Michael’s On East
At 30, this bastion of prize-winning American dining and sophisticated decor is ever the social and business HQ for Sarasota’s cognoscenti. New restaurants and bistros come and go, but here the ambient lighting, well-spaced tables and cushy banquettes, deep wine list, inventive menu and silky smooth “supper club” ambiance keep on keeping on. MOE has 28 consecutive AAA Four-Diamond Awards. Meet for mainstays like the legacy Colony snapper, the pan-roasted Chilean sea bass or the hand-cut prime steaks aged at least 25 days. Or talk shop over one of the monthly Epicurean Adventure menus from around the globe. You’ll feel like a bigwig. 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-0007, bestfood.com.
This second-floor restaurant, rooftop terrace bar and lounge isn’t just for well-heeled Saks Fifth Avenue shoppers sharing salads. This unique space, only the second in the country created to honor couture maven Sophie Gimbel (the other is in Chicago), has gained traction for its tucked-away dining room and its inventive menu of fresh, healthy food—the portions, thankfully, are not dainty—for lunch and dinner. (Check evening hours as private social events can commandeer the entire place.) Creative cocktails, wines, beers and ciders change with the seasons, as do starters, soups, salads, sandwiches, entrées, sides and splurgy desserts. Saks Fifth Avenue, The Mall at University Town Center, 120 University Town Center Drive, Sarasota, (941) 364-5300, sophies.com.
Although it’s not on the water, this big-city style restaurant uses a coastal theme of glass, wood and textiles to evoke a sense of oceanic elegance and flair. Wood-fired proteins and sustainable seafood form the core of a traditional menu dubbed “comfort food, done light,” while served in a soaring, impressive space on the second floor. The airy, floor-to-ceiling windows open to an outdoor patio that offers sunshine with your meal, but for top-shelf views take the elevator upstairs to the 19th floor Roof Bar & Eats. There you can order libations and food at a poolside table, bar stool or cabana while making your best pitch. But beware—business dialogue might take a back seat to the spectacular display of Sarasota’s bayfront and downtown. The Westin Sarasota, 1175 N. Gulfstream Ave., Sarasota, (941) 260-8255, evoqsarasota.com.
Since 1973 this oldie but goodie has provided continental cuisine and well-curated wines from America and Europe in a building that was once John Ringling’s real estate office. Eating outside on St. Armands Circle or the veranda has its charms, but for more concentrated conversation, dine inside where the brick arches, Spanish tile and artful ambiance convey an Old World elegance. The DiRōNA Achievement of Distinction in Dining and Wine Spectator Award of Excellence speak to the quality of the Dutch- and German-influenced specialties, while tableside service and retro menu feature stars such as Dover sole and steak Diane. 431 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, (951) 388-4415, cafeleurope.net.
Chef-driven and always surprising, charming Towles Court eatery Indigenous offers unique, locally sourced menu items to match its one-of-a-kind setting. The bill of fare includes seasonally changing starters and “hook to fork” fish, local vegetables, grains and sustainable animal proteins as well as selective wine and beer choices. Whether you settle into the intimate main room, back room or outdoors, you’ll be treated to fresh flavors at their peak and bold pairings that defy business as usual. With an earnest and serious philosophy about ethical nourishment and a lot of talent front and back of the house, the total experience of Indigenous inspires meaningful interaction. 239 S. Links Ave., Sarasota, (941) 706-4740, indigenoussarasota.com.