Can't Beat The View

The Best Waterfront Restaurants in Sarasota-Manatee

Where to get a great meal on the water.

By Lauren Jackson March 6, 2024 Published in the March-April 2024 issue of Sarasota Magazine

We often hear locals and visitors alike lament what they see as our area’s shortage of waterfront dining options, but after combing our coastline and tracing our local rivers and creeks, we were able to identify dozens of restaurants—46, to be exact—that offer beautiful water views.

Whether you’re hoping to dine adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, the Intracoastal Waterway or the Manatee River, or you’re looking for a romantic evening out, a sunny spot for lunch with the kids or an Old Florida throwback, we’ve got you covered and then some. Think we don’t have a lot of waterfront restaurants? Think again.

Top of the Line

Fine Dining With a Side of Views


This national chain rests above a small lagoon near New Pass. The restaurant is best known for its epic salad bar and impeccable service. It also has a great happy hour, with loads of discounted appetizers and value-priced beverages, uncommon in most upscale restaurants. 201 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, (941) 383-5593,

Marina Jack

One of Sarasota’s longest continually operated restaurants, Marina Jack offers casual dining downstairs on its patio and more upscale options on the second floor. Guests can also take to the seas for a meal on the restaurant’s yacht, the
Marina Jack II. While the water views are the star here, we're partial to the braised short ribs served with a classic mushroom demi-glace. 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota, (941) 365-4232,

Island Ocean Star

Before Ocean Star opened its Anna Maria location, it gained a loyal following
on the mainland. The island waterfront location, however, further elevates the restaurant’s high-quality sushi with a swanky setting on the tip of Anna Maria.
If sushi isn’t your cup of tea, the eatery also features hibachi, curries and noodledishes. 902 S. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria, (941) 251-6940,

Jack Dusty Editor's Pick

Located inside Sarasota’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, Jack Dusty is a common meeting spot for the community’s movers and shakers. And it’s no wonder, with its outstanding cocktail selections and chef-driven menu. Opt for the perennial
favorite Siren cocktail, made with gin, St-Germain and prosecco. After that, tuck into a wide selection of oysters or even a seafood tower if you’re feeling
extra indulgent. Inside The Ritz-Carlton, 1111 Ritz Carlton Drive, Sarasota,
(941) 309-2266,

Tide Tables Restaurant & Marina

Image: Chad Spencer

Arrive by Boat

Great Options for Dockside Dining

Tide Tables Restaurant & Marina

Any restaurant with “marina” in the title is a safe bet for boaters. You’ll find traditional waterfront options here, like conch fritters, a grouper sandwich, fresh fish served fried, grilled or blackened, and fish tacos. 12507 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, (941) 567-6206,

The Point Restaurant

Situated near marker 38 in Osprey’s Intracoastal Waterway, The Point has ample boat slips, and it’s a good thing, because this place is enormous. But don’t let its size intimidate you. The service is warm and friendly, and the food is oh-so-good, like the fish ‘n’ chips, which wowed us on a recent visit. 131 Bayview Drive, Osprey, (941) 786-3890,

The Crow’s Nest Restaurant, Tavern & Marina

Venice Island’s Crow’s Nest is so boater-friendly that it even has a harbor
master who will help direct you to a nearby slip. That’s helpful, because this
place is busy. For those days when you’re donning shorts and a tank top, head into the downstairs tavern for one of the best burgers around. Feel like something a little more dressed up? Slip on your Sperrys and head upstairs, where the
menu skews more formal. 1968 Tarpon Center Drive, Venice, (941) 484-9551,

White Elephant Pub

Situated between Englewood Beach and a small marina, the White Elephant is ultra-casual and describes itself as “chill.” Light bites go great with a crisp draft beer, but the entrée offerings are slim. 1855 Gulf Blvd., #5729, Englewood, (941)

Pelican Alley

The parking lot at Pelican Alley can be a madhouse, so we always recommend boating to this Nokomis spot. While the outside looks like a fish shack, the interior is light and airy, with a white and teal color palette. Order the crab fritters
with the creamy lobster sauce and thank us later. 1009 Albee Road W., Nokomis, (941) 786-3616,

Anna Maria Oyster Bar

As the name indicates, Anna Maria Oyster Bar’s oyster selection is a highlight.
Raw bivalves from around the country are served with either cocktail sauce or chimichurri, while roasted oysters are served in five different styles. Which one is best? You decide. (The restaurant has multiple locations in the area; the Bradenton Beach spot is the one you want if you’re looking for water views.) 200 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, (941) 778-2662,

Pop's Sunset Grill
Pop's Sunset Grill

Pop’s Sunset Grill Editor's Pick

Part tiki bar, part dock and plenty family-friendly, Pop’s is a Nokomis icon. Dolphins play in the adjoining Intracoastal Waterway, which makes it the perfect boat-up location. And while the food (like the caviar flatbread) is fantastic, it's the
staff that makes this spot a pleasure to dine at. 112 Circuit Road, Nokomis, (941) 488-3177,

The Old Salty Dog on City Island
The Old Salty Dog on City Island

Image: David Tejada

Bring the Family

Where to Take the Kids

The Old Salty Dog

Sarasota County is privileged to have three Old Salty Dogs, but only two boast waterfront locations, with one in Venice and the other on City Island, north of Lido Key. Each one is expansive, with an approachable menu. If you’re sick of seafood, give the signature “Salty Dog” a try. To make it, the chefs wrap a quarter- pound hot dog in bacon and deep fry it. While you’re there, sip a bloody Mary, which we’d argue are the best in town. 1485 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 483-1000; 1601 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, (941) 388-4311;

Dry Dock Waterfront Grill
Dry Dock Waterfront Grill

Image: Chad Spencer

Dry Dock Waterfront Grill Editor's Pick

Stare across Sarasota Bay at the Ringling museum and New College of Florida while counting the boats speeding by. Dry Dock has multiple levels, but dining outside on the patio and adjacent lawn is a great way to let the kids run around
while you kick back with a glass of wine. The food is also great, especially the lobster roll. And while we always opt for French fries, give the coleslaw a try;
it’s out of this world. 412 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, (941) 383-0102,

Seafood Shack
Seafood Shack

Image: David Tejada

Seafood Shack

After a day of fishing with the family, the last thing you want to do is go home and cook your catch. At Seafood Shack in Cortez, the staff will prepare your fillets for you while you kick back and enjoy the view. 4110 127th St. W., Cortez, (941) 794-1235,

Turtle’s Restaurant

Turtle’s lauds itself as “the best family restaurant in Sarasota,” but from the outside, you might think the bayfront joint is a little fancy. Think again. The staff
welcomes big and little kids alike with a big smile and a high-five. Family-friendly
food dominates the menu, with dishes like coconut shrimp that are so good
you’ll be fighting for the last bite. 8875 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota, (941) 346-2207,

Spice It Up

Where to Eat When You're Looking for Love

Magnolias on the Bay

This idyllic Englewood restaurant is inviting from the outset, with its baby pink exterior and black-and-white striped awning. But beyond its exterior panache, Magnolias offers Manasota Key’s only fine dining menu, with highlights like Chilean sea bass and seared scallops. This spot also has an extensive sushi menu that includes raw and cooked rolls. 2395 N. Beach Road, Englewood, (941) 460-8219,

Ophelia’s on the Bay

Heralded by Sarasota residents as the area’s most romantic restaurant, Ophelia’s has earned its reputation through its approachable yet well-executed menu, its white tablecloth service and its sweeping views of the Intracoastal. Enjoy
classic dishes like shrimp cocktail, a colossal wedge salad and a stunning half
duckling prepared à l’orange. 9105 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key, Sarasota,
(941) 349-2212,


Shore boasts two locations—one on St. Armands Circle and one on Longboat Key—but it’s the Longboat location that makes our list for its stunning views of Longboat Pass. Shore’s lobster, shrimp and crab Cobb salad is arguably the best item on the menu, but guests also come for the local snapper, served on a bed of wilted spinach with an arancini cake and citrus butter. 800 Broadway St., Longboat Key, (941) 259-4600,

Mar Vista

Image: Chad Spencer

Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant Editor's Pick

Part of the renowned Chiles Hospitality group of restaurants, Mar Vista is nestled
among towering sea grapes at the northern end of Longboat Key. Guests are invited to dine with their toes in the sand, surrounded by twinkling lights
in the evening, while dining on lemon and herb grouper and bacon-wrapped scallops. Don’t miss the homemade tater tots, either. 760 Broadway St., Longboat
Key, (941) 383-2391,

Pier 22

This marina restaurant overlooking the Manatee River makes our list not only for its romantic main dining room but also for the high volume of weddings it hosts.
Guests can carry their relationship from engagement to nuptials to anniversaries
with a memorable menu that includes grouper artichoke gratin and honey macadamia shrimp. 1200 First Ave. W., Bradenton, (941) 748-8087,

Beach Bistro

Beach Bistro Editor's Pick

Anna Maria Island’s (and Manatee County’s) most iconic fine-dining restaurant has been a date night mainstay for decades. The restaurant’s prix fixe menu includes “lobstercargots,” foie gras, Colorado lamb with a savory bread pudding and the restaurant’s famous bouillabaisse. Make your reservation
at sunset to wow your date. 6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, (941) 778-6444,

Sharky's on the Pier
Sharky's on the Pier

Image: Chad Spencer

Get Sandy

Restaurants Located Right on the Beach

Sharky’s on the Pier and Fins at Sharky’s

This beachfront spot in Venice offers double the bang for your buck. You can sip frozen piña coladas outside at Sharky’s and enjoy the island vibe, or head upstairs to Fins at Sharky’s for a more formal date night. Either way, the Gulf views are outstanding. 1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice, (941) 488-1456,

Beach House Waterfront Restaurant

Open since the mid-1990s, the Beach House recently underwent a massive
renovation. But despite its refreshed interior and patio, the beachy feeling is
strong, with a few tables placed directly in the sand. Much of the produce is
provided by Gamble Creek, the company’s affiliate farm, so keep your eye out
for seasonal local veggies. 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, (941) 779-2222,

Sandbar Seafood & Spirits
Sandbar Seafood & Spirits

Image: Chad Spencer

Sandbar Seafood & Spirits

Brought to you by the same owners as Mar Vista and Beach House, Sandbar is
the jewel in the Chiles Hospitality crown. Located at the tippy top of Anna Maria
Island, this flagship restaurant offers modern, classic fare. If you’re unsure of
what to order, we love the pulled pork mac ‘n’ cheese. Meat at a seafood joint
may seem like sacrilege, but you won’t be disappointed. 100 Springs Ave.,
Anna Maria, (941) 778-0444,

Gulf Drive Café Editor's Pick

This spot might be open all day and into the wee hours of the morning, but it’s the breakfast menu that keeps us coming back again and again. Keep it classic with scrambled eggs, pancakes and other accompaniments enjoyed right next to the Gulf of Mexico. 900 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, (941) 778-1919,

Going Upriver

Waterfront Dining Doesn't Have to Include Saltwater

Woody's River Roo

As you cross the Manatee River while cruising I-75, Woody’s River Roo beckons from below with big bold letters arranged across its roof. Instead of passing by this gem while hurrying to Tampa, take it slow and pull over. Shift your point of view upward at all those busy people and racing cars while you sip a daiquiri and enjoy a lazy day. 5717 18th St. E., Ellenton, (941) 722-2391,

Linger Lodge Restaurant Editor's Pick

Wild, weird and wonderful are excellent words to describe Linger Lodge. Expect to be greeted by a room full of taxidermized creatures ranging from small to extra-large before you find your seat. This historic restaurant captures Old
Florida style by offering a no-frills menu with items like gator bites and frog legs. If you’re not feeling that adventurous, there are plenty of other wonderful options
suitable for every palate. 7205 85th St. Ct. E., Bradenton, (941) 755-2757,

Mila’s on the Manatee

Mila’s screams “tourist trap,” but in a fun way. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to get out and see what the fuss is all about. Best of all, it’s got a killer weekend brunch buffet where you can chow down to your heart’s content for only $14.95. 955 Riverside Drive, Palmetto, (941) 212-6006,

Snook Haven

A trip to Snook Haven is less about the food than it is about the music and
dancing—and there is plenty of dancing. The expansive property overlooks the
Myakka River and draws people seeking a good time. Come during the day and
rent a kayak to help you work up an appetite, then sip an ice-cold beer at this
secret oasis. 5000 E. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 485-7221,


Stroll downtown Bradenton’s 1.5-mile Riverwalk and end your scenic saunter at
Mattison’s. One of three Mattison’s in the area, the Riverwalk location offers a killer happy hour alongside the restaurant’s signature dishes, like artichokes Esther—crispy, fried artichoke hearts finished with lemon butter and shaved parmesan. 101 Riverfront Blvd., Suite 120, Bradenton, (941) 896-9660,

Riverhouse Waterfront Restaurant

This Manatee River behemoth is really three restaurants in one. The waterfront patio bar, called Snook Deck, features bar-friendly food like truffle wings and fried green tomatoes. Reef & Grill, meanwhile, is open for lunch and dinner with a casual all-American menu. At Second Floor, which is on, well, the second floor, dinner service is more formal, with oysters casino and a blue crab pot pie.
995 Riverside Drive, Palmetto, (941) 729-0616,

Farlow’s on the Water Editor's Pick

Ask the host to sit outside on Farlow’s charming patio, which overlooks a small
inlet connected to Lemon Bay. On the menu, you’ll find crab cakes, hush puppies and scallops, but also—thanks to the owners’ Kentucky heritage—shrimp and Kentucky cornbread anda classic Kentucky hot brown. We recommend ordering anything with the “house specialty” asterisk. 2080 S. McCall Road, Englewood, (941) 474-5343,

O'Leary's Tiki Bar
O'Leary's Tiki Bar

Tiki Time

Thatched Roof Hangouts

O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill

Although the line at O'Leary's may look long, it moves swiftly, and the piña coladas and beer-battered curly fries are well worth the wait. Live music provides a fun atmosphere as you watch kids and tourists play along the water’s edge. We’re not sure if you’re allowed to take your drink into neighboring Bayfront Park to enjoy the sunset on a park bench, but we won’t tell anyone if you do. 5 Bayfront Drive, Sarasota, (941) 953-7505,

Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar Editor's Pick

This entire restaurant is a massive tiki hut, with a massive menu to match. Fresh steamer pots are a hit for the whole family, but be sure to ask about the specials, because chef Pedro Flores loves to impress with his off-the-cuff creations. 5353 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 925-4444,

Snook’s Bayside Restaurant and Tiki Bar

Snook’s knows how to do tiki right, with a small but mighty drink list. Rum runner? Check. Mai tai? Check. Hurricane? Check, check, check. And with every mixed cocktail coming in at a mere $12, your check will be satisfying, too. Grab some crab and shrimp fritters to pair with your fruity drink and melt into the
warm glow of the sunset. 779 W. Wentworth St., Englewood, (941) 475-3712

Dockside Waterfront Grill

Underneath the Venice Island bridge is a secret tiki hut. Managed by Gecko’s
Hospitality Group, this spot operates like a well-oiled machine. Try the shrimp BLT for a fun spin on an old warhorse. 509 N. Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 218-6418,

Nokomo’s Sunset Hut

Another tiki bar in an area rich with them, Nokomo’s is located on Shakett Creek in Nokomis, which feeds into the nearby Intracoastal. That makes the water quiet and the atmosphere oh-so-chill. Live music plays every night, so bring your dancing shoes and your favorite Parrothead cap. 690 S. Tamiami Trail, Nokomis, (941) 488-1324,

Casey Key Fish House Editor's Pick

The best part about Casey Key Fish House is its proximity to one of Florida’s last remaining swing bridges. Or maybe it’s that you might catch a glimpse of novelist and nearby resident Stephen King, if you’re lucky. Either way, this place might look touristy, but trust us, it’s a hidden gem. 801 Blackburn Point Road, Osprey, (941) 966-1901,

Floridays Woodfire Grill & Bar

Speaking of Parrotheads, Floridays is located inside Compass by Margaritaville,
which captures the late, great Jimmy Buffett’s Florida spirit via a tiki hut that’s right on the water. The menu provides your standard waterfront fare, but there are a few fun surprises, too, like seafood gumbo and shrimp carbonara. 12332
Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, (941) 741- 8700,

Star Fish Company

Fish Shacks

For a Taste of How Things Used to Be

New Pass Grill

One might expect the best thing at a fish shack to be, well, fish, but at New
Pass Grill, the cheeseburger is the stuff of local legend. This low-key shack on City Island is easy to miss, so bust out the GPS to find it. We love its laid-back atmosphere and friendly service. 1505 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, (941)

Star Fish Co. Editor's Pick

Nowhere, and we mean nowhere, has a better dockside fish sandwich than
Cortez’s Star Fish Co. Order your grouper sandwich and hush puppies at the counter and watch as local fishermen bring in their daily catch. Leave the credit card at home; this spot is cash-only. 12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, (941) 794-1243,

Swordfish Grill

Also located in Cortez, Swordfish Grill offers an extensive menu sure to appeal to seafood lovers—think oysters, fried seafood baskets and fish sandwiches. Pro tip: Don’t miss the steamed clams. 4628 119th St. W. Cortez, (941) 798-2035,

Cortez Kitchen

If you’re sensing a Cortez theme, that’s because this historic fishing village features some of the best fish shacks in the area. Cortez Kitchen recently underwent a renovation, but still maintains its Old Florida bona fides. Prepare to get messy with peel and eat shrimp, or try the softshell crab sandwich, one of our favorites. 4528 119th St. W., Cortez, (941) 900-1506,

Rod and Reel Pier

Image: Chad Spencer

Rod & Reel

Rod & Reel is a massive tourist attraction, not only because of its casual menu, but
also for its supreme fishing location. Do as the locals do by bringing a pole and
tossing out a line either before or after a few snacks. The restaurant’s menu is
simple, but standouts include a Mexican-style grouper served with grilled onions
and peppers. Seafood averse? Opt for a simple yet satisfying hot dog. 875 N.
Shore Drive, Anna Maria, (941) 778-1885,

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