Best New Seafood Restaurant
Veronica Fish & Oyster—the latest creation from Mark Caragiulo, also a prime mover in Owen’s Fish Camp and Shore Diner—ticks all the right boxes: buzzy bar, cool décor, great location in the heart of Southside Village and modern takes on seafood dishes, from shrimp and grits to salmon with oxtail jus. Most Instagram-worthy: the Thai-style whole fried fish. 1830 S. Osprey Ave., (941) 366-1342
Best New Downtown Hotspot
How do we love thee, Boca? Let us count the ways: Gorgeous, industrial-chic, two-story space. Perfect downtown location. Craft cocktails. A green and gorgeous living wall. Seriously good people-watching. Fresh, locally sourced food (sweet potato gnocchi, entrées featuring local pork and salads using produce from local farms). See you there again tonight?
Best New Reason to Eat Your Veggies
Any restaurant from Arthur Lopes and Ryan Boeve, the owners of Pomona, is going to be good. But Lila approaches great. Vegetable-forward dishes include a standout roasted beet salad, an excellent veggie burger (seriously) and an unforgettable dish featuring a sunny-side-up fresh egg, root vegetable potato hash and brioche toast. You can order meat, too, but if you don’t, you’ll never miss it.
Best New Classic Italian Restaurant
Café Barbosso exudes attitude. A football game plays out on TV and an artist paints while chef Joe DiMaggio whips up New York-Italian cuisine and servers wearing T-shirts saying, “Eat your pasta, pay your bill, mind your business” tend to your table. Our menu favorites: 10-layer Ultimate Eggplant, Eggs in Purgatory and the classic rigatoni Bolognese.
Best New Steakhouse
The concept is so simple it’s brilliant. Create a steakhouse that’s casual, affordable and delicious. The second in a Port Charlotte chain, Prime Serious's new spot at Westfield Sarasota Square serves sensational popovers and tableside-mixed salad with every order of very good aged beef. ($29 for the 14-ounce New York strip.) No reservations, no regrets.
Best New Pizza
We’d never heard of New Haven-style pizza before Siesta Pizzeria Company, a cozy family restaurant, opened in a little spot on Siesta Drive. Now its ginormous rustic specialty pies—like the spinachoke pizza with artichokes, spinach, mozzarella, ricotta and garlic on a fabulously thin and chewy crust—make us fret over what we’ve been missing.
Best New Sushi
The North Trail space Kasa Sushi occupies has housed many other eateries, but we’re hoping this one lasts, since its sushi menu is long, varied and delicious. Whether you’re partial to sushi spiked with jalapeño or something milder, the tuna, salmon, avocado, cucumber, crab and other rolls are fine and the service friendly. 4195 N. Tamiami Trail, (941) 355-4001
Best New Venice Restaurant
Downtown Venice won on Election Day 2016 when Steve and Jessica Longet opened Café Longet. The couple brings decades of experience in French and Swiss restaurants, and the innovative menu dodges Gallic clichés. There are crêpes and quiches, of course, but also shrimp-patty burgers, risotti and a pineapple salad. 239 Miami Ave. W., Venice, (941) 244-2643
Best New Brewery
On the day they first rolled up the garage doors, Calusa Brewing Co. vaulted into the ranks of the region’s top breweries. It delivers impeccable brews—the Nitro Dissonance coffee and cinnamon ale is a jolting treat and the Southern Equinox double IPA a work of art. And the 2,200-square-foot bar boasts huge windows offering views of the sky-scraping fermenters.
Best New All You Can Eat
Yuniku Endless Sushi and Hibachi, a new University Park restaurant, offers a wide range of Asian fusion in a big and glamorous space. You can order à la carte, from traditional favorites to modern takes on Pacific Rim cuisine. But to sample a wide variety of dishes, go for the “endless sushi and hibachi” all day long, for just $12.95 lunch and $23.95 at dinner.
Best New Breakfast Spot
Buttermilk Handcrafted Food avoids the “restaurant” tag, because it’s not really a full-on sit-down establishment. Instead, it’s a charming gathering place with carefully thought-out biscuits, grits and toasts, pastries and pies that leave you shivering with delight and robust coffees that are a pleasure to linger over. Planning a morning date? Go here. 5520 Palmer Blvd., (941) 487-8948
Best New Burger Joint
BurgerFi, a Florida-born chain, wins the beef wars thanks to using grass-fed beef with no hormones, steroids or antibiotics and energy-conserving design strategies. Don’t go here just to feel better about yourself, though. Go for the thin patties that are caramelized on the outside but still plenty juicy. Even the quinoa-veggie patties are tasty.
Best New Asian
At last! Bibimbap, Seoul-worthy barbecue, kimchis of every kind, killer clam soup and a seafood pancake that can rival any in town. Shilla Korean Restaurant has brought authentic Korean favorites to Sarasota, and you can even watch Korean TV. Tip: The lunch buffet can introduce you to the menu at a less-than-dinner price.
Best New Intimate Italian
La Dolce Vita, a small blue-and-white space tucked into a strip mall, couldn’t be simpler, but the food and warmth created by Mauro and Tina Maglione, lately of Milan, Italy, have kept customers coming back from the moment it opened. Chef Mauro makes fresh, handcrafted pastas, tender veal dishes, briny frutti de mare and crispy calamari; Tina’s desserts draw on her mother and grandmother’s recipes.
Best New Medicine for Anna Maria Island
Exceptional cocktails and cuisine applied with a healthy dose of irreverence—that’s the winning prescription for the Doctor’s Office, the latest offering from Sean Murphy of Beach Bistro fame. Self-medicate with craft cocktails like “General Anesthetic” or the “Medicine Woman,” and maintain your strength with elegant small plates including duckling liver paté, smoked fish dip or a Cuban sandwich with mojo braised pork.
Best New Tavern
Oak & Stone, an industrial-chic University Park joint, staked its claim with a massive selection of craft beer—56 draughts—which goes down all the easier with gourmet American bistro fare and artisan pizzas topped with creative combos like eggs and Hollandaise or chicken, pine nuts and goat cheese. Another restaurant winner from Tableseide, the force behind Libby’s, Louies Modern and Muse.
Best New Gastropub
Think you know pub food? Think again. Popular St. Petersburg eatery Cask & Ale has brought elevated cuisine, craft cocktails and artisan beers to Main Street Sarasota. How about foie gras with chestnut jam and bee-pollen sorghum molasses, or seared duck breast with red quinoa and smoked cherry sauce? Pair that with a gimlet or pale ale and we’ve found our happy place.
Best News for Locavores
Easy-to-get local beef has been on our wish list for years. Now it’s a reality. The Sarasota Beef Company sells both grass-fed and grain-finished beef from Myakka City at its new storefront and at farmers’ markets and restaurants. Honey has been an easier locavore find, but now there’s a one-stop shop: Sarasota Honey Company has opened a Rosemary District shop. Sweet.
Best New Restaurant Rescue
Shock and horror struck when beloved Council’s Bradenton Recreation announced it was closing after 90 years. But cheers erupted when Toasted Mango owners Kimberly Duffy and Sandi Wagner decided to take it over (with longtime owner Lawton Smith still manning the grill at lunch). Here’s to juicy burgers on napkins (no fries), ice-cold beers and pool table camaraderie!
Best New Coffee Shop
In different eras, this 1933-built property has served as a boarding house, a circus performance space and a bordello. Now it’s The Reserve, a quiet, sun-filled coffee shop and bookstore, where you can linger over superb drip coffees and espresso beverages crafted with beans from Tampa-based roaster Buddy Brew while you browse the latest bestsellers.
Best New Restaurant Redesign
This second-story Main Street space has housed a French restaurant, a Creole eatery, a Belgian beer joint, Irish pubs and more. None has looked as sexy as The Coolinary, with its romantic bar, whimsical lighting and comfortable mod seats. Ask for a table by a window, where you’ll enjoy Hungarian-inspired cuisine and a rare elevated view of downtown.
Best New Bradenton Restaurant
The Mattison’s brand triumphantly returns to downtown Bradenton, with a place at Riverwalk park that features a spacious, all-weather patio and serves the sort of well-executed global fusion Paul Mattison’s fans have come to expect, including a variety of tapas, sushi, sandwiches and more.
Best New Event Space
Talk about a transformation. Michael Klauber and Phil Mancini, the dynamic duo behind Michael’s On East, superhero catering powers at Selby Gardens’ down-on-its-heels Great Room by the Bay and—kapow!—the result is an elegant event space with knockout bayfront views and the duo’s delicious food. It’s already booking like crazy for weddings, parties and nonprofit events.
Best New Gourmet Goodies
Feeling snacky? It’s great fun to browse A Savory Palate, a gourmet pantry and tasting room on St. Armands Circle, which is chock-a-block with premium olive oils (more than 60 from around the world), vinegars, jams, sauces, condiments, artisanal cheeses and more, plus guest chef events offering appetizers and wine pairings for just $35.