Star Fish Co.
12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, (941) 794-1243, starfishcompany.com
An Old Florida legend, Star Fish is a laid-back, cash-only dockside joint where the freshest of catches are served in plain boxes. During busy season, the line can stretch back a ways, so don’t be in a rush. As one hand-painted sign will remind you, “You’re on Cortez time.”
Dry Dock Waterfront Grill
412 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, (941) 383-0102, drydockwaterfrontgrill.com
Dry Dock offers one of the best outdoor dining experiences in the region, serving classic fish sandwiches and seafood entrées on an elegant waterfront patio. Fuel up at the adjacent Boathouse on Longboat.
Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub
760 Broadway St., Longboat Key, (941) 383-2391, marvistadining.com
Located near the northern tip of Longboat, Mar Vista has 14 slip docks ranging in depth from six to 12 feet. Pull up and enjoy a wonderful meal in the restaurant’s relaxed back yard, where buttonwood trees provide plenty of shade for you to enjoy some Gulf fish and a Bloody Mary.
800 Broadway St., Longboat Key, (941) 259-4600, dineshore.com
A stylish yet approachable waterside hangout, Shore serves well-balanced dishes from around the globe that are dreamed up by the talented chef Dylan Elhajoui, plus terrific cocktails. The tables are tiered, meaning every seat in the house offers a view of the water.
2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota, (941) 365-4232, marinajacks.com
Located smack in the heart of Sarasota’s bayfront, Marina Jack is really two restaurants in one. Upstairs, enjoy refined dishes in a quiet ambiance with great views. Downstairs, sip a fluorescent drink and scarf down a burger in a rowdier space that often hosts live music.
New Pass Grill & Bait Shop
1505 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, (941) 388-3050, newpassgrill.com
Famous for its burgers, this waterfront shack is located along New Pass, making it a perfect destination to hit up on your way out to the Gulf or if you’re headed to a party on the nearby sandbar.
Phillippi Creek Village Restaurant & Oyster Bar
5353 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 925-4444, creekseafood.com
Cruise up Phillippi Creek from the Gulf just a bit to find this well-liked Sarasota institution, which has been plating smoked fish dip, fried shrimp and clam steamer pots for decades. The restaurant’s menu is always evolving, so keep your eyes out for any new specials.
Casey Key Fish House
801 Blackburn Point Road, Osprey, (941) 966-1901, caseykeyfishhouse.com
With a friendly dining room overlooking the water and an always-buzzing tiki bar, the Fish House is a fun destination with a long dock that hugs the Intracoastal. You can even rent a boat here, or sign up for a guided tour.
The Crow’s Nest Restaurant & Marina
1968 Tarpon Center Drive, Venice, (941) 484-9551, crowsnest-venice.com
Catering to hungry boaters for more than four decades, The Crow’s Nest offers plenty of raw bar items, plus heartier seafood entrées and big steaks. The attached marina sells everything you need for a day on the water, and you can even rent a slip for a year or a month at a time.