The Best Sarasota Restaurants to visit in 2020
We recently took a long weekend getaway to Sarasota and were overwhelmed by the number of wonderful restaurants in the area. Andrew and I spent most of our time indulging in all sorts of delicious eats, from cheesy pasta to fresh seafood. After doing some research and tasting as much as I could fit in my stomach, I think I have determined the best Sarasota restaurants to visit!
The list below features thirty different options for every cuisine and budget. I mainly focused on the Sarasota area, but have a few options for dining in Siesta Key and Longboat Key as well. This list also includes black-owned restaurants which I have highlighted so you can support the community. No matter what kind of meal you are craving, this list of Sarasota restaurants should have you covered!
Affordable Eats in Sarasota
I am starting this foodie guide with ten places for an affordable meal in Sarasota, Florida. Many of these options are counter-service, so you can expect a quick experience as well. I included a bunch of breakfast and dessert options, but there are a couple lunch and dinner places too. At every one of these Sarasota restaurants, you can have a meal for under $15. Check them out for a taste of Sarasota without breaking the bank!
Screaming Goat Taqueria
If you like authentic Latin American tacos, Screaming Goat Taqueria is perfect for lunch or dinner. This cozy restaurant serves up tacos, burritos and bowls with proteins like Pork Cochinita Pibil and Masa-Dusted Cauliflower. The toppings list has over 20 options and you can even design your own tacos to whatever diet you like, including vegan! Whether you sit inside and enjoy a cold beer or take your order to go, you can expect flavorful tacos and more here.
Big Olaf Creamery
No matter where you stay in Sarasota, you cannot miss Big Olaf Creamery for a sweet dessert! They have multiple locations all over the area, serving up delicious ice cream flavors like White Chocolate Rasberry and Caramel Explosion. They also have shakes and fudge, so do not miss this local classic!
Possibly the cutest coffee shop I have ever visited was The Overton in Downtown Sarasota. Not only was it walking distance from our hotel, but it also had a crazy selection of coffee, such as cereal milk lattes! There are plenty of options here besides coffee though, as they also offer breakfast lunch and dinner. We got the Ricotta Blueberry Toast and were satisfied for the morning, but later in the day you can get salads, rice bowls and cocktails to go with it. Between the creative food and the trendy space, there are a lot of great reasons to eat at The Overton.
Perry’s Roadside BBQ
For some classic Southern BBQ, the black-owned Perry’s Roadside BBQ is an excellent stop. It’s famous for the spicy and tangy barbecue sauce they make, as well as the brisket and the ribs. You can choose between barbecue sandwiches or platters with all the favorite sides like Baked Beans and Potato Salad. And with such large portions, you will definitely get a taste of the local barbecue scene.
Meaney’s Mini Donuts
One place I had to point out was Meaney’s Mini Donuts, which has locations in Sarasota and Siesta Key. Locals and tourists alike adore the mini donuts here that come glazed, powdered or covered in toppings. Though you can also get ice cream and milkshakes here, these mini donut stands are unique to Sarasota. It’s worth a stop for an unforgettable vacation dessert, or if you are feeling indulgent, breakfast!
Mirna’s Cuban Café
South Florida is known for it’s authentic Cuban food, and Mirna’s Cuban Café is possibly the best place to get it here. This Sarasota restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and offers all the Cuban classics like Ropa Vieja and Cubanos. The roast park and plantains are some of their most popular dishes, but you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Some of the menu items are on the pricier side of this list, but the portions are big, so don’t hesitate to share!
G’s Southern Kitchen
Another black-owned Sarasota restaurant to add to your list is G’s Southern Kitchen. Though it’s small location behind a golf club makes it hard to find, don’t let that stop you from seeking out these zesty flavors. Chef G is known his unique twists on traditional food, like the Mac N Gheez Bites with a parmesan crust or the Collard Green and Smoked Turkey Egg Rolls. There are over ten different sides to try and all sorts of soul food options from wings to Po Boys to Shrimp and Grits as well. This part of Florida may not be known as the South, but if you want an outstanding version of the food here, this is the place to visit.
For a more traditional, yet still irresistible coffee spot, Project Coffee is another great option. The space is bright and airy and just the kind of place to wake up with some coffee in. They offer all your coffee classics, like lattes and expresso, but you can get non-dairy added, like oat milk. You can also get a snack alongside it like Carrot Cake or Avocado Toast. I can’t think of a better way to start the day!
Smack Burgers and Shakes
I love supporting local business, but there are a few chains I can’t resist, like Shake Shack. However, Smack Burgers and Shakes has a lot of the qualities of this chain, but even better burgers! Here you can get juicy bison burgers topped with a variety of toppings as well as crinkle-cut fries and frozen custard shakes. They even have beyond burgers and black bean burgers for vegans, as well as hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and egg sandwiches. For less than $6 a burger, this is perfect for the whole family to enjoy.
Green Zebra Café
If you are looking for some healthy food to break up all the indulgent vacation eating, Green Zebra Café is ideal any time of day. With two Sarasota locations, they are serving up plenty of vegan and even raw food options. This includes specialties like Acai Bowls, Portobello Sandwiches and a Raw Taco Salad. Whether you just need a rejuvenating wellness shot or are looking for a relaxing lunch, you can have any experience you need at Green Zebra Café.
Moderately Priced Restaurants in Sarasota
Next up on the list are ten moderately priced Sarasota restaurants for anytime of day. Most of these are sit down venues and you can expect a meal to cost between $15 and $30 per person. With so many great options to choose from, the price can really vary based on how big of a meal and what type of drinks you like. Regardless, this should provide ample restaurant ideas for your Sarasota vacation!
Blue Dolphin Café
For a laid-back breakfast or lunch, the Blue Dolphin Café in St. Armand’s Circle or Longboat Key is just the place. Everything about it screams vacation and you will want to fill up on breakfast favorites for a full day while you are here. They offer breakfast all day that includes waffles, omelets, egg dishes and more with a variety of flavor profiles. And for those that prefer lunch, there are salads, burgers, and sandwiches, including Rueben’s and Cheesesteaks. It may not be the healthiest place, but it is just the type where you will make vacation memories at.
Tsunami Sushi and Hibachi
Ask anyone and you will hear that the best Sarasota restaurant for sushi is Tsunami. This Japanese spot is open daily for lunch and dinner and features dozens of sushi rolls. This includes everything from traditional sashimi to crazy rolls like ones with spicy escolar and pine nuts or the Tiger Roll with four different kinds of fish! You can also get hibachi made at your table or some tempura entrees, but I think it is impossible to resist getting some sushi here.
If you like savory Italian food, Venezia is one of the best options around. Located in the bustle of St. Armand’s Square, the handmade pasta and pizza made Andrew and I feel like we were back in Italy. They have a huge selection of dishes and wine, but we went with our favorite Spaghetti Alla Carbonara and they made it to perfection. Between this, salad, stuffed mushrooms and bread, it is a carbalicious meal that you will have leftovers from, but I guarantee you won’t regret it!
Seafood lovers cannot miss Stroke’s Seafood, a black-owned seafood stand. Here you can get crab legs, fish, shrimp and more cooked to your preference. If you get the low country boil, you can try a mix of seafood and side dishes, all flawlessly seasoned. However, there are also individual dishes to order like Shrimp Tacos, Fish Sandwiches and even Burgers and Chicken Wings for those wanting more turf than surf. A place this authentically Floridian deserves a visit, especially if you are traveling and cannot get seafood like this at home!
For a classic Mexican meal, Mi Pueblo has some of the best dishes in Sarasota and Venice. They are known for their margaritas, fajitas and Chile Relleno, but the menu has options for all. Whether you crave something traditional like an Enchilada or something more unique, like the Pollo Zaragoza, this Sarasota restaurant is guaranteed to satisfy. Even better, the atmosphere transports you to a Mexican street market and there are frequent mariachi performances! You can have a romantic or a family meal here, and either way, it will feel like a celebration.
Big Top Brewing Company
I am a huge fan of craft beer, so I could not miss a chance to visit Sarasota’s most well-known brewery Big Top Brewing. In addition to at least a dozen taps of in-house made beer, they also offer lunch or dinner. This is more the bar food variety, like burgers, tacos and sandwiches, but it goes great with a flight of beer. You could get a bunch of appetizers or have a full meal and there are tasty options for both. It is a casual spot with the fun, brewery atmosphere that makes it hard not to stay for a while!
The Old Salty Dog
You would be hard pressed to find a list of best Sarasota restaurants that does not mention The Old Salty Dog. With multiple locations, this is one of the most popular venues to get their famous hot dogs or seafood baskets. I prefer the cheaper, fried options like the Po’ Boy along with some beer and live music, but you can make it a more upscale meal with steak and snow crab. Between the waterfront views and the tropical vibes, this is the place for a relaxing vacation lunch or dinner.
Lemon Tree Kitchen
Once you have had enough fried fish and ice cream, The Lemon Tree Kitchen will be a great interlude for some fresh and healthy eats. This vibrant spot has vegetarian options galore like a Wood-Grilled Cauliflower Steak with Chimichurri and Veggie Tofu Pho. There are also meat dishes like Roasted Half Chicken and Turkey Meatballs, but still a focus on whole and not processed foods. It’s the kind of meal you don’t have to feel guilty about and they are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Rodney’s Jamaican Grill
If you are looking for an island state of mind while in Sarasota, then check out Rodney’s Jamaican Grill for some flavorful food. Rodney is originally from Montego Bay and he serves up authentic Jamaican dishes like Jerk Chicken, Curry Goat and Saltfish Cod, all with ample sides of rice and beans or other favorites. It’s a small casual spot, but between the food and the Red Stripe Beer, you can’t find an more Island meal than this!
Last, but not at all least is Oleary’s Tiki Bar & Grill, which I highly recommend visiting for the atmosphere alone! This beachy spot is right on the water and you can even dine with your toes in the sand and a thatch umbrella above you. With a full bar, you at least have to come for a drink, but I found the Blackened Mahi Sandwich to really hit the spot as well. The friendly atmosphere, the live music and the tiki themed eats all solidify this being one of the best Sarasota restaurants.
Sarasota Restaurants to Splurge at
I am closing out this list with ten Sarasota restaurants for a splurge worthy meal. The following spots are high-end and you can expect to spend at least $30 per person. I like to have at least one meal like this per vacation, because this way you get to try the finest foods the area has to offer! I also find a fancy meal can really add a celebratory aspect to the vacation. If you can, here are the restaurants I think are best for a taste of luxury in Sarasota.
Possibly the most well-known of the upscale Sarasota restaurants is Indigenous, a spot focused on seasonal produce and seafood sustainability. The location has a gorgeous, natural feel and the food looks just as beautiful as well. The menu is always changing, but you can expect to find a variety of seafood options cooked in unique ways, liked baked with tarragon bread crumbs or covered in Meyer Lemon Jam. With a few vegetarian options as well, this is a place you can feel good about supporting, while also feeling full of tasty food!
One of the trendiest spots in town for lunch, brunch and dinner is Shore. There are locations in St. Armand’s Circle and Longboat Key where you can feast on culinary masterpieces while on a rooftop bar! They have all the foodie delicacies from Hot Honey Fried Chicken with Mac and Cheese to Miso Marinated Grouper. With such fun vibes, this is where I recommend going for brunch or for dinner with a group.
The Bijou Café
For fine dining in the theater district, The Bijou Café has been serving French and American dishes since 1986. Open for dinner only, you can enjoy favorites like Lamb Shank with Truffle Risotto and Escargot, as well as a few new creations on occasion. With such a pretty patio and so much greenery, this spot is perfect for date night, followed by a show!
Ophelia’s on the Bay
Our most memorable meal of the trip was definitely at Ophelia’s on the Bay. Just south of Siesta Key, this elegant spot sits on the waterfront offering amazing sunset views. Though it is another seafood focused restaurant, but we found the dishes and cocktails to be creative, especially the Macadamia Crusted Mahi with Sriracha Potatoes. If you want a special dinner with a view nice enough to match it, this is definitely the place to visit!
One of the best places to get Peruvian food in the area is the chic Selva Grill. Not only do they make authentic dishes like Ceviche and Arroz Con Pato, but there is also a selection of fusion dishes to order. For those wanting a distinctive dinner with food you can’t get anywhere else, I encourage you to visit Selva Grill!
Another sophisticated spot that can be enjoyed by young and old is Mediterraneo This is one of the best Italian Sarasota Restaurants as you can order all the Italian classics with a modern twist. Entrees like Spicy Tomato Shrimp on Black Linguine and Chicken with Grilled Brie and Balsamic. There is even a wood oven making a over a dozen types of pizzas for those wanting a cheaper meal. Mediterraneo has something for everyone for lunch and dinner!
Chaz 51 Steakhouse
For those who love a good steak, you can’t miss Chef Charles’ Chaz 51. This black-owned restaurant is located inland, but worth it for getting a Filet Mignon or a Ribeye with a choice of six savory sauces. With most steak entrees being under $40, you can satisfy all your cravings for less or even try something new like a Filet Mignon Philly Cheese Steak! There are a few options for those wanting a meal without beef, but it is definitely hard to resist here.
Crab & Fin
Over in St. Armand’s Circle, another seafood spot worth visiting is Crab & Fin. This is a more classic option, with its appointed dining room and menu offering surf and turf. You will find it open for lunch and dinner, with cheaper lunch offerings like a Crab Cake Sandwich and a Shrimp Chimichanga and extravagant dinner dishes, including European Dover Sole. It checks every box for a necessary Florida seafood meal!
I have included this restaurant on my Tampa and St. Augustine restaurant guides as well, but it is worth mentioning the Columbia’s in Sarasota as well! This Florida chain serves Spanish cuisine throughout the sunshine state and is always a family favorite. Whether you get a plate of roast pork or share paella and appetizers around the table, the flavors alone with explain why this restaurant has been around for over 100 years!
One last seafood spot I have to mention is Antoine’s. It is quite different from other mentioned because of the influence of Belgian and French cooking in the dishes. Here you can get mussels served 10 different ways, which I have not seen anywhere else, as well as Steak Tartare and even a blue cheese waffle appetizer! Though it’s strip mall appearance may seem unassuming, the intimate dining room inside and the chef’s culinary expertise make for an unforgettable upscale meal.
Know Before You Go: Best Sarasota Restaurants
I hope this guide helps you figure out which Sarasota restaurants to eat at! Whether you are a local or a tourist, there are so many delicious places to explore in the area. Best of all, you can support local businesses, while enjoying some regional cooking. Here are a few tips for making your meal in Sarasota even better.
- It is customary to tip 20% in Sarasota and most restaurants do not include this in the final bill, unless you have a large party.
- A lot of restaurants do not take reservations, so there can be a wait. A few here take them on Open Table, so be sure to check beforehand.
- The best way to save money in Sarasota when going out to eat is to go during Happy Hour, when many places have deals on drinks and appetizers.
- Dress codes vary, but for the upscale restaurants on the list, I would err on the dress to impress side.
- Most restaurants in the area have free parking, but if you plan to enjoy drinks with your meal, taking an Uber/Lyft is safe and convenient.
- Support Black-Owned Restaurants! Black-Owned restaurants included in this list are: Chaz 51, Rodney’s Jamaican Grill, Stroke’s Seafood, G’s Southern Kitchen and Perry’s Roadside BBQ.
Did any of your favorite Sarasota Restaurants make the list? Let me know if I missed any! For more nearby restaurant guides, be sure to check out my posts for the best restaurants in Tampa and Orlando.