian's. What seafood restaurants are on your top list that don't smell fishy?

                                          1. re: princess00

                                            Casey Key Fish House is good. Very casual, but the fish is fresh and well prepared. On the high end, I suggest The Table Creekside. Owen's Fish Camp is another good fish place.

                                            1. re: princess00

                                              Maybe wheat should go to Red Lobster, does not smell like fish......

                                              1. re: ospreycove

                                                Jim: Red Lobster closed all their joints in Maine.. They could not compete with the local restaurants because we understand that all their fish comes in frozen. They are also double or triple the cost of Capt. Brians. I also have visited Swordfish Grill next to Cortez Kitchen in Cortez once weekly for the last 4-weeks, and I must report that it is better then Star Fish. First of all, you don't have to eat out of a box. Secondly, you don't have to sit at a ugly picnic table, or worry about getting your auto dinged in the parking lot...
                                                I am impressed with Swordfish Grill's menu, prices, and freshness of fish, not to mention a beautiful deck in the rear, on the water, with tables & chairs, or hi-tops right on the water, and guess what--they have waiter service......and a full bar......

                                            2. re: wheaton24

                                              I totally agree!

                                            3. re: jfb1138

                                              Wow. What a complimentary description of this restaurant. I will certainly have to add this to my list of places to check out. Thanks for the feedback. Our trip is fast approaching and I am getting excited!

                                              1. re: princess00

                                                Capt Brians, has a fish market in the restaurant....hence fish smell, same goes for Walt's. Brent the owner is a commercial fisherman and he brings fish directly from his boat to the shop, He also has a fish market in the restaurant.
                                                Star Fish in Cortez, owned by one of the last family owned wholesale operations left in Florida, Star Fish is owned by A.P.Bell, smell the fish it is all fresh,l just off the boats that unload right next to the outdoor restaurant. Owens Fish Camp is new and the predominate smell is fried, not bad fried just fried.

                                                1. re: ospreycove

                                                  Ospreycove

                                                  Thanks for clarifying. We plan on trying starfish, captain Brian's, owens fish camp and likely walt's on our trip. Being landlocked in Dallas, I have a feeling we will not have an issue with the freshness of the fish. Lol! I can't wait to weigh in on my favorite!

                                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                                    Fish markets should smell of the sea/ocean. There's a big difference between a briny smell and the kind of fishy (spoiled fish) odor I'm talking about.

                                                    1. re: wheaton24

                                                      Do not expect the "briny smell of the sea" in a wholesale fresh seafood mkt. like Hunt's Pointe distribution complex in NYC. That smell of the sea is more times than not the "fragrance" used in some retail operations. Somewhat akin to the "Bright Eyes" solution applied to some residents of the fish case that have "hung out" a little too long. This product gives the appearance of fresh fish with clear eyes to a fish that is actually beyond being fresh.

                                                      1. re: wheaton24

                                                        Right!

                                                    2. re: princess00

                                                      Capt Brian had fresh smelts this week and he is in the short season for Shad Roe, a true delicacy, and very difficult to find.

                                                      1. re: ospreycove

                                                        osprey, I went to Capt. Brian earlier this month when you were still in Italy. I enjoyed the grouper reuben, and I had reserved 3 lbs. of colossal stone crab claws, when nobody in Cortez even had large. Pricey, but they were the single source for the best.

                                                  2. best seafood is in bradenton up on cortez road....near bridge........

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: normanwest

                                                      May we assume your reference is to Cortez Kitchen and Star Fish?
                                                      I'll volunteer the Cortez Cafe for breakfast, especially the corned beef hash and their toasted biscuits. It has a cult following`but does not compete with the seafood sisters in the Village.

                                                    2. After being transplanted from a coastal village in RI, I didn't just crave fresh seafood I needed it! So by all means RUN straight to The Lucky Pelican near Lakewood Ranch! The seafood is FRESH, consistent and always delicious!

                                                      1. I agree with the Lucky Pelican in Lakewood Ranch. Excellent!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: wheaton24

                                                          Thanks for this referral! The menu looks tasty!

                                                        2. If you're ever looking for a GREAT Lobster Roll, check on Doggin' It on Fruitville. Great hot dogs too, dozens of toppings!

                                                          1. I'm from the coast of Rhode Island and used to get my seafood right from the dock. Spoiled rotten, I know. My first choice for a seafood restaurant in Sarasota is The Lucky Pelican. The freshest seafood, raw oyster bar, hot baked ciabatta bread.
                                                            To buy fresh seafood Lotsa Lobsta hands down. Choose your fresh Maine lobster from the tank, the will steam it for you on site if you're so inclined, and take it home. The fish and gulf shrimp are always fresh.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: apicard

                                                              Apicard, I agree 100%.

                                                            2. So fun! We are headed back to Sarasota in September and my post is still active! Any updates since I last visited?

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: princess00

                                                                We were in Sarasota last weekend and ended up at Owens fish camp. Lucky pelican was just a bit further than we wanted to drive from lido. OFC was a neat place that I would return for grilled oysters and beer next time. We had full meals most recently and the fish appeared fresh and tasty. Liked the vibe and the food.

                                                              2. Based on the above, I am contemplating Starfish, Walt's, the Lucky Pelican, and Drydock Waterfront Grill. Any of these I should skip? If I could only pick two, which ones would you pick?

                                                                So excited to return to Siesta Key Beach again. Our trip a few years back was amazing!

                                                                1. 2 new and very good one a dockside fresh fish "shack" as in Grouper/snapper and excellent fried shrimp, cold beer. Very very casual. Partner is Karen Bell, owner of A P Bell seafood wholesaler of locally caught seafood, Cortez,

                                                                  Tidetablesrestaurant.com

                                                                  Other is blue marlin in Bradenton Beach dinner house reservations necessary, excellent!!!

                                                                  Bluemarlinami.com

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                                                    Check out tripadvisor, both places have been open long enough for many reviews/comments.

                                                                    1. re: ospreycove

                                                                      Thanks! I will certainly check these out! We are excited to return to Sarasota soon!