2385 E. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 488-8242, blackgoldroasters.com
Coffee maniac Gary Lauters travels the world selecting beans and then roasts them in his Venice warehouse and shop on a machine from San Francisco, which is on display along with big bags of beans. He also works with local businesses from bakeries to breweries to craft coffee-flavored products. Lauters has concocted a menu that includes coffee, red-eyes (espresso and coffee), lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, blended drinks and cold brew that’s been dubbed “liquid crack.” Not only is it strong, but when combined with vanilla and cream, sweet and delicious. There are even seasonal “cracks”—the Irish Crack is made with Irish cream and hazelnut; the Island Crack, coconut and cream; and the Winter Crack, peppermint and cream. Nice pastries, breakfast items, sandwiches and salads available, too.
1310 Main St., Sarasota, breakingwavecoffee.com
This laid-back shop is owned and run by Radu Dehelean, with a menu of familiar favorites like pour overs, cortados, flat whites, espresso, cold brew and more, plus friendly service and a minimalist design. A perfect place to stop after browsing books at Bookstore1Sarasota just down the way. (Pictured at top.)
1289 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 374-7186, buddybrew.com
An offshoot of a Tampa operation, Buddy Brew is owned by Dave and Susan Ward. The pair picked the perfect downtown location when they opened here a few years ago—beneath the Palm Avenue parking garage and next door to the restaurant space that used to be Lemon Tree Kitchen. It’s always buzzing with customers, from condo residents and office workers to employees at nearby arts organizations. They’re sprawled on sidewalk seating and lining up for strong coffee (order it black to savor the fruity acidity), creamy lattes and sweet treats like affogatos and cold-brew floats. Drinks are whipped up with Dakin Dairy Farms milk (almond milk is available, too), and syrups—like vanilla, caramel and mocha—are made in-house.
6530 Gateway Ave., Sarasota, (941) 447-8383, theclevercup.com
Nestled in a little storefront in Gulf Gate, The Clever Cup exudes a cheery, warm vibe, with a scattering of tables and chairs up front, a vintage couch in the back and interesting art on the walls. (Paintings made with espresso, anyone?) Coffee is brewed with beans from Venice’s Black Gold Coffee Roasters; the lineup includes Americanos, lattes, café con leche, café au lait and more, and the baristas will whip up whatever you request. Good seasonal flavored milk drinks, too, like the cinnamon-and- rice-infused horchata latte we enjoyed over the holidays. It all comes in giant mugs—they don’t skimp on the good stuff.
1487 Second St., Sarasota, (941) 203-8971; 8317 Market St., Bradenton, (941) 351-1551; inside University Town Center, 140 University Town Center Drive, (941) 248-3300; kahwacoffee.com
Another popular Tampa Bay chain, Kahwa has a handful of locations in the area. The name is a spin on the Arabic word for coffee (“qawha”). It specializes in one-of-a-kind blends of single-origin beans from countries around the world, and the menu offers the usual line-up, including cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos, Americanos and more. There’s also a flavored drink of the month, and each one can be made with cow or almond milk. The space has an industrial-chic vibe—concrete floors with minimal decorations—and shaded outdoor seating. The nitro cold brew is the region’s best.
1316 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 552-8659, oandacoffee.com
Justin Banister built a substantial local following with his mobile coffee cart Out and About Coffee, which sets up on street corners and at farmers' markets and private events. He expanded on that success by opening O & A Coffee and Supply, a stylish Main Street joint that serves all kinds of espresso drinks, cold brews, pour-overs and teas. A basic pour-over here is one of the area's best. The shop typically offers a choice of either its basic bean blend or a more adventurous option. We suggest the latter. On one visit, we were told our coffee would taste like a green apple Jolly Rancher, and that turned out to be spot on. Unusual, and unusually delicious.
1512 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 955-7545, pastryartbakerycafe.com
Pastry Art buzzes from open until close, thanks to its strong coffee (an iced coffee had us vibrating at our desks all afternoon), central location and ample outdoor seating that’s perfect for people watching—especially during the Saturday farmers’ market. On its menu are iced and hot coffees; hot, iced and frozen espresso drinks; specialty sippers like a dirty chai (chai tea with a shot of espresso); and the popular iced Americanos. This spot has the widest selection of pastries of any local coffee shop, all made in house and worth the indulgence. The gargantuan chocolate chip-studded espresso muffin packs a punch and is the perfect partner for that iced coffee.
1821 Hillview St., Sarasota, (941) 955-8101, perqcoffeebar.us
Keith and Erin Zolner brought coffee concoctions such as flat whites and Gibraltars to Sarasota when they opened their Southside Village shop in 2013. From the beginning, they made it their mission to educate locals about the art and science of coffee. They’re sticklers for detail: beans are fair trade and single-origin; milk comes from Dakin Dairy Farms; the bright-green Slayer espresso machine is Instagramable; and drinks are made and measured to exacting specifications. You can savor your drink on one of the sleek black leather couches or at an industrial-chic wood table.
538 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, projectcoffee.us
Owned by Sarasota’s Ian Steger and Emily Arthur, Project offers good coffee and minimal and modestly priced fare. Nothing on the café’s menu reaches into the double digits. The most you will spend is $7 on the toast—two slices of sourdough with large dollops of your choice of avocado, tomato or hummus, each dressed with a variety of herbs and spices. The biscuits are baked in house and the carrot cake is sweet perfection with noticeable bits of carrot and nuts. Everything is dairy free, including the coffee drinks. They use oat milk, instead, and you will not notice the difference.
1322 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 400-8396, thereservesrq.com
This coffee shop, bookstore, restaurant and market is housed in buildings once owned by Charles Ringling. Owners Jessica Simmons and Kim Cressell have converted them into airy, light-filled, multi-use spaces where you can grab a great cup, along with house-made pastries, sandwiches and more. (On a recent morning, the smell of croissants baking in the oven wafted through the air. “We’re doing an experiment with croissant sandwiches,” the barista explained.) The Reserve crafts its drinks with Buddy Brew coffee and espresso, and the menu features cold brew, lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos and more—using regular or alternative milks—plus kombucha on draft, wine and local craft beer. Grab your coffee and pastry and head to one of the outdoor tables when the weather is nice.
Inside The Overton, 1420 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota, theovertonsrq.com
Varietal is part of the fun indoor-outdoor Rosemary District hangout The Overton. Running the bar and pouring the drinks is the knowledgeable Evan Cooper, and the coffee comes straight from the coffee maker Counter Culture. Varietal offers a rotating cast of different roasts, plus seasonal specialty drinks. Cooper knows his coffees—and teas—and takes his time with every cup. A great meetup spot in a neighborhood that’s undergoing dramatic change.
Cooper Levey-Baker and Isaac Eger contributed reporting to this story.