My current hometown of Sarasota, FL is chock-full of imaginative dining options featuring the creations of chefs, bakers, and mixologists from all over the world. Eating like a local, however, requires a bit more exploration into the nooks and crannies of this vibrant food town. Read on for my current list of local foodie hotspots.
Located on Ringling Blvd down the street from the Sarasota Police Department and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, the name Five-O is a reference to the “cops love doughnuts” stereotype. Featuring mock-brick paneling, exposed wood, farmhouse lights, and decorated with vintage police paraphernalia, Five-O is funky and fun.
I stopped in with my daughter who raved about Five-O’s donuts and I felt like I had walked into a sugar fantasy. The delicious aromas, the artful combinations of flavors, the baker shouting out what her next concoction would be as she disappeared into the kitchen, all made for a delicious start to a Sunday morning. They were sold out of the strawberry shortcake donut and made me a special one on the spot. How’s that for customer service? Whether your pleasure is a Coconut Cream Long John, a Nutella and Marshmallow Fluff Filled Yeast S’more, or a Peanut Butter Cream Filled, Chocolate Iced Creation Covered In Potato Chips. Five-O has you covered for a morning sugar buzz like no other.
Famous for its modern oyster bar and classic supper club ambience, Veronica is adorned with whimsical paintings of the woman made famous by the Elvis Costello song about a heartbroken gal who lost her lover at sea. Now open for brunch, you can still enjoy the restaurant’s delectable seafood, as well as everything from Chicken and Crawfish Gumbo to Bananas Foster French Toast. I opted for the Avocado and Burrata Toast and it was to die for!
Located at the Boathouse Marina on the south end of Longboat Key, the Dry Dock is a local favorite and known to serve one of the best grouper sandwiches on Florida’s West Coast. Minutes from several area attractions, including Mote Marine Aquarium, the upscale shopping mecca of St. Armand’s Circle, and downtown Sarasota, the Dry Dock is a casual oasis just steps from the water with stunning views of Sarasota Bay. Manatees are frequently spotted lolling around the docks and sea birds stroll casually about the grounds. Three wet slips are available should you come by boat and dogs are welcome outside provided you have a travel carrier at your table. We dined at the Dry Dock on Mother’s Day and the bloody’s and lobster rolls were fabulous!
Known as a “whole foods, locals restaurant”, Simon’s is a casual breakfast and lunch spot set in an unobtrusive strip mall on Highway 41 between downtown Sarasota and Palmer Ranch. The perfect solution for the health conscious who don’t want to sacrifice tasty, flavorful meals, Simon’s offers daily specials, vegan and raw food menu items, and a host of soups and desserts. The portions are generous and the options creative and delicious. I highly recommend the Tex Mex Vegetarian Burger in a panini with their special mayo, the West Coast Breakfast Sarnie (above), and the Berry Crumble served with cream (below).
Celebrating old Florida Charm with a modern twist, The Cottage on Siesta Key is the ultimate spot for foodies seeking innovative cocktails and inventive cuisine from around the world while relaxing in a laid-back island setting. My local friends know this is one of my favorite spots and I always bring out-of-town guests here. It’s a fun, unpretentious place to be a regular while also appealing to tourists with its tropical vibe, funky backyard patio with live music, and excellent fare. Once you go, you will return again and again.
Located across the street from Lucky’s Market on Siesta Drive in downtown Sarasota, Baker & Wife is comfortable, casual, and features high quality handcrafted cuisine and cocktails in an earthy, organic setting. Considered an American restaurant, mouth-watering menu items include Chargilled Octopus, Oven Roasted Black Grouper, and a savory Pesto Orecchiette pasta dish. Save room for dessert, though. I ordered the Baker’s Banofee (above), a house made banana pudding creation with caramel, chocolate, Chantilly cream, pecan and graham cracker crumbs – sinful!
A relative newcomer to Sarasota, Napule is a family-owned authentic Italian restaurant on Hightway 41 between Palmer Ranch and Osprey. From its unique open-air dining loft on the second floor, guests can gaze down at the enormous gold pizza oven, kitchen, and bar while they sip and nosh. The Salmone Alla Griglia (above), grilled Faroe Island salmon with mashed potato and sauteed spinach with pine nuts, was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The menu is well-rounded with an extensive variety of salads, cured meats and cheeses, antipasti, meat and fish entries, pizzas, and homemade breads and desserts. I can’t wait to go back to this one!