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Any restaurants worth trying in Sarasota/Bradenton?

z
zoesharona Aug 8, 2013 11:22 AM

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!

  1. s
    szw Jan 10, 2014 06:45 PM

    Thanks for some great recs in this thread. I'm in Sarasota for the month. My parents own a condo here so I'll be back often.

    So far have been to yoder's restaurant for breakfast, enjoyed it, will be back.

    Today went to Guerreros bakery and restaurant. REALLY enjoyed their chilaquiles topped with egg...ridiculously good. Can't find that in Toronto.

    Planning to go to C & K smokehouse in Parish...another thread mentioned it and sounds great.

    Never had stone crabs before...how much do they usually cost for a meal btw? Another poster (same as C&K bbq) rec'd going to cortez. Can I buy them from a fishmonger and eat them at a picnic table or should I take them home? What do you eat them with? I was thinking of going to star fish restaurant, not having crabs, then buying some stone crabs to eat at home later. Sound good?

    Looking forward to Jose's cuban food...not much Cuban food back home for me.

    Thinking of Owen's fish camp...

    I'm also interested in southern 'home cooking', different bbq styles,...any hidden gems?

    Also thinking to take a few day trip to another city in Florida for good eats....any recommendations? Miami? Never been to any other florida city.

    6 Replies
    1. re: szw
      i
      Indy 67 Jan 11, 2014 04:17 AM

      If you're thinking of Owen's and of Southern food, you can check off two of your desires simultaneously. Their version of collard greens at Owen's is one of the best preparations I've eaten. Ditto for their shrimp and grits.

      Blue Rooster is a blues club on 4th that serves much better food than it needs to serve given the excellence of the live music playing there nightly. Except for the nightly specials, their menu trends Southern. Their fried chicken has always been a treat -- crisp coating with moist meat inside and no grease. On the down side, I don't love their shrimp and grits. Their music calendar is on the web site. (I particularly recommend Lauren Mitchell playing 1/17)

      Not a fan of Nancy's BBQ in town. The pulled pork and the chicken are the stand-out meats, but the problem is the sauce. The basic sauce is much sweeter than I like. I have to create my own concoction at the table mixing equal parts of their sweet sauce and hot sauce and finally adding a couple of splashes of the bottled chile pepper-flavored vinegar before I'm happy.

      Brick's BBQ, a vendor who comes to the Saturday downtown farmer's market does an awesome Texas-style smoked brisket. His Southern-style pulled pork is also excellent. His ribs are Kansas City style so they're likely to be sweet. You can buy either bulk meat to use at home or a sandwich to eat on the spot.

      I've heard good things about Oaks BBQ on 41 South but I haven't tried it yet.

      If you want to try an excellent Cuban sandwich without going to Bradenton, head to Sofrito Mama's on Beneva.

      1. re: szw
        Veggo Jan 11, 2014 06:05 AM

        The ribs at C&K are good, but it's a bit of a drive. They have enlarged and added a seating area, although it's a bit stark. Take ribs home and you car will smell good for days!
        Try Star fish for anything but stone crabs at the picnic tables (it's all good). Their retail store sells stones, but they are a couple dollars/lb cheaper next door at A.P. Bell. 2 lbs/person is a good meal. For your first time, I would get the large size. The shells are thick for all of them, and large will be easier to crack and pick. I literally use a claw hammer at home to crack them. They are eaten chilled with a mild mustard sauce. I use 2/3 mayo, 1/3 mild mustard, and I float a little lime juice on top.
        Hickory Hollow on 301 in Ellenton (just south of the I-75 interchange, C&K is a few miles north) has both NC and SC style barbecue, and a large selection of southern style veggies and sides plus surprisingly good crab cakes. C&K and Hickory Hollow are both closed Sunday and Monday.

        1. re: Veggo
          s
          szw Jan 11, 2014 07:28 AM

          Thanks again! BTW veggo, I got my c&K and cortez recs from your posts in another thread. Any more gems to share?

          Happy eating!

          1. re: szw
            Veggo Jan 11, 2014 07:44 AM

            On Main St. in downtown Sarasota, the pizza by the slice at Il Panificio is very good, and they have pleasant outdoor tables. I'm a fan of the Columbia on St. Armands Circle, especially the 1905 salad with the garlic shrimp. Trying to keep you local!

            1. re: Veggo
              s
              szw Jan 13, 2014 07:05 AM

              Thanks! I checked out star fish and it was so very excellent. My wife and I were very happy to have found the place...loved the food, the atmosphere, cheap beers. Will be back before the week is over, thanks for the rec. Had fried mullet and grouper sandwich..both delicious but will try new things next time.

              AP Bell was closed (weekend), so bought some grouper and stone crabs from starfish. Excellent! Maybe splurge on the stone crabs one more time before heading back, or maybe will just keep an eye on the price whenever we go to star fish.

              Thanks all

              1. re: szw
                Veggo Jan 13, 2014 07:10 AM

                Glad it's going well. Bell is open until noon on Saturday, closed Sunday. Same ownership as Star Fish. The fried oysters and broiled scallops at Star are very good, and you can do combo baskets.

      2. a
        aginsky Nov 21, 2013 04:52 PM

        Having lived in SRQ for over 30 years and worked in the restaurant biz in the past, I have to agree that this is not a foodie's paradise. However, I do have a few favorites that have not been mentioned. For a nice downtown dinner we head to State Street Eating House, http://statestreetsrq.com/. Nice, casual and fun. Also love Sahara Cafe & Mediterranean Food for lunch. Monterey Grill is also a good and friendly lunch spot,https://www.facebook.com/montereygrill.

        3 Replies
        1. re: aginsky
          i
          Indy 67 Jan 2, 2014 04:51 AM

          My husband and I did take-out for several of Sahara Cafe's dishes recently and I thought folks might appreciate it if I shared my reactions.

          Dolmas: These are pleasant but not remarkable. They are probably not prepared in house but are simply the jarred variety. If you are doing tak- out to eat later, you might want to ask the kitchen to not warm the dolmas. You can do that yourself when you finally get around to eating and avoid warming them twice.

          Tabbouleh: Another pleasant dish. The preparation is the Middle Eastern style which is to say much heavier on the parsley than on the cous cous. I like that style, but that requires the kitchen make relatively small batches so the parsley doesn't sit around too long in the lemon dressing. Sahara's tabbouleh wasn't quite a fresh tasting as possible. I'd buy this again, but probably add my own finely diced cucumber and more tomato to freshen it up.

          Baba ganoush: One of the best versions of baba ganoush, I've eaten. I don't know whether the kitchen uses small eggplants which are inherently less bitter or they know what they're doing when they roast eggplant or they simply know how to balance the flavors with tahini. Whatever the technique, Sahara's version was stellar.

          The small selection of canned and jarred Middle Eastern food available for purchase is convenient for making Middle Eastern food at home. (While I was there, someone bought pomegranate molasses.)

          For some unknown reason, Indian food was also represented in the grocery section. There was a good selection of Patak pastes, including a lot that I don't see in Publix or even in Whole Foods. I bought some hot lime relish for no reason other than I'd never seen it before.

          I'd be happy to try their other offerings. Based on our lone visit, I would expect appealing food with the occasional super star.

          1. re: Indy 67
            Delucacheesemonger Jan 2, 2014 03:27 PM

            In small green/white plastic containers they sell Bulgarian feta by one of the best producers, try it. About 1.5 lbs.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger
              a
              aginsky Jan 2, 2014 04:24 PM

              I agree. Can't find better feta in SRQ.

        2. i
          Imatraveler Oct 10, 2013 08:03 AM

          Check out Edible Sarasota magazine. Plus if your in the mood for old Florida seafood drive over to Cortez and eat out on the dock at Katie bells of Bells seafood. Best fried shrimp dinner I ever ate. And visit the newly refurbished Florida Maritime museum. Next time make the drive north just over the Skyway and find Ted Peters famous Smoked Fish. Ted and APbell have history. Best smoked fish and great hamburgers.
          We are not a big walking culture. You have to get in your car to explore some awesome food destinations.

          1. o
            ospreycove Aug 17, 2013 05:27 AM

            really good recs by these folks.
            I would add:
            Guerro's Bakery/Grocery and Restaurant. for real Mexican food, you may have to sharpen up your Spanish beforehand, although they do have an english menu available.
            www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g34618-d3327782-Reviews-Guerrero_s_Ba...

            The Blue Marlin Bradenton Beach, Bridge St. gets his fish from A.P Bell everyday. Good music some nights.
            www.bluemarlinami.com/

            For a memorable true 'Bolognese Experience", Bologna Cafe in Osprey, expensive but a really unique place.
            www.bolognacafe.webs.com/

            1. k
              KyMikey Aug 14, 2013 07:16 PM

              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.

              1. l
                libstewart Aug 13, 2013 11:41 AM

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

                1. c
                  christinet. Aug 10, 2013 12:06 PM

                  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. g
                    gfr1111 Aug 10, 2013 10:15 AM

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

                    1. g
                      gfr1111 Aug 10, 2013 10:11 AM

                      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
                        Veggo Aug 10, 2013 10:37 AM

                        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
                          g
                          gfr1111 Aug 10, 2013 11:00 AM

                          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
                            Veggo Aug 10, 2013 11:15 AM

                            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
                              scubadoo97 Sep 20, 2013 01:49 PM

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

                              1. re: scubadoo97
                                Veggo Sep 20, 2013 02:02 PM

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

                                1. re: Veggo
                                  scubadoo97 Sep 21, 2013 07:30 AM

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

                                  1. re: scubadoo97
                                    Veggo Sep 21, 2013 07:40 AM

                                    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
                                      Delucacheesemonger Sep 24, 2013 11:40 AM

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

                                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                        z
                                        zoesharona Sep 24, 2013 02:12 PM

                                        Than sounds intriguing. Tell me more.

                                      2. re: Veggo
                                        Delucacheesemonger Sep 25, 2013 05:41 AM

                                        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
                                          Veggo Sep 25, 2013 05:44 AM

                                          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
                                            Delucacheesemonger Mar 9, 2014 09:57 AM

                                            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
                              i
                              Indy 67 Aug 11, 2013 07:01 AM

                              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
                                i
                                Indy 67 Dec 7, 2013 08:10 PM

                                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
                                  g
                                  gfr1111 Dec 11, 2013 04:15 AM

                                  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
                                    Indy 67 Dec 12, 2013 08:58 AM

                                    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
                                  i
                                  Indy 67 Dec 8, 2013 03:49 AM

                                  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
                                    o
                                    ospreycove Dec 9, 2013 11:13 AM

                                    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
                                      Veggo Dec 9, 2013 11:19 AM

                                      Osprey, do they do a chile relleno?

                                      1. re: Veggo
                                        o
                                        ospreycove Dec 12, 2013 11:19 AM

                                        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!!!

                                        http://www.idine.com/details.htm?merc...

                                        1. re: ospreycove
                                          Veggo Dec 12, 2013 03:56 PM

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

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