Florida’s West Coast has always spoken to me more than the East. It’s calmer, doesn’t take itself quite as seriously, and is a thousand times more charming. And if you’re searching for a culinary destination that will delight and surprise, Sarasota is where you’ll want to go. This coastal town beckons with stunning shoreline and an impressive roster of top-notch restaurants, craft breweries, and even a dairy farm. Discover more about what this surprising dining destination has to offer hungry travelers with this guide.
If you’re searching for approachable cuisine in a modern environment, consider heading to Jack Dusty’s. Although this restaurant is located inside the historically elegant Ritz-Carlton, it feels worlds apart from the stately hotel. As this restaurant does have waterfront views (you can sit outside when the weather’s good), I’d recommend any of the seafood dishes to remind of just where your food comes from. Go Southern with the hearty shrimp and grits, keep it simple with the fried oysters or enjoy the fresh market catch of the day. The cocktails here are creative and fun. A (literally) smoky bourbon-based drink blew me away. Order a libation here and prepare to be wowed.
Do you prefer to keep it low-key with cooking that tastes just like your grandmother made? Then head to Yoder’s Amish Restaurant. Since 1975, this spot has dished out country style dishes like fried chicken and meatloaf alongside its legendary pies. Even if you not that hungry, I’d recommend ordering a slice. They’re that good. The three-pie sampler will showcase a variety of different options. The decadent sweet-tooth quenching chocolate peanut butter was my personal favorite. A slice of key lime might be perfect for Florida though.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten path food experience, head to Dakin Dairy Farm. It’s about thirty minutes from Sarasota and worth the drive. Take a tour and see the cows, learn more about how Dakin takes care of the grass-fed livestock, feed the baby cows and take a hayride around this sweeping 1,000-acre sustainable farm. The cows here are grass fed, and it does make a difference. The chocolate milk at the on-site café was one of the freshest and sweetest drinks I’ve ever tasted, and I don’t even like chocolate milk.
Searching for an upscale restaurant in the heart of downtown Sarasota? Make your way to Bijou Café. The light-filled dining room comes complete with white table cloths and wicker chairs made for an elegant, yet there’s a laid-back atmosphere. Entrées are pricy, but worth every penny. I consumed some of the best crab cakes I’ve ever had at this spot. Crack into the crème brûlée if you’re craving dessert.
Artisanal beverages are all the rage now. And although many places market themselves as truly passionate about their craft, very few come close to capturing their love for the craft like Troy Roberts, founder of Drum Circle Distilling, a company that makes award-winning Siesta Key Rum. From the labels on the bottles to the products themselves, it’s evident in every bottle that comes out of here that the owner knows and love rum. His wedding ring is crafted out of the first bottle of rum he ever made. He uses real coconut shavings in his smooth and sweet coconut rum. Head here if you’re craving this costal liquor, head here for a tour and a drink.