Dining by the water adds another dimension to the meal — the meal becomes a little vacation in and of itself. While there are several waterfront restaurants in the greater Sarasota, Florida area, these three are my favorite. (And all are better than the non-waterfront Home of the TurDucKen.)
Anna Maria Island is about a 45-minute drive north of Sarasota, and this little island’s beachfront Sandbar Restaurant is the perfect excuse to go. It’s smack in the middle of the beach, so you can walk on the beach before or after (or during if you tire of your dining companions). This beach has similar talcum-powder sand to Siesta Key, which is a much closer beach to Sarasota but it lacks a beautiful beachfront restaurant. Our seafood meals were pretty good but not spectacular. It’s really all about the setting here, and that is spectacular. They were setting up for an outdoor wedding when we were there — gorgeous spot for a wedding!
Located south of Sarasota’s downtown on the Tamiami Trail, Phillippi Creek Village Restaurant has the best grouper sandwich (the local specialty) for miles. Get it grilled or blackened with fries. The coconut shrimp is also very tasty. This isn’t a fancy place — you wouldn’t want your wedding here — rather it’s a rowdy seafood joint with fun ocean-themed decor. Its creekside setting adds to the festive feel. If you plan to have dinner, make sure you come early enough to enjoy the magnificent sunset.
If Phillippi Creek could be called “old school”, then Casey Key Fish House is Old Florida. This restaurant is quaint, laidback and charming. The food quite good, too, although the grouper sandwich is better at Phillipi Creek. It’s about 15 minutes south of Phillippi Creek in a town called Osprey, and there are plenty of ospreys hanging around the restaurant. There’s a small beach and a dock, and the ospreys especially enjoy the fancy boats. They don’t seem so into the Tiki Bar, which can get a bit loud. That bar is one of the best ones in the area though.