The restaurants in this guide are organized geographically: in downtown Sarasota, in Southside Village (the city's hottest new dining scene), on St. Armands Key (next to Lido Key), on Longboat Key, and on Siesta Key.
In Downtown Sarasota
Downtown's best breakfast spot is the local branch of First Watch, 1395 Main St., at Central and Pineapple avenues (tel. 941/954-1395). Like its siblings in Naples and elsewhere, First Watch offers a wide variety of breakfast and lunch fare. It's open daily from 7:30am to 2:30pm. If the wait's too long, walk south along Central Avenue; this block has several coffeehouses and cafes with sidewalk seating.
In Southside Village
Sarasota's hottest dining area is Southside Village, centered on South Osprey Avenue between Hyde Park and Hillview streets, about 15 blocks south of downtown. Here you'll find several hip restaurants, including Fred's and Pacific Rim . The village landmark is Morton's Gourmet Market, 1924 S. Osprey Ave. (tel. 941/955-9856; www.mortonsmarket.com), which offers a multitude of deli items, sandwiches, salads, fresh pastries and desserts, and cooked meals dispensed from a cafeteria-style steam table. You can dine picnic-fashion at sidewalk tables. Most ready-to-go items cost less than $10. The market is open Monday through Saturday from 8am to 8pm, Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
On St. Armands Key
While locals are hanging out in Southside Village, part-year residents and visitors flock to St. Armands Circle. Plan to spend at least 1 evening here: The nighttime scene is like a fair, with everyone strolling around the circle, poking heads into the few stores that stay open after dark, and window-shopping the others. It's fun and safe, so come early and plan to stay late.
The circle has a branch of Tampa's famous Columbia Restaurant, between John Ringling Boulevard and John Ringling Parkway (tel. 941/388-3987). The Spanish food is excellent, there's outdoor seating, and the Patio Lounge is one of the liveliest spots for evening entertainment Thursday through Sunday. Like its sibling in Naples, the local edition of Tommy Bahama's Tropical Cafe, 300 John Ringling Blvd. (tel. 941/388-2446), draws a lively crowd of young professionals for its moderately priced seafood. It's upstairs over the Tommy Bahama's clothing store.
At dinner, you may wish to forgo an expensive dessert and wander over to the local branch of Kilwin's, 312 John Ringling Blvd. (tel. 941/388-3200), for some gourmet chocolate, Mackinac Island fudge, or ice cream or yogurt in a homemade waffle cone. Enjoy your sweets on one of the sidewalk park benches -- everyone else does.
On Siesta Key
Ocean Boulevard, which runs through Siesta Village, the area's funky, laid-back beach hangout, is lined with restaurants and pubs. Most have bars and outdoor seating, which attracts the beach crowd during the day. At night, rock-'n'-roll bands draw teens and college students to this lively scene.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.