Best Restaurants

The Best Restaurants in Sarasota

Where to eat right now—and what to order when you're there.

By Lauren Jackson November 7, 2023 Published in the November-December 2023 issue of Sarasota Magazine

There’s never been a better time to eat out in Sarasota. No longer a sleepy beach community known for fish shacks and a handful of fancier options, Sarasota is in the middle of a culinary renaissance. Residents and visitors now have access to global cuisines ranging from Peru to Portugal, India to Israel, and everywhere in between. But there’s still no shortage of places where you can find a great grouper sandwich or  a satisfying plate of shrimp and  grits, either. Here’s our list of the city’s 40 best restaurants. Bon appétit! 

Florence and the Spice Boys

Image: Chad Spencer

Florence and the Spice Boys

4990 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 

Long before Florence and the Spice Boys opened its brick-and-mortar location in The Landings, its team was pumping out modern Middle Eastern cuisine from a colorful food truck that we’d follow from stop to stop. The restaurant’s recent success hinges on its mass of fans from those roadside days and its thoughtful, punchy flavors. A chicken shawarma pita is topped with pickled slaw, egg, tahini and the Middle Eastern condiments zhug and amba, which together build a matrix of salty, sweet, sour and bitter. And while the food is wonderful, the quirky décor gives an added kick to the experience. 

Veronica Fish & Oyster

1830 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-1342,

The most unforgettable item at Veronica Fish & Oyster is the seafood tower, or as it’s called on the menu, the “plateau de fruits de mer”: 18 raw oysters, shrimp cocktail, crab and avocado, lobster salad, smoked fish dip and a chilled half lobster. The platter can feed a crowd, so bring your buddies and pair it with warm potato rolls and crispy Thai snapper to share.

Parmesan beignets at Indigenous.

Parmesan beignets at Indigenous.


239 S. Links Ave., Sarasota, (941) 706-4740,

James Beard Award nominee chef Steve Phelps knows a thing or two about seafood. He’s been serving sustainably sourced fish since opening Indigenous in 2011 in downtown’s Towles Court neighborhood. Each night, he features two fish specials, showcasing whatever has just crossed the kitchen’s threshold. In addition to a constant rotation of ethical proteins, you’ll also find the best mushroom bisque you’ve ever slurped. A variety of wild mushrooms are caramelized with aromatics and puréed with just the right amount of cream to keep you craving more. 

Faicco’s Sandwich Shop 

2590 Webber St., Sarasota, (941) 960-1396, 

A Greenwich Village institution, Faicco’s tossed on its board shorts and some zinc oxide to open its second location in its 120-year history, right here in Sarasota. The regional “hero” sandwich is aptly named, as it requires a gargantuan appetite to finish just one. Miles of deli meat are stacked high on pillowy soft bread, and you may need to unhinge your jaw before taking a successful bite. Need a recommendation? Keep it classic with mortadella, provolone and arugula, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the Big Apple.

Chef Darwin Santa Maria at Almazonica Cerveceria

Chef Darwin Santa Maria at Almazonica Cerveceria

Almazonica Cerveceria 

4144 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 260-5964,

Chef Darwin Santa Maria has been cooking since the early 1990s, developing a unique culinary point of view. As he’s matured, so has his food, which reflects fine-dining techniques used to accentuate the flavors of Peru, his homeland. Case in point: Lemongrass and coconut water both temper his ceviche’s acidity and elevate the dish. Santa Maria also has a mild obsession with beer and will soon be serving his own branded brews.

Raw scallops with herbed cream at Meliora

Raw scallops with herbed cream at Meliora

Image: Simo Ahmad


1920 Hillview St., Sarasota, (941) 444-7692,

To summarize Meliora is to do it a disservice. Everything is phenomenal. Chef Drew Adams cut his culinary teeth at Michelin-star restaurants in Washington, D.C., and while we’re not sure exactly what drew him to Sarasota, we are beyond grateful. While at the restaurant, eat everything. Drink everything. And do not skip the raw scallop crudo, sliced thin and topped with an herb cream that you should soak up with an order of soft Japanese milk bread. 

Mussels from Château 13

Image: Chad Spencer

Château 13

535 13th St. W., Bradenton, (941) 226-0110,

Order the mussels. You’ll be tempted by trout amandine, escargots and other Continental classics, but order the mussels. Served Belgian-style with frites, these mollusks can be prepared in several different broths, depending on your mood. Keep it simple with white wine and garlic, or try them with fennel, cream and Pernod. If shellfish isn’t your game, the rest of the menu is fantastic, too, especially the roasted quail, which is tough to find anywhere else. We’ll say it: This spot is Bradenton’s best fine dining restaurant. 

Pho Cali 

1578 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 955-2683

Pho Cali doesn’t have regulars. It doesn’t have fans. It has devotees, some of whom visit multiple times a week and evangelize the pho to all who will listen. And while the pho is warm and comforting, the rest of the menu will delight you, too. Crisp bánh xèo (Vietnamese crêpes) are stuffed with roasted pork, shrimp and bean sprouts, or can be served vegetarian with tofu instead. And the spring rolls, made with saturated rice paper, come in so many combinations you’ll struggle to pick just one. 


1216 First St., Sarasota, (941) 445-5660, 

An evening at Sage feels immersive, from the décor to chef Christopher Covelli’s carefully arranged plates to the artful cocktails and rooftop views of downtown Sarasota. No matter where you sit or what you order, you’ll feel as though you’re part of a larger picture, where beauty is the central focus.

The bar at State Street Eating House + Cocktails

The bar at State Street Eating House + Cocktails

Image: Chad Spencer

State Street Eating House + Cocktails

1533 State St., Sarasota, (941) 951-1533,

On one recent visit to State Street, the pork ragù pappardelle was the star: freshly made pasta cut into wide strips, topped with a savory red sauce and finished with creamy whipped ricotta. Yum. But the pleasure here isn’t limited to food. State Street is well-known for its inventive cocktails and is split into two distinct sections, with separate entrances, to represent both of those strengths. Sit barside for swift access to the bartender’s encyclopedic cocktail knowledge or choose the restaurant side for a quiet date night. Either way, you’ll be impressed. 

Dim Sum King

8194 Tourist Center Drive, Bradenton, (941) 306-5848

The only thing to complain about at Dim Sum King is that it gets so busy sometimes that it can be hard to get through on the phone line to place your takeout order. But the jammed phones are just proof that everyone else knows what we do: The food here is outstanding. The dim sum menu overflows with small plates, and it’s difficult to go wrong. We love the steamed barbecue pork buns, all of the dumplings (but particularly the Shanghai-style ones) and shrimp and scallops tossed in spicy XO sauce. Even simpler standards like fried rice are a cut above. 


5770 S. Tamiani Trail, Sarasota, (941) 702-8582,

The Italian island of Sardinia prides itself on its autonomy from the mainland. With a unique rocky topography and distinctive language, the island's one-of-a-kind identity also comes through in its cuisine. Bottarga (dried fish roe) is a staple ingredient, shaved over many dishes for an added briny kick. At Sardinia the restaurant, chef Dino Carta makes it himself. Octopus carpaccio, linguine alle vongole and paella de fregola all receive a generous helping of this complex ingredient, as vital to the dish as it is to its homeland. 

Columbia Restaurant

411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-3987,

A must-visit for any Florida first-timer, Columbia has captured the hearts of Sarasotans by serving quality Cuban food in an unforgettable setting on St. Armands Circle, accented by open archways and Spanish tile. The 1905 salad, which is named for the year the first Columbia opened in Ybor City, is made tableside with heaps of julienned ham, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, olives and grated Romano cheese, then finished with a Worcestershire-forward vinaigrette. The only thing better is the crusty Cuban bread served with it. 

Pizza at Atmosphere Neapolitan Pizzeria

Pizza at Atmosphere Neapolitan Pizzeria

Atmosphere Neapolitan Pizzeria

935 N. Beneva Road, Sarasota, (941) 203-8542

In a world filled with uncertainty, one thing remains true: The pizza at Atmosphere will always be top-notch. Located in an unassuming plaza in north Sarasota, Atmosphere is pumping out serious Neapolitan-style pies made by Italian immigrant Antonio Mancini. We love the mortazza, blessed with slices of mortadella and scoops of pistachio pesto. And while you can order takeout, the pizza is best enjoyed piping hot from the oven and served by the caring staff. Because of the personalized service, Atmosphere is always packed with regulars, so reservations are imperative. 

Hamachi with truffled soy sauce at JPan.

Hamachi with truffled soy sauce at JPan.

JPan Sushi & Grill 

3800 S. Tamiami Trail, #3, Sarasota, (941) 954-5726; 229 N. Cattlemen Road, #61, Sarasota, (941) 960-3997;

JPan’s chef and owner, Daniel Dokko, has established himself as one of Sarasota’s premier restaurateurs. His flagship JPan, located in mid-Sarasota, established a steady following not only through its distinctive spin on sushi, ramen and fabulous drinks, but also through Dokko’s effervescent personality, which spills over into JPan’s second location, near the University Town Center mall. You can find Dokko and his wife Clarice at any one of their restaurants, depending on the night, walking the dining room, hugging friends and greeting the newbies who are sure to become fans, too.

Blu Kouzina

25 N. Boulevard of the Presidents, St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-2619,

Effie Tsakiris and her husband Dennis opened Sarasota’s first Blu Kouzina in 2015, after the concept was already a hit on the other side of the world, in Singapore. Now they're expanding again, with a new location in the University Town Center area set to open in the spring. The growth is easy to understand. The Tsakirises present straightforward Greek cuisine with simple, high-quality ingredients, like extra virgin olive oil produced on the family’s own estate in Greece. A hot skillet full of warm, melty kefalotyri cheese basted with a fig sauce is a must-order, and the grilled octopus, charred on the outside yet impossibly tender, is outstanding, too.

Libby's Neighborhood Brasserie

Libby's Neighborhood Brasserie

Image: Chad Spencer

Libby’s Neighborhood Brasserie

1917 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, (941) 236-5826; 8445 Lorraine Road, Sarasota, (941) 357-1570; 

Libby’s makes our list for its approachable menu, perfect for even the pickiest diners. On a night when everyone in your party wants something different, Libby’s has you covered, with a broad New American-style menu. Crowd favorites include a kale Caesar salad and meatballs the size of your fist. But you can’t go wrong, no matter what you choose. Beyond the menu, the service is consistently excellent, especially for the restaurant’s casual vibe. 

Marcello Ristorante

4157 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 921-6794,

Forget about dinner theater. If you’re looking for a meal and a show, Marcello Ristorante is the place for you. Call ahead to request a table near the open kitchen, where you can watch chef Marcello Aquino entertain as skillfully as he cooks. No two nights are alike at Marcello, since the menu changes frequently, but the shrimp and lobster pappardelle is a fixture—and rightfully so. To drink, choose from a wine list with 300-plus bottles, including five pages of Brunello di Montalcino. No wonder Aquino is known as the “King of Brunello.” 

The caramelized onion and Brie burger at Shakespeare's.

The caramelized onion and Brie burger at Shakespeare's.


3550 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, (941) 364-5938,

Burger lovers unite at Shakespeare’s, where the caramelized onion and brie burger is the stuff of legend—for good reason. A hefty 8-ounce patty is seared to temperature and topped with ooey-gooey cheese and balsamic-glazed onions, making for a satisfying, sweet and savory bite. Wash it down with a Smithwick’s draft. Between the food, the beer and the cozy atmosphere, parting will be such sweet sorrow. 

Bitia’s Taqueria

3436 17th St., Sarasota, (941) 366-8081

Despite having “taqueria” in it's name, the undisputed stars at Bitia’s are the pupusas. Pockets of masa dough are stuffed with cheese and other fixings, like meat or zucchini, and then flattened into discs and griddled to golden brown. The result is a savory celebration of Salvadoran cookery, which is where these goodies originated. The pupusas are even better when paired with curtido, a vinegary, crunchy slaw. And with eight pupusa combinations to choose from, you’ll find yourself making excuses to return for more. 

Star Thai & Sushi Siesta Key

240 Avenida Madera, Siesta Key, Sarasota, (941) 217-6758,

Siesta Key is famed for its white-sand beaches, heavy influx of tourists and laid-back, beachy bars that all have similar menus. The exception is Star Thai & Sushi. Wander off the main Siesta Key Village drag, down Avenida Madera, where Star is tucked away in a quiet corner—until you walk through the door, that is. Order a customizable sushi boat and expect to be dazzled, not only by the quality of the fish but by the sparkler that arrives with it. (There’s another Star Thai & Sushi in Venice, but it’s the Siesta location we prefer.)  

Michael’s on East

1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-0007,

Every city has its most famous fine-dining restaurant. In Sarasota, that restaurant is Michael’s on East. Named for founder and co-proprietor Michael Klauber, the restaurant has seen our culinary landscape evolve around it while remaining true to itself amid the ebb and flow. Traditional fine-dining options like filet mignon tartare, lobster bisque and sea bass with lemon risotto are ever-present, and all are prepared with a deft, confident hand. 

Summer House's roasted chicken.

Summer House's roasted chicken.

Image: Jenny Acheson

Summer House

149 Avenida Messina, Siesta Key, Sarasota, (941) 260-2675, 

No self-respecting list of best restaurants would be complete without a steakhouse. At Summer House, prime steaks are aged for 40 days and can be crowned with blue cheese, lump crab Oscar or even a bone marrow gremolata. While you’ve seen a menu like this before, you haven’t had it the Summer House way. Even the roasted chicken sings, with its crisp skin and accompanying mushroom bread pudding. It might be a sin to order chicken at a steak joint, but when it’s this good, resistance is futile. 


7129 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 556-9639,

Sarasota loves food, to be sure, but it’s clear that Italian cuisine is our favorite. With dozens of restaurants serving regional dishes from around Italy, you may find yourself suffering from choice paralysis. At Napulè, in south Sarasota, the food is as restorative as a Mediterranean breeze. An assortment of salumi starts the meal on a high note before you move on to the pasta and meat courses. Or you can keep it simple with a traditional wood-fired pizza and a glass of prosecco. 

Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar

5353 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 925-4444, 

Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar honors the Florida traditions of fried gator and seared grouper. The “combo pots” are a variation on a seafood boil, with steamed oysters and shrimp. Add king crab to the mix for a messy and filling meal large enough for two (or more). Each time you visit, pay attention to the specials—they’re where chef Pedro Flores’ considerable talent shines brightest. 


6670 Superior Ave., Sarasota, (941) 237-8742,

Imagine a pizza in which the dough is focaccia and the topping options exceed your wildest dreams. In Rome, that’s a reality, but we live in Florida. Thankfully, RomanSQ can transport us across the ocean. If a carbonara pizza made with egg, guanciale and pecorino cheese piques your interest, look no further. Or perhaps you’d like to try one with paper-thin potato slices and pesto. Why not? Takeout pizzas at RomanSQ are served by the half tray, which serves four people, or you can order a full tray to feed eight. 

C’est La Vie! 

1553 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 906-9574, 

C’est La Vie!’s food is as French as it sounds. The café features simple salads and sandwiches, like prosciutto with brie and Swiss cheese, plus an indulgent smear of butter on the underside of the bread. Equally beloved are the restaurant’s crêpes, which can be made with white flour or buckwheat flour (buckwheat is the traditional French way). We love the forestiére crêpes, filled with bacon, mushrooms and onions in a creamy sauce. This is the kind of place where every regular has a favorite dish—and they’ll argue for its supremacy with anyone who says the restaurant’s name.

Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub

Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub

Image: Chad Spencer

Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub

760 Broadway St., Longboat Key, (941) 383-2391, 

One of three restaurants owned by Chiles Hospitality, Mar Vista performs in a different tier than its sisters. With bayfront views, a sandy beach and secret nooks shaded by overgrown sea grapes, the food doesn’t have to be all that good. But it is. Seafood is a specialty here, and the fresh catch risotto is a perennial hit. And while a tater tot appetizer may initially seem out of place, once you pop one of these scratch-made beauties in your mouth, you’ll marvel at the deliciousness.


1289 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 536-9717,

From Palm Avenue’s ubiquitous Hi Hospitality Group comes Kojo, which serves upscale Asian fusion cuisine. The sleek dining room gives way to an open kitchen, where cooks remain as cool as the cucumbers they include in the sushi rolls. The tender bao selections are a unique interpretation of the Chinese street food, with options like crispy rock shrimp and barbecue mushrooms. An udon noodle carbonara, meanwhile, riffs on the Italian classic with east Asian ingredients. Save room for dessert—specifically the passion fruit panna cotta. 

Meat grilling at Korê Steakhouse.

Meat grilling at Korê Steakhouse.

Korê Steakhouse

1561 Lakefront Drive, #111, Sarasota, (941) 928-5673, 

Choose your own adventure at Korê, a newish Korean barbecue restaurant from JPan’s Daniel Dokko. Each table has its own grill, where guests can sear an assortment of meats. Beef bulgogi (marinated ribeye) and galbi (boneless short ribs) are the best selections. But don’t stop at the do-it-yourself portion of the menu, because the rest of the offerings are bangin’, too. Dolsot bibimbap, made with rice, bulgogi and vegetables, sizzles the entire time you eat it, developing a crispy crust on the rice kernels that’s a textural revelation. 

Outside at Owen's Fish Camp's Lakewood Ranch location.

Outside at Owen's Fish Camp's Lakewood Ranch location.

Image: Chad Spencer

Owen’s Fish Camp

516 Burns Court, Sarasota, (941) 951-6936; 6516 University Parkway, Lakewood Ranch, (941) 951-5052; 

With two locations, one in Lakewood Ranch and the other in Burns Court in downtown Sarasota, there is now finally enough of Owen’s Southern-inspired cuisine to go around. The downtown restaurant lives in a historic cottage, with an outdoor courtyard that features live music to entertain you while you wait for your table. In Lakewood Ranch, the menu is slightly different than downtown, with more meat options. Sink your teeth into dreamy pimento cheese biscuits topped with pickle butter that are rich enough to call a meal. You won’t want to share them. 

A fried fish sandwich at Star Fish Co.

A fried fish sandwich at Star Fish Co.

Star Fish Co.

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

In Florida, the fight for our “state food” title wavers between a fish sandwich and a Cuban sandwich (shhh...don’t tell Key lime pie). But if all fish sandwiches were like the ones at Star Fish Co., there would be no competition. Located in the historic Cortez fishing village, this dockside restaurant hearkens back to simpler times, when the skyline was smaller and the roads were clear. Still, despite Southwest Florida’s many changes, Star Fish remains the same, serving Florida seafood to Florida lovers from both near and far. Just be sure to stop by the ATM before you go—the restaurant only takes cash. 

Maison Blanche

2605 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, (941) 383-8088,

When you arrive at Maison Blanche, you’ll pull into a beachside hotel parking lot that doesn’t look like much. Don’t let that fool you. Upon entry, you’re met with ethereal white floor-to-ceiling fabric that feels as though it’s cocooning you and your dining companions. The whole world melts away here. Maison Blanche’s $80 prix fixe menu is one of the best deals in town, as the food is unparalleled in its execution. Traditional French cooking techniques are paired with local, seasonal ingredients for a meal that feels familiar and new at the same time. 

Beach Bistro

6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, (941) 778-6444,

For those in the know, Beach Bistro is well worth the time-consuming drive up the length of Anna Maria Island, where breathtaking beach views mark the beginning of a memorable five-course tasting menu. Mainstays include “lobstercargots” (think escargots, but with lobster) and duckling confit. For dessert, order the mini praline Alexandra, made with vanilla bean ice cream, pecan praline and Frangelico. Pro tip: Make your reservation near sunset to be engulfed in the honey-colored rays of the sinking sun.

Reyna’s Taqueria

935 N. Beneva Road, Suite 701, Sarasota, (941) 260-8343, 

If you haven’t had a taco from Reyna’s, you haven’t lived. Before opening his own spot, chef Gino Calleja cooked in some of Sarasota’s most beloved restaurants, but felt the pull of Mexico calling him home. So he poured his heart into Reyna’s, with help from his late mother, the restaurant’s namesake Doña Reyna. While the restaurant recently changed owners, Doña Reyna’s spirit remains. Barbacoa tacos are made with tender braised beef that falls apart the moment it hits your lips. Top them with your favorite salsa, there are six to choose from.

Walt’s Fish Market

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

The Wallin family, owners of Walt’s Fish Market, has roots in Sarasota dating back to the early 1900s, when their ancestor, Claus Wallin, found the area by way of the circus train. Since then, the family has been fishing and selling their catch to everyone in town. In an effort to appease their many customers, the Wallins began selling fried fish sandwiches. The rest is history. Today, Walt’s continues to serve an exceptional fish sandwich, like the grouper Rueben—but it’s the complimentary fish dip that keeps us loyal. 

The lamb shashlik at Tzeva.

The lamb shashlik at Tzeva.


1255 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 413-7425,

As far as hotel restaurants go, most fall squarely into the “meh” camp. But at Tzeva, located inside the Art Ovation Hotel, the food is anything but ordinary. The menu is primarily comprised of small plates inspired by the Mediterranean, like a selection of hummus and shashlik, or kebabs. Lamb shashlik is made with tender, bite-sized chunks of meat and served over a bed of biryani rice that is so fragrant and complex, you’ll wonder how it’s made long after you finish your meal.


538 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota; 1419 Fifth St., Sarasota; 5055 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key, Sarasota;

Known by locals as the place for a coffee date, Project —which serves all vegan food—is so much more than roasted beans and oat milk lattes. In fact, the menu is so robust that you might wonder if the plant-based qualifier is a joke. When visiting one of its two locations, keep the vibe in mind. Burns Court is the spot for a filling breakfast, while the Rosemary District hypes up lunch in a thoughtful and purposeful way. The newest location on Siesta Key, meanwhile, focuses on bowls, smoothies and pastries.

Tikka Indian Cuisine

525A U.S. 41 Bypass N., Venice, (941) 303-5073,

Tikka recently ranked No. 2 on Yelp’s list of 100 Best Restaurants in Florida, attracting tastemakers from around the county looking for a chance to sample some of the best Indian food around. Whether you prefer a mild, medium or hot spice level, Tikka will create a dish around your preferences. If you’re brave enough to try the hottest of the hot, order plenty of raita to cut through the pain. Whether you’re new to Indian food or a seasoned veteran, the saag paneer, made with farmers cheese and creamy spinach, is an excellent choice.  

The Nashville hot chicken sandwich at Made.

The Nashville hot chicken sandwich at Made.


1990 Main St., Suite 112, Sarasota, (941) 953-2900,

Made takes the concept of a Southern-style restaurant and elevates it with quality ingredients that are prepared in a way that will satisfy both a hungry gourmand and your Uncle Billy from Nashville. Speaking of the country music capital of the world, the Nashville hot chicken sandwich honors the original, with a double-dipped fried chicken breast smothered in hot sauce and topped with house-made pickles, and a side of bacon and greens sweetens the deal.

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