Purists cried foul when the MTV show Siesta Key featured the City Island Old Salty Dog rather than the one located on Siesta Key, but we can’t blame producers for choosing to feature the northern iteration. The wooden deck sits right above the wide inlet between Lido and Longboat Keys, offering views of blue-green water, sailboats and seabirds. It’s the perfect place to scarf down oysters, grouper sandwiches and fried fish in your bathing suit.
Pelicans flock to this simple but legendary Cortez outpost for the same reason tourists and locals do: fresh fish, straight off the boat. But while the birds rely on handouts from the commercial fishermen next door, human diners queue up to fork over cash on a covered dock that seats dozens at well-worn picnic tables. You can’t eat in a hurry here, but why would you want to?
According to the Paranormal Society of Bradenton, which offers ghost tours of downtown Bradenton, this riverfront restaurant is haunted, but don’t let that scare you away from booking dinner on the water-facing patio. Strung with farmhouse lights and blessed with views of the Green Bridge, the space is an ideal spot to enjoy one of Pier 22’s Flintstones-sized steaks or popular fish entrées.
The refined global cuisine—chicken Marrakesh, Ecuadorian bouillabaisse—is all the reason you need to give The Table a try, but the deck that overlooks Phillippi Creek takes the experience over the top. Set next to a bridge that straddles the creek as it widens to empty into the Intracoastal Waterway, the wooden expanse is a magical space, where the murmur of the tides and the glow of the inside lights intensify the transporting nature of the food.
Offering vistas of a narrow urban inlet, The Ritz-Carlton’s flagship restaurant preps platters of raw shellfish and fish, along with heartier favorites like a thick cioppino and a colossal ribeye, accompanied by whimsical bar creations. Casual enough for shorts and a T-shirt but swanky enough for a dinner date, Jack Dusty’s patio captures the essence of the resort Sarasota lifestyle.
Recently overhauled with a gigantic new outdoor bar and beachfront deck, this Anna Maria Island favorite now includes transparent vinyl curtains and overhead heaters and misters that ensure you can enjoy fresh-air dining no matter the weather. The food fits the view, with a menu built around Gulf-harvested seafood, locally sourced meats and regional veggies.
This hidden gem is attached to the Boathouse on Longboat, where speedboats are stored in long tiered racks and dunked in the water when the weather’s nice enough for a cruise around the bay. The nautical theme extends to the restaurant, where wooden skiffs and pillowy sails dangle above diners’ heads. The second-story dining room offers splendid views out over the water, but to really enjoy the marine vibe, head down to the dockside patio, where strings of farmhouse light make the bay glow. The Gulf-caught grouper sandwich is legendary; the red snapper one is tasty, too.