(Note: Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, some of the restaurants listed below may have changed their offerings and operations.)
2385 E. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 488-8242, blackgoldroasters.com
Gary Lauters roasts beans from all over the world in this Venice warehouse and shop and also works with local businesses from bakeries to breweries to craft coffee-flavored products. Lauters has concocted a menu that includes coffee, red-eyes (espresso and coffee), lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, blended drinks and cold brew that’s been dubbed “liquid crack.” Nice pastries, breakfast items, sandwiches and salads available, too.
625 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 485-8200, bluislandbistro.com
Tucked next to a small motel along a curve of U.S. 41 on Venice Island, the Blú Island Bistro is easy to miss but hard to forget. Blú Island does the expected uncommonly well, elevating everything from pancakes to burgers. Chef-owner Alan Laskowski, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lets loose his creative impulses on a daily basis. Past specials have included “Wealthy Whisky Bacon,” which featured two thick slices “grilled with a nice little char and a side of Chef Alan’s whisky glaze.” Creative, yes, and satisfying, too.
370 Commercial Court, Venice, (941) 484-2337; 525 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 786-3341, brewburgers.com
The grill gurus at BrewBurgers are expert searers, adept at keeping thin patties pink and juicy while scarring their exteriors to blackened beauty. A tender, floury bun hugs the patty and contains the lettuce and tomato and a fistful of shredded lettuce. These burgers are a perfect accompaniment to the restaurant’s excellent selection of local beers.
313 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 786-1000, cassariano.com
Owned by transplanted Italians Luca Cassani and Antonio Pariano, the menu here focuses on contemporary northern Italian cuisine. That means on any given night you can tuck into roasted duck breast with figs and risotto or grilled halibut with a sun-dried tomato crust.
549 U.S. Highway 41 Bypass N., Venice, (941) 484-6200, chaz51.com
Chaz 51 owner and executive chef Charles Amherst recently relocated his business to Bird Bay Plaza, tripling the restaurant's capacity and adding a cocktail menu and a private dining room. The restaurant specializes in steaks, of course, with filet mignons, ribeyes and New York strips that can be accentuated with everything from blue cheese to crab and scallops. You'll also find burgers, sandwiches and seafood dishes.
323 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 480-1700, croissantandcovenice.com
On downtown mornings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a seat at this downtown Venice boulangerie, patisserie and restaurant. Credit the mountain of pastries and sweets behind the counter up front, as well as a menu loaded with quiches, sandwiches and salads. The torsades are moist and delicious, the Danishes glisten and the cream toppings will have you licking your fingers.
1986 Tarpon Center Drive, Venice, (941) 484-9551, crowsnest-venice.com
A waterfront landmark since 1976, The Crow’s Nest provides tasty seafood in a beautiful marina setting. There's a big list of raw items to choose from, while the main menu highlights grouper, shrimp and crab, as well as beef. Arrive via boat and you can even spend the night.
509 N. Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 218-6418, docksidewaterfrontgrill.com
This eatery, part of the Gecko’s chain, offers seating right next to the lapping waters of the Intracoastal, and the menu provides plenty of tasty, unpretentious seafood dishes. Try the grouper sandwich or the lobster rolls, or splurge for a big seafood entrée or a surf and turf combo. Don't miss happy hour, which will provide you with colorful tropical drinks to get you in the Florida mood ASAP.
1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice, (941) 999-3467, finsatsharkys.com
The views alone justify making a reservation at this Venice landmark, an upscale dining room connected to the more laid-back Jimmy Buffett vibe of its sister restaurant Sharky’s. As its fishy name implies, Fins is known for its seafood, particularly for its quality sushi. The lobster nachos—made with potato chips, Gouda, prosciutto, arugula and lobster—make for great sharing, and we also like the grilled octopus.
117 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 488-8282, madeinitaly-venice.com
A favorite with locals and tourists alike for the pizza that pops out of the wood-burning oven, Made in Italy also serves a generous range of pastas like spaghetti alla carbonara, gnocchi and lasagne bolognese. Don’t ignore the martini menu, either, which features both refreshing and indulgent twists on the classic concoction.
5000 E. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 485-7221, snookhaven.com
A lovely slice of Old Florida, Snook Haven is a charming hangout known for its barbecue and basic seafood items, plus more unusual dishes like gator sliders and shrimp and chips. On “Banjo Thursdays,” which happen weekly from October through May, members of the Gulf Coast Banjo Society show up to jam. It’s a beloved Venice tradition.
533 U.S. Highway 41 Bypass N., Venice, (941) 485-3981; 240 Avenida Madera, Siesta Key, Sarasota, (941) 217-6758; starthaiandsushi.com
There is nothing else in the area like Star Thai and Sushi’s “Ultimate Omakase” experience, an expensive sushi binge that will leave you reeling. The menu includes up to 20 different small plates, prepared by chef Mike Castro right before your eyes. If you’re not looking for that level of indulgence, Star is a great destination for basic rolls and Thai food, too.
537 B E. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 484-8458, thaibistrovenice.com
Owner and chef Kwan Taylor is a pioneer. She introduced Venice to Thai cuisine when she opened this popular restaurant, which specializes in the food of southern Thailand. The basic soups are a delight, the steamed pork dumplings are fantastic and specials like a tempura softshell crab platter are beyond satisfying.
Megan McDonald, Marsha Fottler and David Hackett contributed reporting to this story.