There is a certain type of restaurant that we locals take for granted, the kind of place that may not have the best food or the most intimate atmosphere, but serves a unique purpose in our much-visited area. These are restaurants that are perfect to take tourists to because they evoke a sense of what people expect from a trip to Florida. They’re also great places to visit if you want to recapture that feeling that brought you to the area, to feel like a tourist in your own backyard. Here are our picks for some of the best restaurants to take tourists to.
If we missed your favorite, tell us in the comments section below why your tourist spot deserves a place on the list.
6600 Gulf Dr., Holmes Beach, 778-6444, beachbistro.com
With a beach that rolls up right to the wall of windows facing west, waves crashing just a few dozen feet away and some of the best food at any restaurant in the area, Beach Bistro is the luxury beachfront dining destination.
200 Gulf Dr. N., Bradenton Beach, 779-2222, beachhouse.groupersandwich.com
With white sand stretching out to the Gulf of Mexico straight from the BeachHouse’s outdoor dining area, you can dip your toes in while downing cocktails and seafood.
Blue Marlin Grill
121 Bridge St., Anna Maria, 896-9737, bluemarlinami.com
Tucked into a bright blue old-Florida cottage on Anna Maria’s historic Bridge Street, Blue Marlin has an airy and bright fish-house vibe and some of the freshest seafood around.
Casey Key Fish House
801 Blackburn Point Road, Osprey, 966-1901, caseykeyfishhouse.com
Situated on a spit of land between Osprey and Casey Key, Casey Key Fish House is almost surrounded by the intracoastal waterway, with many pulling up in their boats to enjoy the tiki bar or dining room.
411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, 388-3987, columbiarestaurant.com
This tried-and-true spot on St. Armands captures the feel of the Circle, with a menu that reminds everyone of the influence of Cuban immigrants to Florida.
4528 119th St. W., Cortez, 798-9404, thecortezkitchen.com
With a massive wood deck suspended above a quiet inlet, Cortez Kitchen serves the seafood this fishing village is famous for with a view of tangled mangroves and nesting birds.
Crab Trap II
4815 Memphis Road, Ellenton, 729-7777, crabtrap2.weebly.com
A rambling wood structure that’s been added to a half-dozen times over the years, the inside of Crab Trap II is an explosion of quirky and kitschy Florida decor.
1968 Tarpon Center Dr., Venice, 484-9551, crowsnest-venice.com
With excellent views of the intracoastal and a marina, Crow’s Nest combines a great location with an incredible wine program.
Gulf View Grill
2095 N. Beach Road, Englewood, 475-3500, thegulfviewgrill.com
Right across from Englewood Beach on Manasota Key, Gulf View Grill has served surf-and-turf fare with a side of spectacular sunset for almost three decades.
JR’s Old Packinghouse Cafe
987 S. Packinghouse Road, Sarasota, 371-9358, oldpackinghousecafe.com
Crammed into a former celery packing house, the OPC is a wood-paneled piece of Sarasota history, with the comfort food, kitsch and live country and folk music that completes the image.
7205 85th St. Court E., Bradenton, 755-2757, lingerlodgeresort.com
Called “one of the most unusual restaurants
in the world,” Linger Lodge is a temple to cracker Florida, complete with an incredible array of taxidermy and a menu that reads like a gustatory challenge.
Moore’s Stone Crab
800 Broadway St., Longboat Key, 383-1748, stonecrab.cc
Not only is it the place to get stone crab, thanks to the fleet of captains Moore’s works with, it has a great view of islands in Sarasota Bay.
New Pass Grill and Bait Shop
1505 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, 388-3050, newpassgrill.com
Packed with charm, there are few places like New Pass Grill, where you can watch the boats cruise through New Pass and catch a glimpse of dolphins swimming by while enjoying a killer burger or fish sandwich at a picnic table on the shell beach.
Ophelia’s On The Bay
9105 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key, 349-2212, opheliasonthebay.net
Easily one of the most romantic restaurants in the area, Ophelia’s charm lies in its back deck, which overlooks unspoiled mangrove islands in the intracoastal.
Owen’s Fish Camp
516 Burns Court, Sarasota, 951-6936, owensfishcamp.com
In a converted cottage in downtown Sarasota’s Burns Court area, Owen’s decor of nets, rods, reels and knick-knacks feels like it has accreted over decades, even though it only ope
ned a few years ago.
Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar
5353 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 925-4444, creekseafood.com
Sarasota’s original fish shack, Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar is a rambling palace of wood overlooking the creek, with the picnic tables and paper towel dispensers that signify a spot to get your hands dirty with seafood boils and peel-and-eat shrimp.
Pop's Sunset Grille
112 Circuit Road, Nokomis, 488-3177, popssunsetgrill.net
From dockside dining overlooking the intracoastal to outdoor tables featuring inset firepits in a shaded, plant-lined nook, Pop’s is a relaxing spot for cocktails and fresh seafood.
Rod and Reel
875 N. Shore Dr., Anna Maria, 778-1885
Incredible views of Tampa Bay from the far northern tip of Anna Maria Island, plus great casual seafood, make Rod and Reel a destination that’s worth the scenic drive.
Sharky’s On The Pier
1600 Harbor Dr. S., Venice, 488-1456, sharkysonthepier.com
Sharky’s is the quintessential Gulf-front restaurant, suspended high above the beach and featuring expansive views, with the sort of menu and cocktails that match the casual, beachy setting
465 John Rongling Blvd., Sarasota, 296-0301
It’s St. Armands’ modern dining spot, with coastal cuisine on the tables, Sarasota School elements in the design and a retractable roof that – sometimes – opens up to let the beautiful weather in.
Siesta Key Oyster Bar
5238 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key, 346-5443, skob.com
Although most of Siesta Key Village could fit on this list, SKOB has the cozy charm and menu to make it an ideal restaurant for tourists fresh from the beach.
5000 E. Venice Ave., Venice, 485-7221, snookhaven.com
Newly revitalized by the owners of Venice’s Sharky’s, Snook Haven has the ideal
location – on a peninsula that extends into the Myakka River – to give it that inland fish camp vibe.
Star Fish Company
12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, 794-1243, starfishcompany.com
Sit on the dock with a plate of fish that you know is fresh, because you can see the working fishing vessels unloading all around you.
8875 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key, 346-2207, turtlesrestaurant.com
For an island that draws tourists from around the world, Siesta Key has few spots to take in the waterfront scenery, like the incredible view of Little Sarasota Bay out the back of Turtles.
Woody’s River Roo
5717 18th St. E., Ellenton, 722-2391, woodysriverroo.com
Frequented by boaters, bikers and visitors, Woody’s location on a pastoral spot overlooking the Manatee River makes it a melting pot of people looking for simple seafood and a beautiful view.