Once dominated by a few restaurants, the dining scene in Sarasota, Florida, has exploded in recent years, thanks to a cadre of innovative chefs who are redefining the foodie scene. From farm-to-table menus pushing the culinary envelope to Southern-style comfort food, you will find something to your liking at one of these restaurants:
Servando’s features a “living” art wall in the dining room where different artists paint an ongoing mural, while customers dine on creative dishes, like paella and seafood cioppino. At the popular Chef’s Table, you can have a one-on-one experience with Chef Joe DiMaggio Jr. (yep, he’s related to the baseball legend). The table overlooks the kitchen, allowing for easy back and forth on cooking and other topics with the chef.
Located in the revitalized Rosemary District, Pomona Bistro is one of the best-kept local secrets, drawing everyone from Baltimore Orioles ball players here for spring training to local celebrities. Reminiscent of a European café, the restaurant is sophisticated and intimate. Standout dishes include branzino stuffed with onions, leeks, kale arugula, and mushrooms, or linguine with clams, mussels, squid and shrimp.
Southern-comfort food restaurant The Blue Rooster may be the liveliest eatery in town, thanks to its roster of live music, featuring local and regional singers belting out blues, soul and jazz. The house specialty is the fried chicken, with or without waffles, while the Lowcountry shrimp and grits is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. Looking for a different brunch experience? The Sunday Gospel Brunch Buffet features live music from local group Truality.
From Farm to Table
Seasonal farm-to-table cuisine and craft cocktails have made State Street Eating House + Lounge a dining favorite. The menu infuses ingredients from locally sourced artisan purveyors and the restaurant’s garden to create unique dishes such as grilled salmon with avocado and pickled blueberries. Located on the street that bears its name, the restaurant draws a power crowd of local movers and shakers. The sleek lounge, adorned in taxidermy and rich leathers, is a marquee hub for happy hour and known for its specialty cocktails.
Great food and live music meet at Mattison’s City Grille, located in the heart of downtown. This covered outdoor eatery serves brunch, lunch and dinner, with bar specials from 3-5 p.m. The varied New American menu ranges from an antipasto plate to meatloaf wrapped in Applewood smoked bacon to brick-oven pizzas available with a range of toppings. When the sun goes down, the music heats up with a mix of live jazz, rock and blues.
Boca Kitchen Bar & Market makes a statement with its industrial-designed interior and community table. Seasonal fresh ingredients sourced from local purveyors inspire a creative menu that ranges from sandwiches, salads and soups for lunch, to hearty dishes like braised short ribs and sweet potato gnocchi for dinner. For the adventurous diner, order the Chef’s Meal, which is sourced from the ingredients on hand that night and is never prepared the same way twice.
Down Home Barbecue
The signature red tractor outside signals the home of Nancy’s Bar-B-Q, a word-of-mouth favorite that serves mouthwatering North Carolina-style barbecue. It’s a family-friendly, casual joint with indoor and outdoor seating, where attorneys and construction workers sit side-by-side. Roll up your sleeves and dig into pulled pork, bone-in chicken and a host of classic and new school sides, from slow smoked baked beans with pork to edamame succotash.
Dinner and Drinks on the Water
Weekends in Sarasota are made for al fresco waterfront dining. The casual and laid back atmosphere at OLeary’s Tiki Bar and Grill packs in diners, who arrive by foot or boat for the burgers, local mahi mahi and tropical frozen drinks. Bring your four-legged friend and enjoy spectacular sunset views over the bay with live music. OLeary’s is also open for breakfast (starting at 8 a.m.) for anyone enjoying a morning stroll around Bayfront Park.