In 2016, Conde Nast Traveler confirmed what locals and longtime visitors already knew. The magazine named Sarasota one of the nation’s 15 Best Food Cities, in the company of such celebrated culinary destinations as San Francisco, New York City and Boston. Our town abounds with gourmet treasures, from chef-driven fine dining establishments to hole-in-the-wall eateries that take you on culinary adventures around the world. And new spots and new dishes pop up so quickly that even local foodies scramble to keep up. To connect you with the best, our team of editors, restaurant critics and food bloggers tackled the tasty task of compiling this list of where—and what—you should eat right now.

The Cuban sandwich and 1905 salad combo at the Columbia Restaurant is one of our city’s crowning glories. The hot, buttery pressed Cuban bread makes a crispy complement to the savory meats and cheese inside, and the hearty salad is bathed in a magnificent garlic dressing. May it forever reign. 411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-3987.  

The Old-Florida setting and fare delight at Longboat Key’s bayside Mar Vista, but the stuffed squash blossoms are an unexpected pleasure. Three squash flowers are filled with creamy burrata cheese with grated lemon zest and topped with a light sauce. Fresh, unfussy and up-to-the-minute. 760 Broadway St., Longboat Key, (941) 383-2391

The perigourdine at little Lolita Tartine in the Rosemary District testifies to France’s love affair with duck. Sliced, smoked duck breast fans out atop crisp mixed field greens, tiny croutons, walnuts, tomato and an exquisite sweet onion marmalade. 1419 Fifth St., Sarasota, (941) 952-3172.

Bouillabaisse at the award-winning, Gulf-front Beach Bistro may be the best (and at $78 for the “bountiful” bowl, the most expensive) seafood stew you’ve ever tasted. Local fish, shellfish and lobster swim in a stellar, saffron-spiced broth. Worth it. 6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, (941) 778-6444.  

At Pho Cali, a sensational little downtown Vietnamese restaurant, the owner’s favorite is No. 130—marinated, cubed tenderloin flash-sautéed with onions, seasoned with fragrant spices and served with a squeeze of lime and fried rice. Heavenly. 1578 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 955-2683.

Fritters ebiokj

Whatever seafood you order will be as sensational as the dockside view at super-casual Star Fish Company in the fishing village of Cortez, but make sure to start with the conch fritters—light, hot, crispy-brown and way too good to share. 12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, (941) 794-1243.

The lively new Oak & Stone near the UTC mall excels at wood-fired, thin-crusted pizzas. We like to sit at the bar and order one of the 56 craft beers and the pizza with Cedar Key clams, bacon, white cheddar and roasted garlic. The tender-chewy clams add a briny taste of Florida. 5405 University Parkway, Bradenton, (941) 225-4590. 

Southside Village’s stylish new Veronica Fish & Oyster has a sure hand with seafood, including a riff on the Maine lobster roll. A caper aioli and triple-fried French fries enhance the top-quality lobster meat in this petite appetizer (two rolls to an order). Pricey at $24, but pitch-perfect. 1830 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-1342.

At downtown’s Owen’s Fish Camp, a kitschy tribute to Sarasota’s past, order the catch of the day accompanied by a layered fried green tomato salad. Fresh, firm pan-fried tomatoes rest atop mixed greens and silky goat cheese and are crowned with crispy bits of country ham and creamy buttermilk dressing. 516 Burns Lane, Sarasota, (941) 951-6936.

We knew Peruvian food features coastal ingredients and intriguing flavors, but not until the new Brasa & Pisco opened did we learn the country also excels at rotisserie-cooked meats. For just $20—with sides—the whole, spit-roasted chicken boasts well-seasoned meat and crazy-good crispy skin. 8347 Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota, (941) 360-0300.

Key lime pie mpnnwl

Key lime pie is Florida’s emblematic dessert, a creamy concoction that’s lovely to look at and both tart and sweet. You’ll find the supreme example of the species, from the correct pale-yellow hue to the silky texture, at the upstairs Haye Loft at Euphemia Haye. 5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, (941) 383-3633. 

Every month, the culinary team at Michael’s On East challenges itself to present a dinner inspired by a different country. The epicurean adventure features a multi-course menu and wine pairings from locales around the globe. Many locals never miss a month. 1212 East Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-0007.

From Oct. 15 to May 15, sweet, succulent stone crab claws are in season. At Crab & Fin on tony St. Armands Circle, take a sidewalk seat and feast on a pile of big, glistening cold claws while watching the pretty parade of shoppers. 420 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-3964. 

The lines often stretch out the door at Yoder’s in Pinecraft, the town’s Amish neighborhood. And many of those patient customers will finish off their hearty meal with a slice of chocolate peanut-butter pie. Savoring your first sweet, creamy slice is a Sarasota rite of passage. 3434 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota, (941) 955-7771.

Pizza qkqein

Some of the best authentic Italian pizza around comes from the wood-burning oven at Made in Italy and is served by the yard—enough for five and you can section it off with different toppings. This chic Venice hotspot also has a bustling bar scene and great cocktails. 117 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 488-8282.

Fish doesn’t get any more swish than the coconut macadamia-crusted mahi mahi at Ophelia’s on the Bay. The nut-crumb crust enlivens the mild mahi, and tropical fruit jam and zingy habanero golden potatoes add to the island flavor. A celebratory vacation dish. 9105 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key. (941) 349-2212. 

All day Sunday, Italians simmer sausage, meatballs and pork in rich red sauce until everything is meltingly tender. Chianti makes its Sunday sauce (only on Sundays) from a recipe from the owner’s parents in Abruzzi, then ladles out a generous portion served with just-baked bread. 3900 Clark Road, Sarasota, (941) 952-3186.

Dim sum gz4col

The enormous array of Chinese dim sum at Yummy House is both authentic and irresistible. Don’t hold back—everybody orders too much. And yes, it’s worth braving the lines that form just before lunchtime and the crowd at night. 3232 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 351-1688. 

The gooey-chewy mozzarella yucca rolls at The Table Creekside come warm (and free) to your table at this waterside restaurant with a playful global reach. On an ever-changing menu, they’re a blissful constant. If they don’t come out fast enough, diners ask where they are. 5365 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 921-9465.

Bijou Café’s chef/owner Jean-Piere Knaggs takes the lowly spud and turns it into pommes gratin Dauphinois, a dreamy sliced-potato, Gruyere cheese and double-cream casserole from southeast France. It’s been on the menu since Day 1, and Sarasota wouldn’t be the same without it. 1287 First St., Sarasota, (941) 366-8111.

Tired of kale salads? You’ll fall in love again with the kale Caesar salad at Louies Modern, a sophisticated uptown hotspot. Chopped curly greens are tossed with anchovy and pickled onion, and the bright creamy-lemony dressing perfectly navigates savory-salty. 1289 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 552-9688.

Cake k0te0x

If a tropical holiday had a taste, it would be the towering pina colada cake at Tommy Bahama. From the white chocolate mousse frosting to the pineapple-and-rum-spiked filling, this is how to kick off a Sarasota vacation—or staycation. 300 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota (941) 388-2888.

Shoppers looking for treasures at Bradenton’s Red Barn Flea Market need only sample the tacos al pastor at the tiny stall that’s Maria’s Restaurant. The fresh-made hand-helds composed of pork, chiles, pineapple, honey and smoked paprika are beyond excelente. 1707 First St., Bradenton, (941) 747-3794. 

In a city full of Italian restaurants, Pino’s stands out, and the chef/owner’s skill with octopus demonstrates why. Tentacles are steamed, marinated and grilled with oil, lemon, garlic and served with dressed arugula. The lightly crusted octopus is super-tender and totally Mediterranean. 3800 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 366-1440. 

You won’t find gnocchi with Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts at most local Italian restaurants. But Bologna Café, which specializes in Northern Italian cuisine, earned raves for this dish and others from the late Italian cookbook guru Marcella Hazan. 3893 Destination Drive, Osprey, (941) 244-2033.

Picnic fare doesn’t have to be grocery-store fried chicken. Instead pick up a meatball sub from Piccolo Italian Market & Deli. Fresh, crusty Italian bread encloses beautifully seasoned meatballs and lots of red sauce. Messy, but you’ll love every bite. 6518 Gateway Ave., Sarasota, (941) 923-2202.

Need a New York fix in Sarasota? The thick, juicy pastrami sandwich at Sol’s NYC Deli will transport you to the Big Apple. Locals rejoiced when we finally got an authentic deli last year, and this sandwich, like everything here, is the real deal. 1991 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 444-0413. 

If it’s Wednesday night, it’s time for twin Maine lobsters for just $24.95 at Blu Mangrove. The rosy-red crustaceans full of succulent meat come with seasoned fries, housemade slaw—and a view of the broad Manatee River rolling along. Best to reserve ahead for this popular weekly deal. 102 Riviera Dunes Way, Palmetto, (941) 479-7827. 

Spanikopita s6qyvl

Flaky, spinach-stuffed spanakopita reaches perfection at Blu Kouzina, where the Greek owners make their own phyllo and import olive oil from their home groves. Follow it with impeccable seafood, and eat on the porch or inside at this blue-and-white Aegean estiatorio. 25 N. Boulevard of Presidents, St. Armands, (941) 388-2619.

Pot roast with vegetables and truffle mashed potatoes at Mattison’s Forty One Restaurant & Catering is home cooking far better than most of us make at home. This melt-in-your-mouth masterpiece has been on Paul Mattison’s menu for 10 years and is featured in his cookbook. 7275 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 921-3400.

The pork belly tacos at fashionable Shore on St. Armands Circle combine America’s two favorite food items right now: the house-made taco and rich, fatty and succulent pork belly. Almost as creative as the upstairs restaurant’s retractable roof. 465 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands, Sarasota, (941) 296-0301.

Grouper sandwiches abound, but you’ll find a great one at the Dry Dock Waterfront Grill. The fish is fresh, white, flaky and moist, and your sandwich with fries and coleslaw comes with a water view. 412 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, (941) 383-0102. 

Small, boho Drunken Poet Café keeps the lights low and the menu interesting even at lunch. But we keep ordering the tried-and-true shrimp pad Thai. Unlike many pad thai sauces, this one tastes fresh and ethereal, and every ingredient is cooked for just the right amount of time. 1572 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 955-8404.

Grown men moan when they taste the brisket Benedict at Made’s Sunday brunch. Slow-roasted brisket hash and thick bacon are layered with poached eggs, pepper sausage gravy and chipotle Hollandaise on a toasted bun. Positively pornographic. 1990 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 953-2900.

The Trenne Dolce Italia is a house favorite at little Dolce Italia. Fresh, homemade triangle-shaped pasta is drenched in pomodoro sauce with mushrooms and then blanketed with snowy grated mozzarella cheese. Sharp, gooey, divine. 6551 Gateway Ave., Sarasota, (941) 921-7007. 

The raw seafood bar at Jack Dusty in The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, is a stunning display of fresh seafood, from shrimp and oysters to sashimi and ceviches, along with chowders, bisques, tacos and more. And often a live mermaid materializes atop the icy counter, flashing her sparkly tail. 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota, (941) 309-2266. 

Pomona charcuterie sw1yah

On the elegant charcuterie board at Pomona, choice offerings include Lyon and Merguez sausage, duck confit rillette, pork belly with a mayonnaise-style cold egg sauce, house-pickled vegetables and crusty bread. Are we in France yet? 481 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota, (941) 706-1677. 

At Fins, you’ll be mesmerized by the Gulf views—and the rich, chunky lobster potato nachos. Maine lobster morsels are folded into melted smoked Gouda cheese and accented with crispy prosciutto and fresh arugula. Waffle fries make the perfect dipping implement. 1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice, (941) 999-3467.

Lucky Pelican is famous for its seafood. We love the heady mélange of spicy shrimp, cod, crawfish, jambalaya, rice, cheese and fresh corn salsa in the ocean burrito. It’s served with kicky Baja sauce. 6239 Lake Osprey Drive, Lakewood Ranch, (941) 907-0589.

Fresh ingredients for the ideal Caesar salad arrive tableside on a rolling cart at Marcello. They’re assembled with élan, starting with the theatrical mashing of anchovies. Super fine every time. 4155 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 921-6794. 

Burger scsbsj

Take a shopping break at UTC Mall and order the Avenue Burger at Sophie's at Saks Fifth Avenue. Juicy Angus beef, cheddar cheese, roasted tomato and a tangle of crispy shoestring onions balance on a fresh brioche bun. You may not finish it all, but you'll savor every bite. 120 University Town Center, Sarasota, (941) 444-3077.

Downtown’s Mediterraneo is a sophisticated spot known for top-quality Italian dishes. Costoletta de vitello may be best in show. A pounded veal chop is lightly breaded, pan sautéed and seasoned and topped with arugula and tomatoes. Simple—and sensational. 1970 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 365-4122. 

Always bustling Phillippi Creek Village & Oyster Bar is brilliant with seafood. Consider the fish tacos. Three crisp blue-corn taco shells are layered with big pieces of batter-fried snapper, guacamole, white queso fresco, pineapple infused slaw and a swirl of sauce. Best ever. 5353 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 925-4444.

The frutti di mare is worthy of The Sandbar’s seaside setting. Shrimp, crab, clams, lobster and scallops are sautéed with spinach and heirloom tomatoes and served over pasta. Then comes a gentle rain of grated golden bottarga—cured local mullet roe with a salty, sea-funk flavor. 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, (941) 778-0444.

The best vegetarian bowl on earth? Our vote goes to the macro bowl at the chic new Lila, where chickpeas, sweet potato chunks, avocado, seaweed and brown rice are colorfully arranged in sections and sprinkled with a tasty turmeric-tahini vinaigrette. 1576 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 296-1042. 

Everything—everything!—is impeccably French at Maison Blanche; we recommend beginning your evening in Paris with the tomato tart. It’s just cherry tomato confit and fresh basil in a pastry shell, but master chef Jose Martinez makes simplicity sublime. 2605 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, (941) 383-8088. 

Selva is known for superb Nuevo Latin cuisine, and no visit is complete without some ceviche. A must-try: the mixto ceviche, with fresh shrimp, seasonal white fish, octopus, mussels, onion, cusco corn and roasted camotes in a spicy lime marinade. 1345 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 362-4427.

Baker wife meatball qmekih

At Baker & Wife, a fun, artisanal spot, The Meatball is a comforting favorite. A big meatball sprinkled with mozzarella sits majestically atop a mound of spaghetti squash transformed with Parmesan cheese, oregano and basil. 2157 Siesta Drive, Sarasota, (941) 960-1765.

At Muse at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, you can sit inside or out, overlooking the lush grounds, while enjoying Gulf grouper picatta. Blue crab, grouper cheeks and broccolini risotto are sprinkled with crispy capers. Art to eat and appreciate. 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, (941) 360-7390.

The millefoglie is the dessert to have at La Dolce Vita, a Naples, Italy-inflected restaurant where the bread and pasta are made fresh daily. Layers of crisp puff pastry fraternize with fresh berries, a rich Chantilly-like cream and a swirl of dark chocolate. 2704 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota, (941) 210-3631.

At The Waterfront, an Anna Maria restaurant with views of Tampa Bay and the Gulf, the Moqueca, a Brazilian stew, gets a Florida translation with Gulf shrimp, Tampa Bay clams and fresh local fish swimming in a lime-and-coconut-infused broth. It’s served with cilantro-marinated basmati rice. 111 S. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria, (941) 778-1515.

Pork-belly connoisseurs will flip for the honey-plum glazed pork belly appetizer at Boca Kitchen Bar & Market, a new downtown spot winning buzz for its bar scene and creative ways with produce. This dish blends the rich, complex flavors of the pork with kohlrabi, mesquite pineapple and spicy honeycomb. 19 S. Lemon Ave., Sarasota, (941) 256-3565. 

Capital grille lobster mac qmhjen

 

The lobster mac ’n’ cheese at The Capital Grille is a sumptuous spin on humble comfort food. Rich and creamy, it’s studded with tender lobster chunks. Order as a dinner side or do what we do: Sneak out to the mall and make a lunch of it with a glass of wine. 120 University Town Center, Sarasota, (941) 256-3647. 

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Editor’s Pick

The Capital Grille

$$$$ Steakhouse 180 University Town Center Drive

Capital Grille lives up to its own high standards at the UTC mall in Sarasota.

Editor’s Pick

The Waterfront Restaurant

$$$ New American, Seafood 111 Bay Blvd. N.

Exquisite views of Tampa Bay, inspired wine and beer selection and a menu with emphasis on fresh, natural flavors.

Editor’s Pick

Muse

$$$ New American 5401 Bay Shore Road

Art museums all over are paying attention to the quality of their restaurants, and that’s true in Sarasota, too.

Baker & Wife

$$ New American 2157 Siesta Drive

A comfortable American bistro-gastro pub with a likable full bar that's garnered a loyal following since opening last spring.

Editor’s Pick

Selva

$$$ Latin American, Peruvian 1345 Main Street

You say ceviche, we say Selva, the Main Street hot spot for vibrant “nuevo Latino” cuisine.

Editor’s Pick

Maison Blanche

$$$ French 2605 Gulf of Mexico Drive

Haute cuisine with many a twist from Paris-trained chef Jose Martinez

Editor’s Pick

The Sandbar

$$ Seafood 100 Spring Ave.

Unfussy Florida fare with an emphasis on fresh seafood.

Editor’s Pick

Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar

$$ Seafood 5353 S. Tamiami Trail

Come by land or sea to this casual waterfront eatery and enjoy fresh seafood, burgers and sandwiches.

Editor’s Pick

Pomona Bistro and Wine Bar

$$$$ New American 481 N. Orange Ave.

An intimate urban-sophisticated restaurant that is refined both in ambiance and menu.

Editor’s Pick

Jack Dusty

$$$$ Seafood 1111 Ritz Carlton Dr

High-life indulgence and relaxed elegance are what Jack Dusty at the Ritz-Carlton delivers.

Editor’s Pick

Made

$$$ New American, Southern 1990 Main St., #112

The acronym stands for “Modern American Delicious Eats,” and that’s what you’ll find at Made, opposite Hollywood 20 on Upper Main Street.

Dry Dock Waterfront Grill

$$ Seafood 412 Gulf of Mexico Drive

Enjoy casual waterfront dining on the dockside patio or in the recently expanded indoor dining room overlooking Sarasota Bay.

Editor’s Pick

Shore Diner

$$$ New American 465 John Ringling Boulevard

At Shore Diner, the mid-century modern ambiance is reason enough to stop in for a cocktail and a meal.

Mattison's

$$$ New American Multiple Locations

Chef Paul Mattison’s award-winning menu includes fresh seafood, aged beef, duck, tapas, creative cocktails and first-rate wines and brews.

Editor’s Pick

Pino's at Paradise Plaza

$$$ Italian 3800 South Tamiami Trail

Classic Italian fare prepared with innovative flair by master European chef Pino Luongo.

Editor’s Pick

Tommy Bahama

$$$ New American, Seafood 300 John Ringling Blvd.

Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar is the quintessential tropical vacation destination.

Editor’s Pick

Louies Modern

$$$ New American 1289 North Palm Avenue

This handsome downtown focuses on farm-fresh, sophisticated American cuisine as well as craft beer and handcrafted cocktails.

Editor’s Pick

Bijou Cafe

$$$ European, French 1287 1st Street

A fine-dining tradition in the heart of downtown Sarasota’s arts district since 1986

Editor’s Pick

The Table Creekside

$$$ New American, Seafood 5365 S. Tamiami Trail

High-level creativity is the hallmark of The Table.

Editor’s Pick

Yummy House

$ Asian 3232 North Tamiami Trail

Yummy House is a big draw thanks to its authentic Chinese food—salt and pepper calamari, shrimp and scallops in XO sauce and Hong Kong roasted duck.

Editor’s Pick

Chianti

$$ Italian 3900 Clark Road

Authentic Italian food served in a warm atmosphere, with calamari steak, veal saltimbocca and linguine and clam sauce among the highlights.

Editor’s Pick

Ophelia's on the Bay

$$$ New American, Seafood 9105 Midnight Pass Road

Romantic, intimate and perched on the pretty Intracoastal water at the southern end of Siesta Key.

Editor’s Pick

Made in Italy

$$ Italian, Pizza 117 W, Venice Ave

A favorite with locals and tourists alike for its pizza by the yard that comes fresh from the wood-burning oven.

Yoder's

$$ American, Southern 3434 Bahia Vista Street

Famous for its homemade pies (more than two dozen flavors like Dutch apple crumb and chocolate peanut butter), Yoder’s also offers comfort food.

Editor’s Pick

Crab & Fin

$$$$ Seafood 420 St. Armands Circle

Set on a bustling corner of St. Armands Circle and featuring a cool, modern look, this landmark restaurant changes its lunch and dinner menus daily in order to present to you the freshest seafood available.

Editor’s Pick

Michael's On East

$$$ European, New American 1212 S. East Ave.

Sarasota’s only AAA Four-Diamond Award restaurant, this fine dining destination boasts American-Continental cuisine, an adventurous wine list and a comfortable, clubby piano lounge.

Editor’s Pick

Euphemia Haye

$$$ New American 5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive

Located in a historic wooden cottage, Euphemia Haye is one of the area’s most romantic fine dining destinations

Editor’s Pick

Owen's Fish Camp

$$ Seafood, Southern 516 Burns Lane

Located in a historic Burns Court cottage, Owen’s presents Southern-style cuisine with an emphasis on seafood.

Editor’s Pick

Star Fish Company Market and Restaurant

$ Seafood 12306 46th Avenue West

At the exalted waterfront dive that is Star Fish Company, the food is served in white plastic containers the size of shoe boxes, unassuming packages that conceal the greatness within.

Editor’s Pick

Pho Cali

$$ Asian 1578 Main St.

Small, plain and humbly designed, as if ambiance were an afterthought, downtown’s Pho Cali is nevertheless a Vietnamese restaurant that superbly delivers in flavor and breadth of menu.

Editor’s Pick

Beach Bistro

$$$$ New American 6600 Gulf Drive

A fine dining destination set right on the Gulf of Mexico, this intimate, award-winning restaurant is known for showstoppers like Bistro Bouillabaisse and Death by Foie Gras.

Editor’s Pick

Lolita Tartine

$$ Coffee, French 1419 Fifth St.

As its name implies, Lolita Tartine features traditional French open-face sandwiches.

Editor’s Pick

Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Pub

$$ Seafood 760 Broadway St.

Located in a 100-year-old cottage in picturesque Longboat Village, Mar Vista provides the quintessential Florida experience.

Editor’s Pick

Columbia Restaurant

$$$ Spanish 411 St. Armands Circle

A Florida dining tradition that started in Tampa’s Ybor City way back in 1905.