After an amazing four days exploring St.Petersburg restaurants it was time to move onto Sarasota restaurants, which is less than an hour away but with a distinctly different vibe, which I like because I think people (including myself) wrongly assume Florida is homogeneous.
Sarasota doesn’t look like St.Petersburg the historic downtown is beautifully preserved and as I parked in Pineapple Square next to Whole Foods – across from Sur la Table it just had a golden California vibe.
Sarasota doesn’t have the artistic edge of St. Petersburg and is a bit more refined. Outside the historic downtown it feels more like suburban living. It’s not surprising that there are many retirees living here and families that visit.
Unfortunately I had less than 24 hours to explore the city. So I wasn’t able to really dig into the city but the 24 hours. But I did have a really lovely time discovering a few Sarasota restaurants.
Best Sarasota Restaurants
A European style outdoor cafe with a tiki vibe, while Mattison’s is open for dinner it’s most popular during the evening for happy hour and live music. The menu feature casual options of classics like crab cakes and deep fried calamari but I’d opt for the wood fired oven pizza.
What’s most interesting about Mattison’s is the commitment to supporting responsibly raised meat. While it may not be local (Florida isn’t known for quality beef) Mattison’s distributor buy from a co-op of small family ranchers in Iowa that could not compete on a large scale.
It’s not something they preach but you can feel good about supporting small farmers when you order happy hour sliders.
Visiting Sweetgrass Farms
This new family owned aquaponics farm is working with NASA to study which vegetables could be grown in the International Space Station.
I learned a bit about aquaponics in Maui but was surprised to hear on a larger scale aquaponic farming actually uses only 10% of the water used in traditional farming and may be considered better and more safe than organically grown produce.
As for taste you can make that decision on your own at the farmers market.
Overwhelmingly the biggest recommendation when I asked where to eat in Sarasota on Facebook and Instagram. Owen’s is kitschy, cute and everything you want on vacation. But it’s also a bit pricey and I think may just be a tourist joint.
My fish was perfectly cooked but I knew if I spent more time in Sarasota I could find a great seafood restaurant with a better price point – ideally that focused on sustainable seafood.
Dinner at MADE
A transplant from Dallas, Chef Mark Woodruff may not have an extensive culinary background but he’s moving Sarasota restaurants in the right direction with modern takes on American classics.
MADE is well known for brunch (get a reservation) but I really enjoyed dinner. Chef Mark’s memories of his mom making creamed corn inspired his scallops with corn “risotto.” Like his staff, Chef Mark is personable, sincere and passionate about food.
There’s an extensive drink list for adults but MADE is also family friendly with sundaes for kids. Overall MADE is a great option for family or groups traveling. It’s common to have picky guests in a group. But MADE has lots of pork options. And who doesn’t want bacon and nutella brioche bread pudding?
Best Sarasota Restaurants I Missed
Indigenous – Chef Steve Phelps once worked at Mattison’s and I really wanted to try his food which focuses on local. I just couldn’t fit in a second dinner after I waddled home from MADE.
Chianti – Recommended by Chef Mark, you may see him there on his day off.
Pangea Lounge – a cocktail bar/speakeasy hidden in the back of a sandwich shop. You won’t find tourists here but you may find cooks and servers after their shift.
Where to Stay in Sarasota
Sarasota is known to be on the pricier side, which is a shame as it’s a great family destination with the beach so close by. Hotel Ranola is a fantastic option as it is a former apartment building turned into hotel rooms with a kitchenette and feels like a boutique hostel or BnB.
Located in the historic centre it’s a fraction of the price of any other hotel around.
If you’ve been to Sarasota and I’ve missed a great local gem please let me know in the comments below!