I love making lists. Mostly lists of my favorite restaurants in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Over the past two months, for example, I’ve compiled lists of the best barbecue restaurants, the best hotel restaurants, and the best burger restaurants.
I also like to read restaurant listings. Email me a link to a list of restaurants with even a slightly tempting title and, chances are, I’ll click. The other day I found this in my inbox: “15 Best Seafood Restaurants in Florida.”
Published last month by travel website Trips To Discover, more than a quarter of the restaurants on the list are in Sarasota and Manatee counties and they are all among my local favorites. In fact, three of them are featured in my annual article on the best places to eat crab in Florida. (Mark your calendar, the popular crustacean returns to menus October 15.)
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Trips To Discover wisely starts its list with an iconic spot in Manatee County, although they completely lost me recommending “Wild Alaskan Salmon” at a restaurant that has its own fleet of boats carrying fresh fish from Florida! So, yeah, I disagree with the whole article. But I’m glad the author picked out four local restaurants that are definitely worth recommending. Here they are:
12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez; 941-794-1243; starfishcompany.com
One of Manatee County’s most famous restaurants, Star Fish Co. places diners right on the docks where you can enjoy an incredible meal while watching the commercial fishing boats return to the AP Bell Seafood Distributor next door . Founded in 1940, AP Bell supplies fresh seafood to Star Fish, which also has an adjacent market, as well as various other local and international restaurants and businesses. It’s run by Karen Bell, who opened Star Fish in the 90s and is also co-owner of Tide Tables, also located on the water in Cortez.
Keep reading on Star Fish:And more of the best waterfront restaurants in Cortez Village
Walt’s Fish Market
4144 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-921-4605, waltsfishmarketrestaurant.com
Here is a life hack worth considering. When trying to choose a seafood restaurant to spend what will likely be a large chunk of your hard-earned cash (or perhaps your loved one’s hard-earned cash), consider going straight to the source or as close to the source as possible. without having to catch it, clean it and prepare it. Find a fish market. One that offers some kind of dining room, and if you’re really lucky, a full bar. Similar to Star Fish Co. in Manatee County, the most famous of these options in Sarasota is Walt’s Fish Market Restaurant & Tiki Bar, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018. Yes, choose a seafood vendor with a century of experience is also wise.
Continue reading:My Restaurant Review 2021 at Walt’s Fish Market Restaurant & Tiki Bar
Waterfront grill in drydock
412 Gulf Of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key; 941-383-0102, drydockwaterfrontgrill.com
I first declared my love for Dry Dock’s grouper sandwich, at least publicly, with a column in 2015: “…Dry Dock just might serve up the best grouper sandwich in Southwest Florida. Seriously, think about that next time you’re having city-dwelling entertainment.” So, yes, about eight months after my review was published, Dry Dock was sold. Gecko’s Hospitality Group has purchased Longboat Key’s waterfront gem, which overlooks Sarasota Bay, from longtime owners Eric and Cindy Hammersand. Thankfully, new owners Mike Quillen and Mike Gowan have done very little to change the local landmark that opened in 1989. And this grouper sandwich is still excellent.
Continue reading:My Review of Dry Dock Waterfront Grill Restaurant 2021
Owen’s Fishing Camp
516 Burns Court, Sarasota; 941-951-6936, Owensfishcamp.com
The Caragiulo brothers are among Sarasota-Manatee’s most renowned restaurateurs thanks to their family’s Italian-American restaurant Caragiulo that opened in 1989 on Palm Avenue in downtown Sarasota and a host of others over the years, including the most famous, Owen’s Fish Camp, nearby. Opened in 2010 and located at 516 Burns Lane, this fabulous Old Florida seafood joint occupies a 1920s fishing lodge built by Owen Burns, one of Sarasota’s most prominent developers. A mecca for fresh local catch as well as lobster and other New England favorites, the Caragiulos have announced plans to open a second Owen’s Fish Camp, which will be in the new Center Point neighborhood of Lakewood Ranch. .
In addition to the four restaurants in Sarasota and Manatee, the Trips To Discover list included restaurants in Flagler Beach, Titusville, Key West, Panama City, St. Augustine, Apalachicola, Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola, Atlantic Beach and two in Destin.
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Wade Tatangelo is the dining and entertainment editor of the Herald-Tribune and oversees the weekly publication of Ticket. He is also the author of the Best Things to Eat and Top Things to Do columns and co-lead of USA Today Network’s Uniquely Florida team which creates statewide content. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and instagram. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Support local journalism by subscribing.