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Where to Eat around Sarasota & the Barrier Islands: My Favorite Spots

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Sarasota area (especially around Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island) over the years and snacked around a fair bit (nothing pairs better with the beach than eating, right?), so here’s a little roundup of some places I’ve been to and liked plus some places that are on my list to try: 

Where to Eat in the Sarasota Area

Dry Dock Waterfront Grill: The #1 best meal of the trip by far. There aren’t too many restaurants on Longboat Key and there are fewer truly good ones, but I will come back here every time now. We lucked out with an amazing table so it felt like a private dining experience but overall this place is hopping! Definitely make reservations. I had the seafood pasta but absolutely everything everyone had looked amazing. 

Gulf Drive Cafe: We’ve been coming to this place for breakfast since it was a tiny little indoor restaurant and it has since expanded into a huge footprint which includes quite a few feet in the sand tables and a fun tiki bar area. They do breakfast, lunch, and dinner now but my childhood memories will forever include the most extravagant strawberry belgian waffles WITH ICE CREAM. 

Crab and Fin: I wanted to try a new place on St Armands Circle and this place didn’t disappoint. We had a large party so we were seated inside (if you’re a party of two definitely go for the sidewalk), but the food here was amazing. I’m not exaggerating…best crab cakes of my life.

Hometown Desserts: So many restaurants on Anna Maria Island serve desserts from this place, but I wanted to visit the shop myself. I opted for key lime pie (naturally) but my actual favorite was the key lime coconut CAKE. This place is right on Pine Avenue so if you’re out shopping, stop in for a slice or take one to go for later. 

Salty Dog Cafe: Another childhood favorite, we always liked the City Island location because it’s right next to the marina and there’s always a lot going on. Nothing fancy, but good food. 

First Watch: Yes, it’s since become a chain, but the original was in Sarasota and the food here is totally different. Healthy but hearty breakfast…a great stop if you’re heading into Sarasota for the day (to visit the Ringling maybe?).


Blue Dolphin Cafe: A great breakfast dive on St Armands Circle. It’s not a very big restaurant so go early or be prepared to wait. 

Beach House: The location and setting of this place is perrrrfect (so many of the tables are literally in the sand) but the food was just ok. They don’t take reservations and the wait gets pretty long. 

Chart House: I said earlier that there aren’t many great restaurants on Longboat Key, well…this is one. High end seafood with a view. Make reservations in advance. 

Columbia Restaurant:It’s become a local chain in Florida (the original was in Ybor City) but it started as one of Florida’s oldest restaurants and it’s Cuban food is pretty legendary. All locations are still owned and operated by 4th and 5th generation members of the founding family. 

Shore: I’ve been to the location in St. Armands Circle and it was super yummy, but there’s also one on Longboat Key that maybe has more beachy ambience. The good was excellent so it’s definitely on my list to try the Longboat one in the future. But if you’re shopping on the Circle, this is a great spot for lunch or dinner. It’s got a great balcony too. 

Restaurants on My List to Try

Anna Maria Island: Anna Maria Beach Cafe (breakfast and lunch, patio), Beach Bistro (romantic dinner), The Donut Experiment, Duffy’s Tavern (burgers), Ginny’s & Jane E’s (cinnamon rolls), Sandbar (feet in the sand dinner)

St Armands Circle: Cafe L’Europe

More posts about this area:

Siesta Key vs Anna Maria Island vs Longboat Key

Things to Do on Longboat Key

Where to Stay on Longboat Key

Things to Do on Anna Maria Island

The Ringling, Sarasota

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