Best of Sarasota 2015: Dining

Our editors' and readers pick the best new dining in Sarasota for 2015.

By Sarasota Magazine May 1, 2015 Published in the May 2015 issue of Sarasota Magazine


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Best New Reason to Eat a Sandwich: Anger’s Garden Deli


When the Harvest Tabernacle acquired its neighbor, Anger’s Deli, they didn’t change the menu of hearty, “two-handed” sandwiches that have made the deli a longtime lunchtime favorite, but they did change the business model. The deli now donates 100 percent of its profits to Restoration Ranch Children’s Home in the Dominican Republic. Eat well, feel good. 243 N. Lime Ave., Sarasota, (941) 365-2696.


Best New Coffee Shop: Buddy Brew Coffee


Buddy Brew Coffee, which sources and roasts its own beans, has an über-devoted following in Tampa. Now local coffee lovers are buzzing about our own Buddy Brew, which opened in March next to Louies Modern. There you’ll find Buddy Brew’s great coffee, expert baristas, and breakfast sandwiches and pastries. One more wonderful reason to wake up in Sarasota. 1289 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (813) 263-0990.


Best New Pizza: Polpo Pizza Co.


Danni Bleil and Tom Baril share a passion for pizza, and it shows—in homemade dough that’s puffy and charred from the woodburning oven, from-scratch sauce and fresh, organic toppings. They even make their own cheese. The resulting Neapolitan-style pies are so divine that we won’t even whine about the long lines outside their cute little vintage truck. (941) 993-5263.


Best New Place to Embrace Detente: The Russian House


Whatever your politics, it’s easy to embrace the Russian offerings at this new fast/casual spot. The hearty, tasty fare includes pelmeni (Siberian dumplings), vareniki, borscht and beef Stroganoff. Be sure to finish with the oreshki cookies stuffed with dulce de leche. And don’t be put off by the plastic utensils and paper plates; the food is what matters here. 6115 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 735-1151.


Best New Vegetarian: Beauty of Sprouts


The year-old Beauty of Sprouts is a haven for foodies craving healthy, raw, vegan, organic fare. A one-woman show, run by restaurant veteran and chef/owner Rano Halikova, Beauty of Sprouts features signature dishes such as spring rolls stuffed with fresh veggies and herbs, lavender crème brûlèe made from cashew cream and coconut nectar and house-made kombuchas and teas. 1474 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, (941) 350-8449.


Best New Resurrection of a Chef: Pino’s in Paradise Plaza


Chef Pino Luongo has had a passionate following since he opened the late, great Gastronomia almost two decades ago; other stints followed, but now he has a new place in Paradise Plaza. His cooking, inspired by Italy’s island of Ischia (his homeland) and featuring many nightly specials, sends fans to foodie heaven—our food blogger visited five times in the first month. 3800 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 366-1440.


Best New Sweets: Argentinian Pastry


In a tiny strip mall storefront, the charming owners of Argentinian Pastry display an inviting array of authentic South American pastries. The menu includes empañadas as well as cakes, flan, arrollados, tres leches and traditional vigilantes, and it all looks like handmade art, with intriguing flavors—including sweet and tangy quince fillings—that you  won’t find elsewhere in town. 3608 Webber St., Sarasota, (941) 960-0069.


Best New Quick Trip to Africa: Queen of Sheba


Adventurous eaters rejoiced when the news that Queen of Sheba—a Tampa fave—was opening a location here. The food is Ethiopian, and bursting with flavor, featuring meat and vegetables stewed or sautéed with traditional herbs and spices, and served with injera, a spongelike bread that’s delectably sour. Be sure to end with the traditional coffee ceremony. 4195 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 359-8000.


Best New Asian Fusion: Painter’s Palate


The North Trail is becoming a hotspot for ethnic restaurants, and Painter’s Palate is a welcome addition. The food at this offshoot of downtown’s Drunken Poet Café is delightfully global, from tongue-in-cheek appetizers like “Thaicos” (Thai tacos) to tartines, seafood and chicken dishes. Five stars for the curried panang salmon and spinach pizza. 2801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 355-4620.


Best New Intimate Italian: Adriatico


Fans of Italian food have lots of local options, and now there’s another one—Adriatico, a lovely little newcomer in Gulf Gate. The simple, authentic pasta and meat dishes and the wall of hand-picked Italian wines are excellent, but seafood plays the starring role, with fresh-caught fish, stuffed calamari, grilled octopus and more. Don’t miss the scallop tartare. Trust us. 6606 Superior Ave., Sarasota, (941) 922-3080.


Best New Steakhouse: The Capital Grille


Steak lovers, prepare to swoon: The swanky new Capital Grille serves some of the best we’ve had, along with a well-edited wine list, signature side dishes (the lobster mac ’n’ cheese sets a new standard) and tasty desserts and specialty coffees. The contemporary décor is a nice change from the usual steakhouse, and the service is exemplary. 180 University Town Center Drive, Sarasota, (941) 256-3647.


Best New Barbecue: Brick’s BBQ


Barbecue master Mark Gabrick grew up in Kansas City, spent time in Texas and—when his ad agency moved him to Europe—shipped his own smoker overseas so he could make his beloved ’cue. These days, he’s serving his superb, slow-smoked meats (including award-winning brisket, ribs and pulled pork) every Saturday at the downtown Sarasota farmers market. Get there early—he sells out.


Best New Shopping Break: Sophie’s at Saks Fifth Avenue


Sophie’s at the new Saks is as chic as you’d expect from this stylish retailer, and the well-thought-out menu serves equally chic and contemporary food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bar offers excellent craft cocktails, beer and wine, and the patio is perfect for taking advantage of our sunny days. Put down your shopping bags and stay a while. 120 University Town Center Drive, Sarasota, (941) 444-3077.


Best New Indian Food: Curry Station


In a small shopping center along U.S. 301, you’ll find exemplary Indian food prepared by chef Narendra Singh Saud, who’s worked at Ritz-Carltons throughout the world and with chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert. There’s a lunch buffet and a dinner menu, but we just ask Saud for his recommendations and let him work his magic. 1303 Washington Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 312-6264.


Best New Reason to Love Payne Park: Café in the Park


Payne Park is great for kids, sunbathing, and exercising—but now it’s a wonderful spot to grab a bite, too, thanks to the cheerful, sunlit Café in the Park. Anywhere you sit, you’ll get a fabulous view of the park, and you’ll also get delicious sandwiches (grilled cheese, Cubans and Café in the Park originals) and more than respectable coffee offerings. 2010 Adams Lane, Sarasota, (941) 361-3032.


Best New Seafood: Tide Tables


We’d make the drive to Cortez just for the food at cute and casual Tide Tables—the fish is as fresh as it gets—and the view from the southeast end of Cortez Bridge is gorgeous. Order a cold drink and then pick whatever seafood dish looks good to you from the menu; you can’t go wrong here. 12507 Cortez Road W. (marker 48 by water), Cortez, (941) 567-6206.


Best New Healthy Cuisine: Seasons 52


Our food critic says she could eat at Seasons 52 every single day, and no wonder: No item contains more than 475 calories, and every dish features fresh, seasonal ingredients with a menu that changes four times a year. Desserts—served in a shot glass—are attractive and delicious, and the extensive wine list offers something for every palate. 170 University Town Center Drive, Sarasota, (941) 702-9652.


Best New Lunchtime Menu: Brown Bag Provisions


Foodies mourned when Kelly Drost closed her Brown Bag Provisions, but now the creative sandwich maker is back, this time as a shop-within-a-shop at Artisan Cheese Company, offering a lunchtime selection of sensational sandwiches—including a banh mi with sambal mayo and a grilled cheese with curried cauliflower and cherry chutney—salads and soup. 1310 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 951-7860.


Best New French Flavor: Burns Court Café’s French Quarter Wine Bar


Stepping into Burns Court Café’s French Quarter Wine Bar feels like the next best thing to being in Paris. The menu offers perfect-for-sharing bites, including charcuterie, salads, pasta and dessert, and an extensive selection of wines by the glass and the bottle. Tip: Go on one of the café’s popular jazz nights and let the music transport you to Paris. 401 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, (941) 312-6633.


Best New Pleasure Garden: Mandeville Beer Garden


Rosemary District’s new indoor/outdoor gem pairs craft beers (local and Florida breweries are well represented) with a sophisticated pub menu from the culinary mind that brought you State Street Eating House. Expert ’tenders help you navigate the 30 offerings on tap—all the better for washing down bites like fried pickles or locally made venison sausage. 428 N. Lemon Ave., Sarasota, (941) 954-8688,


Best New Addition to Longboat Key: Amore by Andrea


Longboat residents and visitors have a convenient new dinner option in Amore by Andrea. It opened in the former Plaza restaurant space last fall, and in its first week was already packing in crowds. The menu offers the topnotch contemporary Italian cuisine we’d expect from chef Andrea Bozzolo, and the ambiance is lovely, with a cozy bar and outdoor patio. 555 Bay Isles Parkway, Longboat Key, (941) 383-1111.



Best Amish Restaurant




Der Dutchman, Miller’s Dutch Kitchen


Best Japanese Restaurant


DaRuMa Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Lounge


JPan, Pacific Rim


Best French Restaurant


C’est La Vie


Bijou Cafe, Maison Blanche


Best Latin-American Restaurant




Columbia Restaurant, Darwin’s on 4th


Best Italian Restaurant




Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Mediterraneo


Best Mexican Restaurant


Mi Pueblo


El Toro Bravo, Two Senoritas


Best Seafood Restaurant


Walt’s Fish Market & Restaurant


Barnacle Bill’s, Owen’s Fish Camp


Best Sushi Restaurant


Pacific Rim


JPan, Yume Sushi


Best Vegetarian, Special Diet or Gluten-Free-Friendly Restaurant




Beauty of Sprouts, Simon’s Coffee House


Best Venice Restaurant


Sharky’s On the Pier


Crow’s Nest Marina Restaurant, Made in Italy


Best Manatee County Restaurant


Pier 22


Beach Bistro, Derek’s Rustic Coastal Cuisine


Best Nighttime Restaurant Hotspot


Social on First


Mattison’s City Grille, Selva


Best Restaurant for Breakfast


First Watch


The Broken Egg, Station 400


Best Restaurant for Brunch, Bloody Marys and Mimosas


Libby’s Café & Bar


Made, University Park Country Club


Best Romantic Restaurant


Ophelia’s on the Bay


Beach Bistro, Euphemia Haye


Best Thai Restaurant




Drunken Poet Cafe, Isan Thai Restaurant


Best Restaurant/Bar for Craft Beer


Darwin’s on 4th


Cock & Bull Pub, Mr. Beery’s


Best Waterfront Dining


Marina Jack


Old Salty Dog, Ophelia’s on the Bay


Best Restaurant for Steak (chain)


Ruth’s Chris Steak House


Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse


Best Restaurant for Steak (non-chain)


Michael’s On East


Alpine Steakhouse, The Waterfront Restaurant


Best Restaurant Wine List


Michael’s On East


The Capital Grille, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar


Best New Restaurant


Seasons 52


Brio Tuscan Grille, The Capital Grille


Best Burger


Patrick’s 1481


Five Guys, Square One Burgers & Bar


Best Barbecue


Nancy’s Bar-B-Q


Alday’s Bar-B-Que, Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q


Best Caterer


Michael’s On East


Mattison’s, Morton’s Gourmet Market


Best Coffee Shop (non-chain)




Pastry Art, Simon’s Coffee House


Best Special Occasion Restaurant


Michael’s On East


Beach Bistro, Ophelia’s on the Bay


Best Dessert


Yoder’s (pies)


Cheesecake Factory (cheesecakes), Morton’s Gourmet Market (tortes)


Best Pizza (non-chain)




Il Panificio, Valentino Pizzeria Trattoria


Best Sandwich


Anna’s Deli (Surfer)


Corkscrew Deli (Cuban), Mozzarella Fella (Eggplant parm)


Best Chef


Paul Mattison


Jeff Parson, Darwin Santa Maria


Best Specialty Food Market


Morton’s Gourmet Market


Fresh Market, Whole Foods


Best Gourmet Store


Morton’s Gourmet Market


As Good As It GetsFresh Market


Best Place to Buy Wine


Total Wine


Michael’s Wine Cellar, Trader Joe’s


Best Bakery




Jim’s Small Batch Bakery, Morton’s Gourmet Market


Best Sports Bar


Gecko’s Grill & Pub


Evie’s Tavern & Grill, Miller’s Sarasota Ale House


Best Cocktail


State Street Eating house (Bramble)


Jack Dusty (Siren), Social on First (Blueberry Smash Mule)


Best Happy Hour Menu


Libby’s Café & Bar


Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, The Table Creekside


Best Mixologist


Michael Scalzi, Marina Jack


Ashley Bruce, Evie’s Tavern & Grill; Brad Coburn, Pangea


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