Sarasota

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With more than 70 Zagat-rated eateries, Sarasota’s restaurants are a mecca for foodies who enjoy all the flavors of the world – from zesty Peruvian and authentic Italian to nouveau French and spicy Vietnamese. Maybe it’s the salt air, but we swear, even the burgers taste better here.

Top Restaurants in Sarasota

C’est la Vie

This classic French café is a must for homemade baguettes, croissants, and crepes (try tomato and leek), accompanied by a wake-me-up café au lait, before hitting the Saturday farmers’ market. Order a hearty breakfast or inhale the sweet goodness of all those fresh berry tarts, brioches, and raisin rolls. Return for lunch and sample the authentic croque-monsieur, an array of quiches, cheese plates, or more than a dozen salads.

1553 Main St., FL, 941-906-9575
Tags: budget | great value | french | bakery

Ceviche

At this Sarasota outpost of the Tampa original, patrons queue up outside for the obvious – ceviche – plus more than 100 authentic tapas inspired by the bars of Spain. Adding to the atmospheric four-floor restaurant’s mystique: a location within a vine-covered circa-1925 building and a rooftop bar that’s popular for happy hour sunsets.

1216 First St., FL, 941-952-1036, www.ceviche.com/3134
Tags: expensive | trendy | small plates | spanish

Euphemia Haye

An institution on Longboat Key for nearly 30 years, this locals’ favorite is like a welcome hug from home. One taste of the prime peppered steak in orange-brandy sauce or roast duckling filled with bread stuffing and you’ll know why. With its vine-woven walls and twinkling lights, the restaurant is the spot for romantic dinners. Venture upstairs to The Haye Loft’s Dessert Room and Lounge to enjoy any of a dozen confections – including award-winning apple walnut crumble pie – while sipping an espresso or cordial and listening to live music.

5540 Gulf of Mexico Dr., FL, 941-383-3633, www.euphemiahaye.com
Tags: expensive | american | smart splurge | local favorite | comfort food

J.R.’s Old Packinghouse Cafe

After they’ve finished wining and dining their way through Sarasota’s upper echelon, visiting foodies always seem to find their way to J.R.’s. Well away from downtown or any of the city’s touristy areas, this gem is the kind of place where the hat is passed to pay the band (bluegrass, blues, and acoustic folk) and pressed Cuban sandwiches and grouper reubens get word-of-mouth reviews.

987 South Packinghouse Dr., Off I-75 near Palmer Blvd., FL, 941-371-9358
Tags: budget | american | bar | southern

Libby’s Café + Bar

A skilled chef handles the complex and varied menu with considerable aplomb, delivering haute plates like deviled eggs with eco-friendly caviar and four-cheese pear tortellini juxtaposed with southern classics such as three-cheese biscuits and ale-battered grouper po’boy. Can’t decide? Trust the staff – they have happily tasted their way through most of the menu. The lively L-Bar offers daily drink and small-plate specials daily from 4 to 6pm.

1917 S. Osprey, FL, 941-487-7300, www.libbyscafebar.com
Tags: expensive | american | smart splurge | trendy | bar | comfort food

Lynches Pub & Grub

Sure, you could order everyday bar fare (think burgers and wings), but you know that old saying about Rome? And this locally owned Irish eatery has food that would make a green-blooded countryman proud: corned-beef and cabbage; smoked Irish salmon served with egg, cream cheese, capers, and onion; and Cork cottage pie (the Irish version of shepherd’s pie). Wash it all down with an authentic Black and Tan or a Shandy, a bubbly blend of Sprite and lager.

19B N. Blvd. of the Presidents, FL, 941-388-5550, www.lynchespub.com
Tags: moderate | pub | irish

Mattison’s City Grille

The large patio overlooking the intersection of Main St. and Lemon Ave. provides the best seats in – and out – of the house. Energetic music, offered nightly, is a fitting backdrop for this always-hopping eatery, open for three square meals a day. Choose from the bar menu of burgers and gourmet brick-oven pizzas or splurge on the pricier entrées like pan-roasted grouper with shrimp and crab or Australian rack of lamb.

1 North Lemon Ave., FL, 941-330-0440, www.mattisons.com/city_grille.cfm
Tags: family | moderate | american | great value | bar

New Pass Grill & Bait Shop

Regulars swear this alfresco-only restaurant/bait shop, a landmark since 1929, serves the best cheeseburgers in Florida. Paired with a cold one and the view of its namesake bridge, it comes pretty close. The grill, painted with an eye-catching mural, also serves a darn good egg sandwich, giving many anglers an energetic start to a day on the water.

1505 Ken Thompson Pkwy., FL, 941-388-3050, www.newpassgrill.com
Tags: family | budget | burgers

Ophelia’s on the Bay

With a hint of cognac and crème fraiche, the blue-crab bisque here may be the best you’ve ever tasted, and the setting, overlooking Little Sarasota Bay and flower gardens, combined with the gentle flow of water in a fountain and lily pond, kick the senses into overdrive. Seafood entrées always seem appropriate, but the restaurant, a favorite for celebrations and romance, does terra firma selections just as well – all easily enjoyed with a bottle of wine from the impressive cellar.

9105 Midnight Pass Rd., FL, 941-349-2212, www.opheliasonthebay.net
Tags: seafood | expensive | smart splurge

Pho Cali

This Vietnamese noodle house has a loyal local following, including many diners who visit several times a week. And with more than 125 menu items – everything from rice platters and noodle soup to Vietnamese pancakes and shrimp spring rolls – guests don’t have to repeat a meal for months. Choose from 20 daily specials priced under $8.50 before 2pm (and $9.50 thereafter). Forgo the domestic brands and order an apropos Vietnamese or Thai beer.

1578 Main St., FL, 941-955-2683, www.phocalisarasota.com
Tags: budget | local favorite | asian

Sangria Tapas Bar

The warm- and cold-plate tapas are best accompanied by Sangria’s namesake, available in red, white, rosé, and champagne. Eat inside – the cheerful red-and-gold décor is worthy of the Spanish-inspired menu – or people watch while dining alfresco. Splurge on two tapas plates per person and you’re still within a comfortable budget.

1532 Main St., FL, 941-955-8272, www.sangriatapasbar.com
Tags: family | moderate | great value | small plates | spanish

Selva Grill

This Peruvian eatery is known for its ceviche (nearly a dozen types, including octopus and beef) and entrées such as grilled duck served atop cilantro and green pea beer risotto, and whole fried snapper drizzled with lime-ginger sauce. Designer martinis fit the restaurant’s contemporary setting and Latin-inspired music. The popular lounge, bathed in changing light, attracts Sarasota 20-somethings and the not-so-tragically hip.

1345 Main St., FL, 941-362-4427, www.selvagrill.com
Tags: expensive | trendy | bar | peruvian

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