- Tommy Bahama - should go there at least once. Good bar, good food, good music on Thurs, Fri, Saturday. One of the bartenders is from Norwalk.
- Columbia - been there forever. Fun, big, very busy place. The tapas for 3 or 4 are good. Lots of outdoor seating, good people watching.
- Cilantro Grill - breakfast and lunch place above Columbia - take the elevator. Pretty good breakfast with nice outdoor, upstairs view of the circle.
- Crab and Fin - Nice outdoor seating. Very popular. Mixed reviews from guests, some love it, some not. Tuna tartare was not the best.
- Madison Avenue Deli - ride the bike there, sit outside, drink coffee, eat pastries, read the NY papers, people watch. Breakfast pretty good, pastries good.
- Daiquiri Deck if you do go, don’t do the happy hour. Rip off.
- Mexico Lindo - Sat at the bar. Chips and salsa OK. Had a large margarita and Caesar Salad, Mexican style. Pretty good, nothing special. Didn't try any real entrees.
- Shore Diner - first restaurant you get to on the right walking into the Circle. Located upstairs. Upscale, excellent food. They have opened a new, beautiful location out on Longboat Key.
- Surf Shack - Good happy hour. Excellent apres-beach place. Relaxed atmosphere.
- Blue Dolphin - 1st restaurant on the left heading into circle. Better than diner-quality breakfast. Excellent service. Comfortable.
- 15 South Ristorante Enoteca - Good live music upstairs. Acoustic jazz combo Monday nights, Latin Dancing on weekends. Bar downstairs looks nice. OK Italian food throughout. See photo gallery
- Venezia - very popular. Lots of outdoor seating. Excellent pizza cooked in real pizza oven.
- C'est La Vie - downtown Sarasota. Very nice French Bistro for breakfast or lunch. The Croque Madame is excellent. We usually eat there after the Saturday market.
- Marina Jack's - just over the bridge. Very nice outdoor seating, good view of harbor. Solid food. Nice for lunch. Live music at night.
- O'Leary's Tiki Bar - next door to Marina Jack's. Outdoor bar with tables, palm trees, lots of sand. Funky place for a drink - lots of characters. Only had the bar food and margaritas, but enjoyable. Just discovered it for breakfast. Worth a trip.
- Selva Grill - downtown. Peruvian Food. Very good. Nice atmosphere.
- The Rosemary - near downtown Sarasota across Fruitville Ln. Excellent breakfast, reportedly excellent dinner.
- Mandeville Beer Garden - fun beer garden atmosphere - picnic tables, etc.
- Owen's Fish Camp - in Burns District next to art cinema. Funky place with lots of memorabilia from its days as a Fish Camp, whatever that is.
- Boca - excellent food, very trendy, younger crowd (for Sarasota), can be very noisy.
- Duval's - excellent seafood. Highly regarded. Expensive.
- MoZaic - kind of California style. Mike liked it, Kathy not so crazy about it.
- Station 400 - converted railway station (imported from Indiana) - very nice breakfast place. Interesting crowd. Next to the Blue Rooster.
- The Breakfast House - not really downtown. On Fruitville Road in an old house. Lovingly run place, cozy. Interesting breakfasts with daily specials.
- Blue Dolphin- on 4th street, blues club. Good comfort food (burgers, fried chicken, meatloaf, etc.) Can sbe loud. Go on Wednesday night for Al Fuller and his band. Walk-in musicians all night. Fun music, dancing. Worth a trip. Make reservations for best seating.
- Drive down the main drag in town and there are numerous bars, honky-tonks with live music, mostly Dad-rock. No Michelin-starred restaurants here, but fun.
- The Cottage - one of the places with better food. Nice service, bar.
- Ophelia's - very romantic spot on the bay with nice gardens, gourmet food.Very nice.
- Sun Garden - top-rated breakfast place. Creative breakfast menu. Outdoor seating. Nice.
- Old Salty Dog - take the road to Longboat Key and turn right just before the big bridge. Across the street from Mote Aquarium. Outdoor seating on the water. Good service. Grouper sandwich is excellent. Careful ordering vegetables; the green beans were canned.
- New Pass Grill - next door to Old Salty Dog. Best Bacon-Egg-Cheese sandwich in the world - ask for something other than American cheese.
- Mar Vista - beautiful outdoor seating under trees on the water. Has a bit of a Caribbean feel. Just before the bridge to Santa Maria Island. Food is good.
- Shore - beautiful location. We went by boat. Outstanding food, drinks, etc. Original shore is in Armand Circle
- Cinebistro - Very good food to eat in the awesome movie theater. Great place to see a movie.
- Bravo - same shopping center as Cinebistro. Pretty good, but we usually just end up eating in the theater.
- Baker and Wife - very popular, excellent bistro. We liked it a lot, but one of our friends wasn't as crazy, maybe because of the $37 truffle burger on the specials menu. No TV at bar, so you have to actually converse.
DAY TRIPS, THINGS TO DO
- Lido Beach - Walk or bike to St. Armand Circle for breakfast, then go to Lido Beach (a couple blocks past the circle). There is a parking lot with a pavilion where you can buy food and drinks, rent beach chairs and umbrellas (if you don't bring the ones from the condo) and find restrooms. Then walk back to the circle in time for happy hour. Afterwards, you can cool off at the pool back at the condo. If you have lots of gear, you can just drive. There is plenty of parking, unlike Siesta Key Beach, which can be difficult.
- Biking - the bikes are in good shape and we use them a lot. Helmets and bike pump are in the hall closet. Biking over the causeway to downtown is very easy with wide bike lanes, or you can just walk them on the pedestrian walk. For the more ambitious, there is a bike ride to Venice built onto an old rail bed. Paved and a pretty easy 15 miles. Can have lunch and ride back. This is the link: Sarasota Legacy Trail.
There is a very nice little bike trail between Armand Circle and Lido Beach. To access it, head toward beach, turn right on Polk Street, go to end and turn left. You'll see the entrance to the bike trail. It's a very nice, easy ride, and takes you to some more private strips of the beach, well north of the main beach. Impossible to get lost.
- Eco-Boat Tours at Mote Marine Lab
Takes you on a tour of the keys. You see lots of sea life, a bird rookery and lots of multi-million dollar homes. You can go to the New Pass Grill for the best BEC sandwich or go to the Salty Dog afterwards for lunch on the bay. Both are across the street. It is an easy bike ride to get to or you can drive.
- Siesta Key Beach - it is a 15-20 minute car ride but worth the trip. It reminds Kathy of Jones Beach but way nicer sand. The sand is white and powdery like confectioners sugar and doesn't get hot, because it is derived from ground quartz, not seashells.
- Kayak and paddleboard - Our kayaks are in the racks, clearly marked with "A4". Life jackets and paddles are in the storage bin upstairs. Follow the shore by the expensive houses and go under the bridge to a cool lagoon and then up a little canal toward Armand circle.If you get a chance, definitely do a self-guided tour of the mangrove tunnels (with their kayaks.) It's really fun. Here is the one we use:
Adventure Kayak Outfitters The phone number is 941-779-7426
- Downtown Sarasota - very easy to get to by bike, and biking around downtown is fun. Driving is fine, because parking is not a huge problem. Lots of shopping. There is a Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings and there are countless fairs and special events during the season.