Updated: March 2018
The Best Sarasota Restaurants | Downtown
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Bijou Cafe
Bijou is more than a restaurant It’s really a downtown culinary institution. Sure, there are lots and lots of places in Downtown Sarasota to enjoy a delicious meal in a comfortable atmosphere. But, Bijou has this experience down. Super attentive service is the norm here. From time to time you can enjoy a special wine dinner or some other themed dining event. If you can make one, you should do it. If not, the everyday Bijou Cafe still shines bright.
Bijou Cafe | 1287 First St. | 941-366-8111 | Bijou’s Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Boca Kitchen + Market
Light, bright and super lively. Welcome to Boca Kitchen. They brand themselves as “farm to table”. And, you’ll see that reflected in the menu for sure. It’s not a huge, overwhelming menu which can be intimidating in a lot of places. They feature a “staff meal” which is usually a very reasonably priced, comfort food type of dish. Busy, adult bar/happy hour scene. Try the skirt steak that’s really great. Not a ton of beer choices. But, they do have a nice, but, small wine selection.
Boca Kitchen | 21 S. Lemon Ave. | 941-256-3565 | Boca’s Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Brick’s Smoked Meats
Yes, Sarasota does a damn good job with BBQ. And, Brick’s is just another example of that. Their USDA prime brisket is off the charts great. A nice peppery char and a moist and juicy texture. Bacon burnt ends tacos deliver a super rich tasty mouthful. Try a jalapeno cheddar smoked sausage! This place is casual (as you would expect from BBQ). If you’re solo, you can grab a seat at the bar, eat some BBQ, enjoy a delicious local craft beer and check out a game on TV.
Brick’s Smoked Meats | 1528 State St. | 941-993-1435 | Brick’s Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Cafe Epicure
This is a great place to go after a show at the Van Wezel. You can grab a delicious artisan pizza and the experience seems effortless. Be careful! They will ticket you for parking in the “Taxi Stand”. The pizza is the star of the show here as far as I’m concerned. They offer a big selection of other Italian dishes. But, it’s the pizza that keeps me coming back.
Cafe Epicure | 1298 N. Palm Ave. | 941-366-5648 | Cafe Epicure Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | C’est La Vie!
C’est La Vie! has all of the charm and ambiance of a Parisian cafe. Well, as much as you can get and still be in Sarasota Florida, I’ll concede that point. Fresh baked breads line the walls behind the counter. Customers sit at outside tables (with dogs of course) and sip lattes and fill up on baguette sandwiches and delicious crepes. As you would expect, the owners are French. So, you get the accents too! This place is always busy. Breakfast and lunch only. Locals love it and curious visitors have made it a regular stop. Lolita Tartine on 5th St. (north of Fruitville Rd.) has the same owner.
C’est La Vie! | 1553 Main St. | 941-906-9575 | C’est La Vie Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Duval’s
A downtown Sarasota restaurant that you don’t even have to drive yourself to or from. Now that is a check mark in the plus column. I mean with all of the crazy downtown parking problems, a private van to drop you at the door is a BIG deal. Especially in season. Duval’s has re-invented itself a couple of times since they opened their doors. That’s a good thing, the changes they’ve made have been super positive. They serve well thought out and executed seafood dishes and they have both Happy Hour and late night menus.
Duval’s | 1435 Main St. | 941-312-4001 | Duval’s Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Main Bar Sandwich Shop
The Main Bar Sandwich Shop has been creating and selling sandwiches here in Sarasota for nearly 60 years. Yes, 60 years! In a world where a restaurant has a five year life expectancy, sixty years is an achievement! Is there a reason for Main Bar’s longevity? What do you think? They serve a ton of sandwiches. And, crazy as this may sound every one I have ever eaten has been delicious. Of course the Famous Italian is their calling card. But, really any choice is a good one here. Lunch only, no reservations (be prepared to wait), parking can be tough. Oh, they have fantastic soups too!
Main Bar Sandwich Shop | 1944 Main St. | 941-955-8733 | Main Bar Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Mediterraneo
I know that Mediterraneo is the answer to the question, “Where should we eat before (or after) the movie?“. But, it is really so much more than that. Yes, they have pretty great pizza. Like Epicure this isn’t Chicago or NY pizza. It’s Italian artisan pizza. They have a full on menu of delicious Italian specialties that shouldn’t be overlooked. At least a dozen great pasta dishes and lots of seafood and meat options. For sure you can go there ahead of the feature film. You should also just consider it a good date night spot.
Mediterraneo | 1970 Main St. | 941-365-4122 | Mediterraneo
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Melange
This downtown restaurant has a thing all its own. I mean that. Starting with the fact that if you happen to be under 12 your going to have to find other dinner plans. Next, they serve until 2AM. That is not a misprint, 2AM, in downtown Sarasota. And, it’s thoughtful, considered food. Not half in the bag, eat whatever kind of food. The Crispy Duck Springrolls are out of sight, you should try them. Dining at Melange is super laid back and unpretentious. But, it has a certain sophistication that says, “yes, this is an adult place to dine”.
Melange | 1568 Main St. | 941-953-7111 | Melange Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Michelle’s Brown Bag Cafe
Breakfast and lunch only. Michelle’s is in the lobby of the Sarasota City Center building. This is the Wells Fargo Bank building. Real unusual (and tasty) sandwich creations. I love the Longboat Brie and the Bradenturkey. They also feature some light and bright salads. You can grab an egg sandwich on the go for breakfast if that’s your thing. Order at the counter. Your food usually comes out quickly. They’ve been doing this for a while and it shows.
Michelle’s Brown Bag Cafe | 1819 Main St. | 941-365-5858 | Michelle’s Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Mozaic
Chef Dylan Elhajoui is one of the most creative in town. He really knows how to find the culinary boundaries and then push just a wee bit farther. This isn’t a place for the less than adventurous eater. We’re talking about entrees that don’t have proper names but instead have an ingredient listing. The dishes are expertly prepared and presented. It’s a great place for a quite, intimate dinner. A sizable wine list is available for your consideration. Mozaic is an all-around great Sarasota fine dining experience.
Mozaic | 1377 Main St. | 941-951-6272 | Mozaic Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Nancy’s Bar-B-Que
Smoked brisket, ribs, chicken and traditional BBQ sides make Nancy’s a local downtown Sarasota favorite. A cafeteria style line keeps things moving even when it’s busy. Yes, you can buy meat by the pound! Nancy’s has a BBQ shacky kind of feel. As much as you could expect from a place that exits straight onto Pineapple Avenue and not an urban Memphis alleyway. Sit inside or in the screened in porch. I like the porch myself. Picnic tables suit my personal style. It’s Burns Court, so parking can be a challenge at times. My usual, the Texas Holy Trinity and the Collards with Bacon. FYI – Nancy’s just opened up out on Lakewood Ranch Main Street. That’s good for all involved.
Nancy’s Bar-B-Que | 301 S. Pineapple Ave. | 941-955-3400 | Nancy’s Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Pho Cali
This is where I learned about Vietnamese cuisine. I know that’s a little weird. But, back when Pho Cali first opened Vietnamese cuisine didn’t enjoy the level of popularity that it does today. My friend Judi turned me on to Pho Cali and I’m still grateful. The place is simple. OK, stripped down may apply here. The food is anything but. Super flavorful, at times simple and at other times complicated dishes. The staff here makes even the novice diners feel welcome and comfortable. They’re happy to suggest and hold your hand through your dining experience. Try a #33 Export Beer.
Pho Cali | 1578 Main St. | 941-955-2683| Pho Cali Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | State Street Eating House
State Street Eating House is one of those places that at first glance seems like it was dropped from another planet into downtown Sarasota. Not that it doesn’t fit. But, because it looked so different than everything else when it made its debut. I’m talking Portland, Seattle, Austin. You get the picture. Certainly not SW Florida. Let alone little old Sarasota. A simple but well thought out menu greets guests, along with creative, handmade cocktails and a lively (some say loud) and vibrant dining atmosphere.
State Street Eating House | 1533 State St. | 941-951-1533 | State Street Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Station 400
What can you really say about the breakfast and lunch place that Chef Eric Bein has built over the years? It’s breakfast and lunch with a delicious twist. How can a Nutella Waffle not be devilishly good? Truffle Eggs Benedict also ring that bell pretty loud. There is a nice amount of both indoor and outdoor seating. And, they have a parking lot so that’s not an issue here. There are a lot of new additions to the “north of Fruitville” restaurant scene. This has become one of the “old favorites” of that area.
Station 400 | 400 Lemon Ave. | 941-906-1400 | Station 400 Website
Sarasota Downtown Restaurant | Yume Sushi
The move across Main Street was a great one. It lost a touch of coziness. But, picked up a lot of cool urban sushi vibe. I like that. Sushi Chef/Owner Baw has some extra creative dishes on the menu. Yes, you’ve got all of the standard/traditional sushi rolls represented here. Still, I implore you, dig a little deeper. Breakout of your sushi comfort zone and order up a Pink Lady Roll or a Godzilla Roll. I’m a sashimi guy. Yume offers 25 varieties! That’s enough to keep me happy.
There you have it. Those are our TOP 15 Sarasota downtown restaurants. FYI – These are in alphabetical order for your convenience. They’re OUR fifteen favorites. Mix and match the way that you see fit. Oh, if your favorite downtown Sarasota place didn’t make our list, please add it in the comments section and let the rest of the world know that we left one out. We can’t do all the work you know.