2016 is coming to a close, and while many are excited to put the year behind us, I for one am not. Things can always get worse, folks.

Luckily, in times good and bad, food gives us an excuse to temporarily forget what ails us, and 2016 has been an exceptionally fertile year for new Sarasota restaurants. Since we ticked over from 2015, the city has added Lila, Boca, VeronicaButtermilk, CeviChela, The Coolinary, Kasa and a bunch more, while restaurants like Jpan and C'est La Vie! have doubled up with second locations. We even got a new brewery—Calusa, which is cranking out some of the region's best beers—and we have even more good eats on the horizon: Brick's Barbeque is working on a full-time sit-down restaurant in downtown (not in Southside Village), as is Sofrito Mama's. For a city Sarasota's size, I'd say that adds up to a pretty good year.

I spent 2016 covering a lot of that good news, as well as continuing my endless quest to eat at every taqueria, truck stop and mullet shack on the Gulf Coast. Here are five of my top frugal food finds:

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Palermo Pizza

Palermo opened in a small South Trail strip in 2015, but it wasn't till this year that I fell hard for it's "mezzo luna," a half-pizza, half-calzone that must have been dreamed up by a mad scientist.

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The Clever Cup

Gulf Gate has needed a good indie coffee shop for centuries, and this year The Clever Cup finally stepped up. A great place to gather and reconnect, or log in and polish off some long-overdue work.

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Daily Eats

The fried chicken sandwich at Daily Eats might have been my favorite sandwich of 2016. Nothing fussy—just moist meat battered and dipped and served with simple accompaniments. Genius.

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Buttermilk Handcrafted Food

Buttermilk isn't a budget destination, but there's no way I'm not including it. The biscuits are astonishing, the oatmeal pie is heavenly and the coffee's great. 'Nuff said.

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Camacho's Best Tacos

After you've eaten Camacho's, life just isn't the same. You start thinking that you're seeing that metal-topped pickup truck everywhere, at all hours. Is it idling out front of your house? Popping up in your rearview mirror? Or have you just gone carnitas-crazy? Stay strong, people.

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