These 11 Longboat Key, Lido Key and St. Armands restaurants were among the 61 area restaurants featured in our recent "Best Restaurants" issue.
The upstairs nightclub here sizzles with Latin, Caribbean, jazz, and more music until 2 a.m. most nights. The downstairs restaurant serves outstanding Italian fare until 10 p.m. Start with a libation on the balcony or at the piano bar, where you’re bound to meet and mingle.
Take a seat at an outdoor table or in the blue-and-white interiors at this authentic Greek taverna. All the standards shine here, from moussaka to grilled lamb, and you’ll find a strong assortment of small plates and appetizers to share. The menu includes imported ingredients like olive oil from the owners’ Greek groves, sea salt and Greek thyme honey.
Fresh seafood, juicy steaks, a nice selection of wines and a view of Longboat’s New Pass that’s hard to beat combine for relaxing, pleasing dining here. Desserts like Hot Chocolate Lava Cake polish the meal off in sweet style. Happy Hour, too.
The original, which specializes in traditional Cuban and Spanish dishes, was established in Tampa’s Ybor City; this sister restaurant opened on St. Armands Circle in 1959, making it one of our area’s longest-running eateries. Casual and carefree during the day; jazzy and glamorous at night, with faves including house-blended sangria, black bean soup, paella a la Valencia and hot Cuban bread. The signature 1905 salad made tableside is a must.
This eatery draws foodies who love global seafood, from a flight of raw oysters to cioppino made with local red snapper. The expansive menu offers temptations such as Dover sole, blue lump crab cake or a 16-ounce grilled pork porterhouse, plus remarkable grouper sandwiches and stone crab claws. Relax inside or outside under umbrellas and watch the world go by.
Owner/chef Raymond Arpke and wife D’Arcy bought this Longboat Key cottage in 1980; over the years, they’ve added a separate upstairs room for desserts and a lounge with bar food. The continental menu below offers classics like veal sweetbreads Grenobloise, crisp roasted duck, Key West snapper and Grecian lamb shank. Outstanding service, wine list and ambiance combine with the food to create relaxed fine dining.
Harry’s is known not only for its coastal cuisine (think shrimp-cargot, crab cakes, lobster rolls and grilled grouper) but for its catering services, a corner store and a deli and wine shop. Serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, it’s one-stop shopping and dining for connoisseurs and a Longboat Key institution.
Old Florida cuisine gets the spotlight at Mar Vista, where grouper sandwiches and croquette-like tater tots are a match for the charm of the original 1912 cottage. The waterfront setting is idyllic; inside offers a pub-like atmosphere, but Mar Vista gets magical out back. On the deck and the shell beach beyond, diners sit at wrought-iron tables under an ancient oak tree festooned with strings of lights, channeling the calm of the Intracoastal in the sea breeze.
It’s hard to get more laid-back and casual than this City Island refuge from the real world, where you can grab a beer, fish ‘n’ chips or peel ‘n’ eat shrimp by the handful while indulging your senses in the water views and boats cruising by. Also on the menu: steamed Prince Edward Island mussels, Caribbean jerk tacos, and, for the heartiest of appetites, the loaded Salty Dog, a quarter-pound hot dog dipped in batter, fried and served with four cheeses and more toppings. Be prepared.
The ambiance here is reason enough to drop by; the upper-deck restaurant provides a view of St. Armands Circle, but in the back part of the dining room, the ceiling retracts so you can find yourself eating under stars. American coastal bistro food (Key West shrimp, scallop risotto, local red snapper) served here, much of it sourced from nearby farms and the Gulf. You don’t have to be a tourist to celebrate the relaxed vacation vibe. Lunch, dinner.
You’ll feel like you’ve walked into a laid-back party, and you’re dressed just right in flip-flops and a Hawaiian shirt. Just take a long cool sip of something like a coconut cloud martini and surf the menu for treats like ahi tuna tacos, mango BBQ chicken lollipops, crab stuffed shrimp and more. Desserts to die for, too (pina colada cake, anyone?) Lunch and dinner.