I love making lists. Especially lists about my favorite restaurants in Sarasota and Manatee counties. During the past couple of months, for instance, I’ve produced lists of the best barbecue restaurants, best hotel restaurants, and best restaurants for burgers.
I also love reading lists about restaurants. Email me a link to a dining listicle with even a mildly tempting headline and, chances are, I will click. The other day, I found this one in my inbox: “15 Best Seafood Restaurants in Florida.”
Published last month by the travel website Trips To Discover, more than a quarter of the restaurants on the list are found in Sarasota and Manatee counties and they all happen to be among my local favorites. In fact, three of them are featured in my annual story on the best places to eat Florida stone crab. (Mark your calendar, the popular crustacean returns to menus on Oct. 15.)
Restaurant reviews: The best things to eat in Sarasota and Bradenton area, July 20-26
Trips To Discover wisely starts their list with an iconic spot in Manatee County, although they completely lost me by recommending “Wild Alaskan Salmon” at a restaurant that has its own fleet of boats hauling in fresh Florida fish! So, yeah, I don’t agree with the entire article. But I am glad the author chose four local restaurants that are totally worth recommending. Here they are:
Star Fish Company
12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez; 941-794-1243; starfishcompany.com
One of the most famous restaurants in Manatee County, Star Fish Co. places diners right on the docks where you can enjoy an amazing meal while watching commercial fishing boats return to A.P. Bell seafood distributor next door. Established in 1940, A.P. Bell supplies fresh seafood to Star Fish, which also has an adjacent market, and various other local, as well as 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, which is also located on the water in Cortez.
Continue reading about Star Fish: And more of the best waterfront restaurants in Cortez Village
Best waterfront restaurants in Sarasota: And what to eat, drink there!
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Walt’s Fish Market
4144 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-921-4605, waltsfishmarketrestaurant.com
Here’s a life hack worth considering. When trying to decide on a seafood restaurant to spend what will likely be a large amount of your hard-earned money (or perhaps your significant other’s hard-earned money), consider going straight to the source, or as close to the source as possible without having to actually catch, clean and prepare it. Find a fish market. One that offers some sort of dining area, and if you’re truly fortunate 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 100-year anniversary in 2018. Yes, choosing a seafood purveyor with a century of experience is also wise.
Continue reading: My 2021 restaurant review of Walt’s Fish Market Restaurant & Tiki Bar
Dry Dock Waterfront Grill
412 Gulf Of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key; 941-383-0102, drydockwaterfrontgrill.com
I first declared my love for Dry Dock’s grouper sandwich, publicly at least, with a column in 2015: “…Dry Dock might just serve the best grouper sandwich in Southwest Florida. Seriously, think about that the next time you are entertaining out-of-towners.” So, yeah, about eight months after my review ran, Dry Dock was sold. Gecko’s Hospitality Group bought the waterfront gem on Longboat Key, which overlooks Sarasota Bay, from longtime owners Eric and Cindy Hammersand. Luckily, new owners Mike Quillen and Mike Gowan have done very little to change the local landmark that opened in 1989. And that grouper sandwich is still excellent.
Continue reading: My 2021 restaurant review of Dry Dock Waterfront Grill
Owen’s Fish 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 Caragiulo’s Italian American restaurant open since 1989 on Palm Avenue in downtown Sarasota and a multitude of others over the years including most famously the nearby Owen’s Fish Camp. Opened in 2010 and located at 516 Burns Lane, this fabulous Old Florida seafood joint occupies a 1920s fishing cottage constructed by Owen Burns, one of Sarasota’s most important developers. A top spot for fresh local catches as well as lobster and other New England faves, the Caragiulos have announced plans to open a second Owen’s Fish Camp, which will be in Lakewood Ranch’s new Center Point district.
In addition to the four restaurants from Sarasota and Manatee, the Trips To Discover list included eateries from 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 Herald-Tribune’s dining and entertainment editor overseeing the weekly Ticket publication. He’s also author of the Best Things to Eat and Top Things to Do columns and co-leader of USA Today Network’s Uniquely Florida team creating statewide content. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. He may be reached by email at [email protected] Support local journalism by subscribing.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: 4 seafood restaurants in Sarasota, Bradenton named ‘best in Florida’