Food Lovers' Guide

Niche Markets: Your Best Bets for Global and Local Specialties

From local beef to Middle Eastern specialties, our region's got it all.

By Cooper Levey-Baker October 27, 2016 Published in the November 2016 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Cms 92916 40026 ptndae

Image: Chad Spencer

Asian and Middle Eastern

Bismillah Groceries

3078 17th St., Sarasota, (941) 552-9317

With a bevy of packaged goods hailing from the Middle East, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Bismillah is a one-stop source for unusual ingredients like kewra water, a plant extract, and Rooh Afza, a squash-concentrate syrup, plus spreads flavored with rose petals, Turkish delight, ghee, lychee sodas and microwavable Indian lunches. You’ll walk out with something unusual, and delicious, guaranteed.

Oriental Food & Gifts

2212 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota, (941) 924-8066

In addition to serving freshly made Korean items (vegetarian sushi, spicy eggplant, noodles, dumplings and more) for lunch on Saturdays, this recently expanded Gulf Gate shop provides an enormous selection of dried, frozen and refrigerated goods spanning from Japan to India. That means you’ll find homemade kimchi and pickles, South Asian chutneys, top-quality rice, sake and all sorts of spices, including asafoetida, a powerful (some would say stinky) ingredient in some South Asian dishes.

Phúóc Lôc Tho Oriental Supermarket

1944 12th St., Sarasota, (941) 365-0520

It’s easy to get lost amid the towering shelves of this dim, tightly packed north Sarasota market, which stocks an immense array of Asian pantry items and spices, plus fresh goods like beef tendons, cow hearts and pork blood. Looking for boba? Instant ramen that actually tastes good? The spices you need to make your broth sing? You’ll find it all here.


The British Corner Shop

2236 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota, (941) 346-6004

U.K. expats flock to this small Gulf Gate strip shop for its big selection of British teas, plus Anglo items like HP Sauce, Bird’s Custard and clotted cream and frozen meat pies, pasties and sausages. The back room offers afternoon tea as well. Pinkies up!

Cms 93016 50008 vk2kbo

Image: Chad Spencer

Casa Italia

2080 Constitution Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 924-1179

This store looks small on the outside, but it packs a punch, with a wide-ranging selection of Italian cheeses, cured meats and dry goods. Not sure what you’re looking for? Raj and Nita Mathur, the husband-and-wife team that runs the store, are always eager to pass over sample slices of fresh cheeses and chat about what’s new in the deli case. An ideal spot to find specialized products like speck (smoked prosciutto), bresaola (air-dried beef) and pancetta (the real stuff). And Nita prepares takeout Indian food that’s some of the region’s best.


The Butcher’s Block

3242 17th St., Sarasota, (941) 955-2822

Way more than just a steak ’n’ chicken shack, this store offers difficult-to-source meats like venison, goat and rabbit, plus off-the-beaten-path selections like veal sweetbreads. There’s also a solid selection of wines and dry-aged beef.

Cms 93016 30030 yozhwf

Image: Chad Spencer

Geier’s Sausage Kitchen

7447 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 923-3004

Whether you’re looking for rare European creations like blood sausage and head cheese or just a high-quality weenie for your backyard barbecue, Geier’s on the South Trail delivers. The brightly lit meat case showcases an astounding variety of both fresh and prepared items, with kidneys, tongue, pig ears and a bewildering spread of sausages. The store’s shelves stock all sorts of dry Teutonic treats, too.

Sarasota Beef Company

3134 53rd Ave. E., Bradenton, (941) 254-7453

For years, because of U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse rules, getting your hands on local beef was a challenge. No longer. The Sarasota Beef Company opened up earlier this year, selling locally raised, slaughtered and butchered beef that’s either all grass-fed or grass-fed and grain-finished. The store is also selling its wares at the Bradenton Farmers Market and out of a stall at the Red Barn Flea Market. Throw a local steak on the grill tonight.


El Mariachi Loco Latin Market

6350 15th St. E., Bradenton, (941) 751-0906

Way more than just a food shop, El Mariachi Loco functions more like a Latin American superstore, with a small café, a salon, a counter offering help with taxes and insurance, a butcher shop and aisles and aisles of specialty goods from south of the border. Pick up Mexican sodas, cookies and candies, plus all the spices you need to make your homemade carnitas pop.

Cms 93016 40004 kouyog

Image: Chad Spencer

La Primavera Mexican Food

901 N. Washington Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 366-5321

This combination shop and restaurant took over the much-loved Bianca’s back in 2014, keeping the same basic setup and offerings. In the back, you’ll find a pig-centric butcher counter and a tidy but wide-ranging selection of Mexican pantry items. Up front, snag bags of soft corn tortillas straight off the conveyor belt and freshly fried, ultra-crunchy tortilla chips. Best time to shop: at lunch, when you can order freshly made tortas and gorditas.


Big Water Fish Market

6641 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota, (941) 554-8101

Owner Scott Dolan and his friendly crew offer fresh-caught Gulf bounty and seafood from a few other selected sources (regulars swear by the Irish ocean-farmed salmon), along with house-made smoked salmon, ceviche and seafood salads. At $8 a pound, the fresh tuna salad is a steal. This is a restaurant, too, serving simple but sensational seafood sandwiches, tacos and platters to diners at communal picnic tables. Beer and wine in the fridge.

Star Fish Co.

12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, (941) 794-1243

For an area defined by its beaches and waters, it’s embarrassing how hard it is to find Gulf-caught seafood here. If you’re searching for the real deal, you can’t go wrong at Star Fish, which sells locally caught mullet, snapper, grouper and more, plus Gulf scallops and oysters and flown-in fish like salmon. Don’t forget to stop by the ATM before coming in; this place, like the iconic restaurant attached to it, is cash-only.

Img 3069 ukqwhr

Image: Chad Spencer

Walt’s Fish Market and Restaurant

4144 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 921-4605

One of the surprisingly few Sarasota shops that specializes in local seafood, Walt’s sells a lot of Gulf-caught snapper and grouper, as well as one of the region’s great seasonal prizes: stone crab, available Oct. 15-May 15 each year. You can also stock up on Cedar Key clams, Apalachicola oysters, Florida lobster and a ton of out-of-state offerings. Working on a seafood boil? Bouillabaisse? Cioppino? Head here. And it’s also a great place to enjoy fresh seafood in a casual setting—inside or at the tiki bar.

Filed under
Show Comments