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Jan 30, 2012 05:49 PM

SARASOTA/ BRADENTON 3 day visit.....

First time to this area and would love for local foodies to tell us where we MUST include for those days. We do NOT want really expensive places but those which have excellent value for the quality. Seafood tops our list being by the water. Was told to go to Ophelias for Sunday brunch and Heinrich's German Grill west of the airport. We'll be staying off 75 at 64 in Bradenton but will have car.
Also, does anyone know how long it takes to drive from one end to the other on Longboat key ?
Thank you for any personal experiences to help make our decision. Don't want to miss something really special while here.

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  1. The drive from one end of Longboat Key to the other is only about 5-6 minutes. It's not very big. At the Sarasota end of that key is St Armand's Circle which is a touristy but fun place to walk around with lots of shops/restaurants and my favorite ice cream place call Kilwins. If you like ice cream, try to get there. On the circle is a well known restaurant called the Columbia. They have a really good salad that they're known for which is very good. The rest of their food is average. I find itto be a good place to sit outside and people watch while enjoying their salad for lunch. One of my favorite places is at the marina right next to the overpass that takes you to St Armand's Circle/-Longboat Key from Sarasota. It's called Marina Jacks. It has really nice views and is good for brunch, lunch or dinner. It has a bar as well. For a more upscale place, there's Beach Bistro on Anna Maria Key which is right on the beach. Anna Maria Key is the next key north of Longboat. You'll need reservations. If you go there, even just for a drink, go around the time the sun sets as the view is wonderful. Right in downtown Sarasota there's a good French cafe that has good croissants...C'est La Vie. Look no online for Sarasota Magazine which tends to point you in the right direction as well.

    5 Replies
    1. re: catsmeow

      Longboat Key is 11 miles long and the speed limit is 45 mph for most of the Key and 35 mph for the rest (a small portion). The speed limits are ruthlessly enforced. Also, there is heavy traffic now in-season. Arithmetic tells you this isn't a 5 - 6 minute drive.

      1. re: catsmeow

        Correction: Longboat Key is 10 miles long, and takes about 15 minutes to travel the full length. It has low speed limits, and very closely watched, so speeding is not a option. Besides, its now in season and sometimes traffic on the Sarasota can be a few miles long.....
        I suggest you try YODERS for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Its a great experience, excellent food and service, home-made cookin, and desserts to die for, but best of all, its spotless, very very reasonable, and large portions. So, why do I recommend YODERS--because its a experience you not forget.... Very unlike most all other restaurants....Try it--you will love the experience.

        1. re: irwin

          One more comment about Gulf of Mexico Drive, the road that runs from one end of Longboat to the other: There is only one lane each way, with ZERO opportunities for passing. So in season - yes, that's now - cars often get stacked up behind anyone going slowly. At best, you're probably going to be going no more than 40 mph most of the way. So relax, allow plenty of time to get where you're going, put some music on, etc.

          You didn't ask, but you'll find the same thing on Anna Maria Island, which you'll drive through to get to Longboat from Bradenton (unless you go via downtown Sarasota). There are passing opportunities (multiple lanes) and faster traffic on Manatee and Cortez, one of which you'll be taking to get to Anna Maria Island, but not on the island itself. Same thing is true of the route via downtown Sarasota - multiple lanes and faster traffic on the causeway to St. Armand's, but not once you get onto Longboat.

            1. re: irwin

              Never been a fan of Yoders. Big portions, down home cooking and not expensive is the draw. Personally don't find the food appealing but the lines out the door tell another story.

              I wish they would top their pies with something better than non dairy whipped topping

          1. Since you mentioned seafood, I would recommend Owens Fish Camp in Sarasota. They have a yummy fish spread appetizer, and make a delicious piece of grilled fish (sounds simple, but it's not!).
            Also, a little more pricey is Indigenous. Their menu is constantly changing based on what is available locally, and it is fabulous.

            3 Replies
            1. re: christinet.

              The new Half Shell Oyster Bar will give Owen's a run for their $$. Food is very good if Mississippi Gulf cooking is your thing; Char Grilled oysters are very tasty, as well as the po'boys, Gumbo, Shrimp and Grits, and BBQ shrimp


              1. re: ospreycove

                osprey, I was hoping HSOB in Sarasota is as good as their Gulfport location, where I got a bit carried away with the charbroiled oysters. I'll hoist a few (dozen) when I'm back in March!

              2. re: christinet.

                I'll second Owens Fish Camp. Kind of a recreation of a Florida fish camp but it works. Great atmosphere. Ate there the other night and the Red Snapper was excellent. Red Hook IPA (one of my favorites) on tap was a pleasant surprise.

              3. We like Starfish Seafood Co on the dock in Cortez and Have been advised to go to Jose's in Bradenton for Cuban Food.

                3 Replies
                1. re: magiesmom

                  Jose's is a real "experience", the staff is very passionate about the food, first timers are given samples of all the house specialties; be advised, the "Ritz Carlton" it is not; but the food is great!!!

                  1. re: ospreycove

                    The Ritz holds no appeal whatsoever. Jose's sounds grand.

                    1. re: ospreycove

                      I don't see the attraction for this place. It's dirty and the food is so so. The food is all pre prepared. He has trays with foil in the front and he takes from it and reheats. The pulled pork was nothing special. Couldn't even taste garlic. Asked for green plantains -nope only sweet. The cubano sandwich is the best dish they serve. If you want real cuban go to Miami.