6641 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota, (941) 554-8101, bigwaterfishmarket.com
The best spot to buy seafood on Siesta Key, Big Water (pictured at top) carries a rotating selection of Gulf species, all of them picked out by owner Scott Dolan. If he won’t eat it, he won’t sell it, which means you can count on getting the freshest amberjack and mahi-mahi. While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to order one of the enormous grilled fish sandwiches whipped up in the back kitchen.
5104 Ocean Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 349-1423, cafegabbiano.com
If you love wine, head here. Gabbiano offers an extensive selection of bottles and pours by the glass, all of them picked to pair well with the restaurant’s Italian pastas, meats and seafood. Enjoy dining in a wine room or take advantage of the outdoor seating on the climate-controlled patio. Or be spontaneous and order a meal to go for a Siesta Beach picnic.
153 Avenida Messina, Sarasota, (941) 312-9300, cottagesiestakey.com
A fun hangout with cocktails that will take the edge off after a hard day lying in the sun, The Cottage specializes in small plates meant to be shared. That means steamed mussels, ceviche and a raw tuna "taco" served inside a fried wonton shell. If you're hungry for a fuller meal, you'll also find a good pick of seafood entrées.
5239 Ocean Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 349-0995, flaviosbrickovenandbar.com
Flavio’s is known for its romantic environs, quality pastas, Italian entrées and, of course, its pizza, cooked in a brick oven that gets hotter than a summer afternoon on the beach. The ingredients here skew mostly traditional Italian, although you will find a Hawaiian pizza, too.
6631 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota, (941) 349-4024, miguelsrestaurant.net
A staple of the island since 1983, Miguel's serves established French classics like sole meunière, chicken cordon bleu and Chateaubriand. Save room for dessert. The restaurant's selection runs deeper than most restaurants, with several that are prepared tableside.
9105 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key, Sarasota, (941) 349-2212, opheliasonthebay.net
In the first scene of the first episode of the MTV reality show Siesta Key, we met our main protagonist, Alex, while on a date at Ophelia’s. We don’t remember how that evening concluded, but we can’t fault Alex for his choice of a restaurant, because Ophelia’s is one of the most romantic eateries imaginable, particularly when the weather is at its nicest and you can sit on the deck. The menu is heavy on fine dining standards like caramelized scallops, roasted fish and rack of lamb, all of it just as intoxicating as the glimmering waters of the Intracoastal.
1265 Old Stickney Point Road, Sarasota, (941) 349-1970, spearfishgrille.com
Tucked into a small space at Siesta Key Marina, Spearfish is a no-frills shack where your server can fetch you an estimate on your boat repairs and serve up a mean grouper sandwich, too. The shop sells fish and shellfish straight from the Gulf, with an emphasis on hogfish, blue crabs and shrimp. Spearfish is a pleasant pit stop before or after a day on the water, but it’s also a great spot to hit up on your lunch break to remind yourself why living near the Gulf is so great.
240 Avenida Madera, Sarasota, (941) 217-6758, starthaisushisiestakey.com
This is the island sushi destination of your dreams, with a huge list of rolls that covers the basics and offers plenty of creative blends and chef specialties, as well. It's styled like a Japanese izakaya—part bar, part restaurant, with dim lighting, stiff drinks and plates made for sharing. If you're with a group, consider ordering a giant sushi ship laden with rolls and decorated with a blazing sparkler that will light up your life.
149 Avenida Messina, Siesta Key, Sarasota, (941) 260-2675, summerhousesiestakey.com
Summer House’s name nods to Summerhouse, a long-gone Siesta Key restaurant institution, but chef Evan Gastman’s food stands on its own. His roasted chicken has been a staple of the menu since it opened in 2018 and is already famous. Using his grandmother’s recipe as a model, Gastman adds a high-tech twist by cooking the half-chicken in a sous vide and then torching the skin until it’s golden-brown all over. Anyone who can breathe new life into roasted chicken is a saint. The steaks are terrific, too.
210 Avenida Madera, Sarasota, (941) 346-7170, sungardencafe.com
This Siesta Key mainstay attracts both sun-blasted tourists and mainlanders making the trek out to the beach, offering a mix of egg-based standards, plus more unusual dishes like their iconic sweet potato pancakes—so smooth, so sweet, so fluffy that they can singlehandedly turn your week around. Waffles made with batter dotted with pecans and bacon are another fave. Outside, striped awnings protect customers from the sun on a wide stone patio bright with tropical flowers and an occasional visiting songbird. This may just be Siesta’s best place to wake up.