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Aug 8, 2013 11:22 AM

Any restaurants worth trying in Sarasota/Bradenton?

We just moved here from San Diego -- not exactly a foodie's paradise, but way better than here. Help, please! Any kind of cuisine, any suggestions are appreciated. We are seeking wonderful food, quiet atmosphere, and reasonable prices. Thanks!

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  1. I can't believe this post has gone two days without a single response, although it is a question that is asked frequently.

    Inexpensive to moderate:

    El Greco--Great Greek salads, shishkabobs, and pizza.

    Main Bar--Good, overly filled sandwiches.

    Square 1--Great burgers with gourmet toppings, if you want them.

    Cafe Baci--My favorite Sarasota Italian place. Mostly northern Italian cuisine.

    Ceviche Tapas Bar and Grill--I haven't been to this one, but I have been to the one in Tampa, and it's great. The tapas are unusual food (to me) and imaginative.

    Pho Cali--Great pho from the Cali Cartel. (Just kidding.) Avoid the "beef tendon," which just means "tough beef tertiary cuts" in Anglicized Vietnamese. The rest of the food is delicious. The pho broth actually has flavor on its own.

    Yummy House--Another import from Tampa. These people sell very authentic Chinese food. The winners are spectacular and the losers (avoid anything described as "with Chinese vegetables") are pretty bad. The number of winners make taking a chance on this place worth the risk. The "salt and pepper" deep fried anything (usually shrimp or calamari) is a real winner. The "pepper" part of the dish is hot, finely chopped peppers. There is a lot of other finely chopped stuff on top which is delicious but hard to identify.
    Again, I have been to the two Yummy houses in Tampa, but I assume the one in Sarasota is similar.

    Mi Pueblo--Good, standard Mexican fare. Try the horchata rice drink. It's good and cooling.

    Yoders'--Good pies, cakes, and bread. Everything is a bit bland, in the Amish tradition, but I always enjoy it.

    Troyer's--Spectacular and relatively cheap buffet. Everything I said about Yoder's applies to Troyer's. "Good, hearty, American food" is a good description.

    Pacific Rim--Good oriental food. They serve anything from the far east and sushi, too.

    Bistro 62--This "just north of the hospital" French bistro has terrific crepes and salade Nicoise, and decent French onion soup. The chicken liver (or duck liver?) pate is really good, but the "country pate" is just so-so.

    More expensive:

    Ophelias on the Bay--Good, classical cuisine. On a barrier island south of Sarasota.

    Selva Grill--Peruvian, I think. Very tasty.

    Michael's on East--Criticized a fair amount on these boards because there is always criticism of the King. High end classical and Florida cuisine. Pretty traditional.

    Vizen--Japanese and sushi. I have not been there, but everyone else on these boards seems to rave about it.

    Ritz Carlton--Prices that will give you hypoxia and worth it!

    21 Replies
    1. re: gfr1111

      Ceviche in Sarasota is "moving" and right now I believe neither the new or old location is open.
      OP needs to do a search, there are so many good eats in Sarasota, Bradenton, Cortez, LBK, and AMI that are frequently discussed here.

      1. re: Veggo

        Hi, Veggo:

        Your posts are legendary, and much appreciated.
        I'll agree that I did not provide a comprehensive list, but I worked in Sarasota until July 2010, and lived in Sarasota for 13 years until 2007, so I know my way around. I'm sure you could come up with another list of equal or better restaurants. There are so many good ones in Sarasota. I just listed these off the top of my head. (I thought of another one: Derek's Culinary Casual.)

        1. re: gfr1111

          Derek may move to Bradenton, or may have already. Bradenton officials have been trying to lure him to a redevelopment district in Bradenton that seems to be working, slowly.
          I'll cobble together a list when I have a little more time.

          1. re: Veggo

            Too bad. It was a gem in Sarasota that I would visit when staying on Lido beach

            1. re: scubadoo97

              Try Ophelia's on Siesta Key, I had a nice dinner there last Saturday.

              1. re: Veggo

                Thanks Veggo. It's be ages since I've been to Ophelia's. How long as "On the Bay" been opened?

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  22 years. They have a large outdoor waterfront dining area and the weather is just right for it now. I asked our very pleasant Hungarian waiter what happens when the rain pours during dinner, and he replied "chaos". We were lucky with a wonderful display of heat lightning and puffy red clouds at sunset, a safe distance away. The Maserati Gran Turismo convertible parked up front was nice, also.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    My current fav is Indigenous, where you will be my guest in November.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      Sorry , will have to go elsewhere. My reason for returning was their pork with bbq jus, it was absolutely wonderful. Well, it has been pulled from menu, so we need another haunt.
                      Avec moi epoisses.

                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                        I'll scout around and look for pork belly somewhere. Or maybe the Columbia on St. Armands - the epoisses may be a good dessert course after paella, with Cuban bread. Also, the St. Armands location is the only Columbia that serves stone crab, and the season will be open.

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          Update on Indigeneous, now a Beard nominee.
                          Went for an 8:15 res on a Tuesday night, place was jumping.
                          Put in bar room in back with 4 people at bar and a 4 top, both very noisy. Room has no soundproofing either.
                          Guest and l spoke for a while after getting a bottle of wine different in vintage and different in price from their online wine list, listened to the specials and made our choices.
                          The mushroom soup came and was shared by us and was wonderful as before.
                          Then the interesting stuff happened. l will say blame for the first part is shared by server and me in that l thought he was serving pork belly but he was serving fish with a pork belly jus, my guests choice was sold out and not available and she settled for the shrimp.
                          When both the waiter and l realized the error, l said ok just get me a burger and was told at @ 9:15 the kitchen was closed and he could offer me cold stuff but that was it. l passed. My thought is why give res at a time the cuts the closing time of the kitchen close enough that neither of us could get something we wanted. At least 10 other people has res around the same time and as they were in the front dining room, do not know if they had any problems.

                          Just brief notes, Ooh La La after a lapse in my experience is back as before and their pain au raisin, while expensive at $ 3.25 plus tax, may be my fave in the world.

                          Had a good dinner at Jack Dusty the Cajan style place at the Sarasota Ritz, well seasoned food with great service.

                          Dinner at Beach Bistro less so, food was ok, wine service was stellar and no grief about us closing the place.

          2. re: gfr1111

            Big thumbs up for Cevice. When it eventually re-opens, this is the go-to place for Zarzuela, a wonderful mixed seafood stew. As for specifics on the re-opening date, according to the manager at the St. Pete's branch, the issue is building permits and inspections. The city works at its own glacial pace.

            Selva Grill serves wonderful Pisco sours along with excellent food. Love their innovative ceviches.

            Bonus: It is one of the few late-night dining spots in a town that shuts down early. At 10:00 on a week night and at 11:00 on the weekends, the restaurant offers a late night menu with fewer selections and smaller portions. This is a great option when your plane arrives late and you are starved.

            Hyde Park: One night, a group stopped in during Happy Hour for drinks and shared small plates. We split an excellent plate of Crispy Calamari and well-made drinks -- not at all watered down in spite of Happy Hour pricing. When we were ready to leave the skies had opened up and we stayed for burgers at the Bar. Excellent quality meat and cooked precisely to order. Don't bother ordering the side of Brussels sprouts. Very boring preparation.

            1. re: gfr1111

              My husband and I had lunch today at Bistro 62. Unfortunately, our experience leads me to have a completely opposite from the OP's point of view.

              My husband ordered a South Buck. "Buck" is the restaurant's name for the French buckwheat savory crepes called galettes. The "South" version includes ratatouille, bacon, and a sunny side up egg. His meal was reasonably good. The ratatouille filling was tasty and the bacon was crisply cooked. However, the buckwheat crepe was overly salty. He isn't on a low salt diet so the crepe must have loaded with salt to cause him to complain.

              My Salade Nicoise was the poorest version I've ever eaten. The chef sprinkled about 3/4 cup of cooked white rice throughout the salad! That seems like a cheap way to make the salad portion seem more filling but cooked white rice has no place in the classic preparation. The olives were another failure point. The chef substituted slices of bland California black olives for the Nicoise olives. If he couldn't source the right kind of olives, at least use Kalamata olives for that jolt of Mediterranean saltiness. CA black olives just don't qualify. Bistro 62's version included no boiled potato slices or green beans, both ingredients in the classic recipe. The best thing about the dish was the hard boiled egg sections, Those were perfectly cooked -- no small task.

              One other small detail, the OP recommended the chicken liver pate, but it is no longer available.

              We were disappointed because the menu looked so promising.

              1. re: Indy 67

                I am sorry that my recommendation was so off for Bistro 62. I've never had any of the buckwheat crepes because I don't like buckwheat crepes, ever. The Salade Nicoise doesn't sound much like the Salade Nicoise which I had, although I did note the disappointing substitution of California black olives for Kalamata olives. Otherwise, perhaps a different chef was on duty that day? A Salade Nicoise without potatoes or green beans hardly seems to be a Salade Nicoise at all.

                Anyway, I am glad that you liked some of my other restaurant recommendations--and sorry about the disappointment.

                1. re: gfr1111

                  I got the feeling that the chef was the chef-owner from one small incident.

                  Another party who arrived after we did was served before we were because one member of that party walked twice to the window to the kitchen to inquire/complain about the whereabouts of their meal. Squeaky wheel and all that...

                  Finally, the chef turned his attention to our food. When it was ready, I was close enough to the kitchen to hear the chef coach the waitress to say "Thank you for your patience" before handing our food over to her.

                  That's the sort of behavior I'd expect from a chef-owner rather than from a chef with no ownership position.

                  The waitress was really difficult to deal with. She didn't seem to understand much English and things didn't get a lot better when I switched to French. (Traveling in France, I'm told my accent is quite good. That's actually somewhat counter-productive since I sound like I know far more French than I actually do. When I ask a question, I'm often answered in such rapid-fire French that I might as will not have bothered asking!)

                  I mention that waitress because her performance contributed to our decision to never go back there again. Between the meh food and challenging service, I didn't send the salad back like I should have. I just ate the salad and mumbled pleasant answers when asked about the meal. Any chef who would send out a Nicoise salad with no potatoes, no green beans, indifferent olives, and rice added wasn't going to benefit from my input.

              2. re: gfr1111

                Excellent meal at Mi Pueblo recently. My husband ordered the chicken mole. This is a Chihuahua version with a strong chocolate taste at the beginning changing to a noticeable-but-not-overwhelming chile heat finish. My fajitas (mixed shrimp and steak) were expertly cooked so each remained juicy. The accompaniments -- shredded cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, and guacamole -- were generous quantities. As others have mentioned this place offers good standard Mexican preparations. (We eat at the Bee Ridge branch.)

                However, for excellent Mexican that takes you beyond the usual offerings, I recommend Mariscos Azteca on Tuttle. I enjoyed my shrimp tacos but my husband's choice won the prize. He ordered Mariscada Azteca, a world class dish of mixed fish and shellfish in a clam broth that gets a jolt of acidity from the fresh lime wedges that accompany the dish. If you like cioppino and you like Mexican food, this dish is a winner.

                We're looking forward to working our way through much of the menu on the strength of our delicious first meal there.

                1. re: Indy 67

                  Another good and really authentic Mexican place is Guerro's Bakery and Restaurant on the NW corner of Beneva and Webbber. Very good daily specials and menu items, It helps if you have a little knowledge of Spanish, but most of the staff is bi-lingual. With many dishes priced less than $10.00 this is a on my top 5 list of SRQ restaurants

                  1. re: ospreycove

                    Osprey, do they do a chile relleno?

                    1. re: Veggo

                      Yes, but I have not tried it yet, sometimes I stop for breakfast, excellent huevos rancheros, made with 3 eggs any style, a basket of warm tortillas, (corn or flour) and homemade salsa, I believe it is $5.50; one of the best deals in SRQ
                      Menu is on this site.

                      I got a laugh out of their Pizza and sandwich selections, also look at the daily specials great!!!


                      1. re: ospreycove

                        Thanks, Osprey, I'll try it. FYI it's Guerreros. The relleno description sounds authentic.

              3. I got my directions reversed. Bistro 62 is just south, not north, of the hospital.

                1. gfr1111 gave you a good list, and i have a couple more i would add...

                  Owens Fish Camp- seafood
                  Indigenous- locally sourced and sustainable but delicious too!!!
                  Louies Modern- a new cool looking place for a cocktail. Food is good, not great, good.

                  Derek's that was mentioned is great, but last I heard is not opening back up in Bradenton until later in the Fall.

                  1. I'll add a second recommendation for Owen's Fish Camp. Enjoyed them twice during a four-day visit.

                    1. I have only been to Sarasota/Siesta Key 3 times, but definitely recommend the following:
                      Yoder's--usually our first place to visit--bring your appetite and save room for pie (or get some to go)
                      El Toro Bravo (Mexican)--tucked away on Stickney Point. Great reviews. Somewhat limited seating, tho.
                      Shaner's (restaurant/sports bar) for out-of-this-world thin crust pizza. Went there twice in one week last year.
                      Isan Thai --small place on Tamiami Trail--again, great reviews
                      Jose's Real Cuban in Bradenton--altho I haven't been there yet, I will be going in October--recently featured on DD&D--supposedly a little divey, but really authentic with a talented owner and cook.