I remember when we first arrived in Sarasota, my husband took a job as a school administrator and people here wondered how he would deal with “the commute." Well, we would drive to Miami just to get good Peking duck, and—after coming from Boston—the drive down U.S. 41 to Venice was probably the least stressful commute we'd ever had.
Even now, from time to time friends will say to me, “You really drive to Venice for a great lasagna or Asian noodle bowl?” My response: heck yeah, I would make the drive for something standout, even twice in one week. Here are some of my current favorites.
Plan your week around Wednesday. That's when Gold Rush BBQ serves what I declare to be the best friend chicken around. But it's only on Wednesday, and you should be prepared to wait. The place is packed solid, which shows you how good that brined, crispy-yet-juicy bird is. Well worth the mini-road trip. 661 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 483-3137
The following night I drove a bit farther south to A Bit of Boston, where we chowed down on whole-belly fried clams, fried haddock with fries, coleslaw and lobster rolls. Just like home—missing of "R"'s from the staff and all. Real-deal Boston seafood dishes are so worth the extra miles—and if you go early, you can make it to the jetty for sunset. 1939 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 496-4587
Star Thai and Sushi was our next night out. The roast duck noodle soup here is beyond delicious, with a rich broth and abundance of Asian seasonings and steaming noodles. One bowl is enough for two, so share it, then order a few Pacific Coast oysters with ponzu. 531 U.S. 41 Bypass N., Venice, (941) 485-3981
So, since I'd happily drive to Miami for Peking duck and dim sum at Hakkasan at the Fontainebleu, a little spin down the road with clear skies and the windows down is a cake walk for some of the best meals around.