10 Best Waterfront Restaurants in Sarasota
Dry Dock Waterfront Grill on Longboat Key
Wade Tatangelo of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune breaks down the 10 Best Waterfront Restaurants in Sarasota. If you're looking for an amazing dining destination, read Wade's article below...
(Please note: This story was last updated earlier this year. Some menu items and other information might have changed.)
For this list of best waterfront restaurants for outdoor dining, we focused on our favorite places in the city of Sarasota including ones on City Island, Siesta Key, Lido Key and the Sarasota County side of Longboat Key. Menu suggestions are a mix of items we have enjoyed as well as recommendations by restaurant staff members.
The Boatyard Waterfront Bar and Grill
1500 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota; 941-921-6200; boatyardwaterfrontgrill.com
Overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway and south Siesta Key at the base of the Stickney Point Road bridge, The Boatyard offers dining rooms with interiors that open completely to the waterfront. Open for lunch and dinner, popular dishes include the honey soy Mahi tacos (topped with red onion and cilantro, drizzled with sriracha and wasabi creme and served with rice and beans), jambalaya (shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage and rice sauteed with celery, onion, tomatoes, green and red peppers in a mildly spicy Cajun broth) and the chicken or beef Island Nachos (tortilla chips smothered in cheese topped with pico de gallo, black bean salsa and house-made cilantro ranch).
Dry Dock Waterfront Grill
412 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key; 941-383- 0102; drydockwaterfrontgrill.com
Named one of the “100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America for 2019” by OpenTable, Dry Dock occupies a prime spot at the Boathouse marina on Longboat Key, providing panoramic views of Sarasota Bay. Open for lunch and dinner, popular menu items include the grouper sandwich (Florida Gulf red grouper on brioche bun), lobster rolls (two lobster rolls mixed with celery, onion, lettuce, tomato and mayo served on buttered New England frankfurter split rolls), and the Boathouse Burger (half pound U.S.D.A.-certified choice Angus chuck on brioche bun).
1111 Ritz Carlton Drive, Sarasota; 941-309-2266; facebook.com/jackdustysarasota
Offering waterfront seating on the first floor of the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Sarasota, Jack Dusty’s nautical-themed setting manages to be effortlessly trendy with a fun Florida feel. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, popular dishes include Sarasota cioppino (shrimp, bay scallops, middleneck clams, mussels, Gulf fish, orange peel, tomato broth, grilled baguette), Jack’s Original Shrimp & Grits (smoked shrimp, andouille sausage, white cheddar grits), and roasted grouper (sweet potato puree, coconut jasmine rice, local Siesta Key rum and golden raisin sauce). For lunch, Jack Dusty also serves an impressive blackened grouper sandwich with poblano aioli, green tomato, cucumber relish and arugula.
Lido Beach Resort Tiki Bar
700 Ben Franklin Drive, Sarasota; 941-388-2161; lidobeachresort.com
Not long before the pandemic began, Lido Beach Resort opened its Drift Kitchen & Bar featuring 180-degree, floor-to-ceiling views of the Gulf waters and Sarasota cityscape. Drift Kitchen, though, is on the eighth floor of the resort. For outdoor dining right on the sand, visit the resort’s eternally cool beachfront tiki bar. Open daily for lunch and dinner, popular menu items include the Maine lobster sliders (on a brioche roll), salads such as the Otter Key (artisan greens, seasonal berries, mandarin oranges, gorgonzola, toasted almonds, red onion, cherry tomato, mango vinaigrette; topped with blackened or grilled chicken, blackened or grilled salmon, fried or grilled shrimp), and the Signature Burger (grilled butcher’s blend beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, and choice of Swiss, American or cheddar, toasted brioche bun).
2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota; 941-3654232; marinajacks.com
Boasting the Blue Sunshine Patio that places diners right on Sarasota Bay next to the docked yachts as well as the second-floor dining room with waterfront window views plus The Deep Six Lounge (also with outdoor waterfront seating), Marina Jack offers both upscale and casual drinking and dining experiences on downtown Sarasota’s bayfront. Popular dishes include the grilled grouper or grouper Reuben sandwich (grouper, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing on grilled marble rye), potato-crusted grouper (baked Gulf black grouper with a crispy potato crust topped with horseradish beurre blanc) and baked oysters Rockefeller (oysters with Pernod and spinach topping, finished with hollandaise sauce and parmesan cheese).
Old Salty Dog
1601 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota; 941-388-4311; theoldsaltydog.com
The Old Salty Dog on City Island
Located on City Island overlooking the New Pass Inlet, Old Salty Dog is featured in a classic episode of “Man v. Food” as well as at least one episode of MTV’s reality show “Siesta Key.” Open Monday through Thursday for lunch and dinner and starting at 7 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday for breakfast, too; popular menu items include the must-try Loaded Salty Dog featured on “Man v. Food.” It’s a quarter-pound hot dog dipped in batter and fried to a golden brown and topped with sauerkraut, bacon, grilled onion and mushrooms, American, cheddar, pepper jack and Swiss cheese. Other popular dishes are the peel and eat shrimp tossed in garlic butter and Old Bay, and the steam pots made to order with a half-pound of Gulf shrimp, one pound of PEI mussels, one pound of snow crab legs, fresh andouille sausage, corn, potatoes, onion and celery.
O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill
5 Bayfront Drive, Sarasota; 941-9537505; olearystikibar.com
A tropical getaway located on Bayfront Park in the shadows of downtown Sarasota’s condo canyons, O’Leary’s is the charmingly casual and funky tiki bar and sister restaurant of Marina Jack. Open daily starting at 8 a.m., you can’t really go wrong pairing one of their burgers (blue cheese and bacon, swiss and mushroom, bacon and cheese, “The Works” with mushrooms, bacon and cheese or a vegetarian burger) with one of their margaritas while enjoying one of the daily live music acts, which might just be doing one of those Jimmy Buffett songs about cheeseburgers in paradise or wastin’ away again with a margarita or three.
Ophelia’s on the Bay
9105 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota; 941-349-2212; opheliasonthebay.net
Featuring outside patio seating – plus two glass-walled dining rooms – right on Little Sarasota Bay, Ophelia’s has been a popular destination for romantic waterfront dining since opening in 1988. While the newly printed menus change nightly, hours are 5-10 p.m., recent entrees that should whet your appetite include the Sashimi Grade Yellowfin Tuna Loin (flash blackened tataki, mango and Peruvian pearl relish, Key lime sweet chili, spicy mayo, sweet soy, wakame salad, tempura crispies, chilled shrimp and green tea noodle salad). There are also equally enticing grouper and red snapper entrees recently posted as well as filet mignon, veal, lamb, pork and sous vide Peking duckling with blueberry chutney and brown butter potato gnocchi.
Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar
5353 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941925-4444; creekseafood.com
If you’re seeking a place with a fun Old Florida feel, check out Phillippi Creek, the restaurant founded in 1978 about four miles south of downtown Sarasota on its namesake waterway. Open daily for lunch and dinner, popular menu items are Creek Combo Pots (each pot contains two dozens unshucked steamed oysters, half-pound peel and eat shrimp, two ears fresh corn on the cob, onions and celery, and fresh baked garlic bread), stuffed grouper (shrimp, scallops and blue crab stuffing) and seafood paella (baby Maine lobster, shrimp, mussels, calamari, andouille sausage). Of course, fresh oysters on the half shell and a cold beer are always a great combo, too.
Turtles on Little Sarasota Bay
8875 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota; 941-346-2207; turtlesrestaurant.com
Coconut palms and parakeets set the tropical scene for this laid-back dining destination on south Siesta Key overlooking Little Sarasota Bay, which has been welcoming locals and tourists alike since 1986. Open daily for lunch and dinner, favorite menu items include the grilled grouper filet, coconut-crusted Mahi Mahi, and Turtle Salad with grilled shrimp. The restaurant also continues to offer its popular three-course meal specials including the Surf and Turf (fresh grilled Mahi Mahi topped with mango kiwi salsa and a half rack of barbecue ribs).
Wade Tatangelo is the Herald-Tribune’s entertainment editor.
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