What are the best Sarasota food experiences?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Jessi Smith

1. Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market. Sarasota’s downtown farmers market is a long-standing local tradition with humble beginnings dating back to 1979. Today, farmers market vendors fill several city blocks along the central artery of downtown Sarasota each Saturday with fresh, locally grown produce, pastas, plants, confections, beauty products, art and more. It’s not unusual to catch chefs from local restaurants perusing the market early in the morning for ingredients for daily specials — and the friendly vendors are generous with the samples. Because of Sarasota’s year-round warmth, the Pop Craft gourmet popsicle cart, featuring refreshing and adventurous flavors like pineapple-cilantro and white-balsamic-fig, is one of the most popular stops in the market.

2. A taste of Southern hospitality at Nancy’s BBQ. There is no such thing as bad barbecue — only good barbecue and finger licking good barbecue. The fare at Nancy’s BBQ in downtown Sarasota happens to be the latter, and the superb atmosphere simply sweetens the sauce. The building that houses the restaurant was an oil filling station and garage in a former life, and today the barbecue joint retains the mid-century filling station’s retro charm — it just happens to have a massive smokehouse in the back, full of delicious pork and chicken. On any given day, it isn’t unusual to find rib maestro Nancy Krohngold herself behind the counter, serving up fast, casual barbecue bites with a smile in this popular neighborhood gem.

3. Waterside brews and brats at the Old Salty Dog. When it comes to casual waterside snacking and drinking, Old Salty Dog has perfected an art form. The family-friendly pub has been a local staple since it first opened its doors in 1986 and it provides some of the finest waterside views in Sarasota paired with a casual menu that’s perfect for snacking. Of course you must sample the restaurant’s signature menu item, the famous “Salty Dog” — a beer-battered, deep-fried hot dog that was featured on Travel Channel’s Man v. Food. Feel free to bring your pooch along on this family outing — the outdoor patio is, of course, friendly to even the oldest and saltiest of dogs.

4. Brunch at Station 400. Start your day on the right track with brunch at Station 400, the popular breakfast and lunch bistro housed inside a 150-year-old train depot in downtown Sarasota’s Rosemary District. The original depot stood in Kentland, Indiana, and was disassembled, transported and reassembled in Sarasota as a French-inspired bistro, best known for its mouthwatering pancakes — the strawberry-lavender pancakes with strawberry butter and vanilla bean syrup, for instance — and its signature croque madame sandwiches. Seating is available inside the Station as well as on the shaded, charming patio, which is reminiscent of a Parisian café.

5. Live music and Southern grub at The Blue Rooster. When Station 400 closes its doors after lunchtime, The Blue Rooster, housed in a warehouse next door, kicks its raucous act into motion. The restaurant serves up comfort food, draught beers and a nightly entertainment schedule that features local and regional musicians — primarily that of the blues, folk and bluegrass variety. The cocktails are also Southern-themed, like the traditional Jack Daniels Mint Julep and the Cajun Lemonade with Pimms No.1 and Tabasco. The interior space incorporates rustic elements, like weathered wood paneling and Americana-themed art, without sacrificing the urban industrial vibe created by the exposed brick walls of the warehouse and acoustic-enhancing 24-foot ceilings with exposed metal pipes. The comfort food is so heartily Southern, and the atmosphere so engaging, you may just forget there’s a delightful Parisian-style café next door during the daylight hours.

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