Star Fish Company
Need a great lunch spot to lure those talented professionals from the cold, gray North? Treat them to fresh-from-the-boat seafood at Cortez fishing village’s iconic Star Fish Company. Sit at a dockside picnic table and order a local craft beer to go with locally caught grouper, stone crabs or Gulf shrimp. Add some crunchy hush puppies and finish with a slice of Capt. Kathe’s Key lime pie. Don’t forget sunscreen and cash (credit cards not accepted). Star Fish Company, 12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, (941) 794-1243, starfishcompany.com.
Crab & Fin
St. Armands Circle is as close as Sarasota gets to Southern France, and the circle’s Crab & Fin, with its covered sidewalk patio, fits the European theme. Order the Alaskan Red King and Bairdi snow crabs, flown-in fresh daily, or try the nice variety of oysters and shellfish from the raw bar and a selection of caviars that will impress (have your expense account ready, because there are no prices on the caviar menu). Don’t skip the famous Charley’s chowder, a hearty Mediterranean soup laden with tomatoes, herbs and pollock. Then select wine or champagne from the extensive list to toast your future alliance. Crab & Fin, 420 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-3964, crab&finrestaurant.com.
With its industrial vibe, artists painting at easels, pizza oven and screened patio, Café BarBosso projects a chaotic Little Italy vibe, not surprising since the owner is New York-born chef Joe DiMaggio Jr. (second cousin, once removed from the New York Yankees legend), a loquacious guy known for introducing himself tableside. Joe’s semi-open kitchen serves favorites like “The Ultimate Eggplant,” 10 layers of béchamel, Parmesan, fresh mozzarella and marinara sauce; Grandma’s meatballs with “gravy;” and thin-crust pizza. When the weather is good, the screened patio offers a respite from the hubbub. Café BarBosso, 5501 Palmer Crossing Circle, Sarasota, (941) 922-7999, cafebarbosso.com.
O’Bricks Irish Pub and Martini Bar
Housed in two brick buildings dating to 1901, O’bricks in downtown Bradenton bills itself as an Irish pub and martini bar. The sidewalk tables along Old Main Street are perfect for people watching. O’brick’s burgers are solid and its salads can be augmented with a portobello mushroom cap, chicken, salmon, mahi mahi, sirloin steak, Key West shrimp or chicken salad. The selection of wines and beers is generous. And if it’s a martini lunch, try “Steve’s Vesper,” the house version of James Bond’s special order in Casino Royale—gin, vodka and vermouth with a lemon twist, shaken, not stirred, and a bargain at $8. O’Brick’s, 427 12th St. W., Bradenton (Old Main St.), (941) 896-8860, obricks.com.
Sarasota’s philanthropists, business leaders and politicians make their way to downtown’s Bijou, which began as a gas station in the 1920s. Patrons choose from several dining rooms, the Gossips Lounge, an al fresco courtyard overlooking the Sarasota Opera House or a front patio that often has live music. The standard shrimp and crab bisque is a great starter. The “Bar Bites” in Gossips Lounge and the seasonal menu with its special nod to fish are newer attractions, but Bijou really knows the classics. Don’t pass up the pommes gratin dauphinoise to go with your “vintage Bijou” roast duck. You will need a reservation. Bijou Café, 1287 First St., Sarasota, (941) 366-8111, bijoucafe.net.