1525 51st Ave. E., Ellenton, (941) 721-7773, oysterbar.net
John Horne opened his first Anna Maria Oyster Bar 23 years ago and expanded to Ellenton in 2003. The casual seafood joint has become a staple of north Manatee County life, and it's a favorite destination for a cold beer and a dozen plump raw oysters. Entrées include all the fish and shellfish you could want, plus sandwiches, salads and soups. A side order of shoestring fries is a must.
12119 U.S. Highway 301 N., Parrish, (941) 776-1440, cksmokehousebbq.com
Despite a surge in the number of residents in Parrish, the area hasn't yet developed a huge dining scene yet. But we dig C&K, a neighborly barbecue restaurant that specializes in outstanding pulled pork. Be sure to grab a side of fried okra. The macaroni and cheese is also fantastic.
1318 10th St. W., Palmetto, (941) 301-1212, demisnoodlehouse.com
Earlier this year, Jeff and Demi Vangen overhauled and expanded their Vietnamese noodle house in Palmetto, which first opened in 2015. Demi makes her phở by sautéing onions and ginger together and then creating a broth with beef bones, star anise, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, fish sauce, sugar and salt. In addition to soup, she makes broken rice entrées, noodle platters and more.
4705 U.S. Highway 301 N., Ellenton, (941) 722-3932, hickoryhollowbbq.com
Hickory Hollow is popular for its eastern North Carolina-style pork, but longtime fans also rave about the fried catfish, and the sides are exceptional. Deep-fried corn on the cob? Baked beans cooked with molasses and brown sugar? Succotash? Yes, please.
5717 18th St. E., Ellenton, (941) 722-2391, woodysriverroo.com
There's no one on earth who doesn't love the experience of dining while overlooking a body of water, and Woody's has been offering that pleasure to people on the north side of the Manatee River for decades. The restaurant serves well-loved Florida bar fare like coconut shrimp, grouper bites and shrimp baskets, plus neon-colored tropical drinks.