In a state where seafood reigns supreme, Florida offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dining options. With so many top-notch seafood restaurants dotting the coastline, choosing where to begin your culinary journey can be a delicious dilemma. Three restaurants in the Lakewood Ranch area are serving up fresh catches and inventive dishes, making them must-visit spots for diners who want to savor their seafood. 

Photography by Wes Roberts

Speaks Clam Bar

In New York, Italian clam bars have a rich and flavorful history dating back to the early 1900s. Brothers Mark and Jeff Levey grew up enjoying the unique seafood experience provided by clam bars like Vincent’s and Randazzo’s. “As kids growing up on Long Island, we would dress up and go into New York City on Sundays to visit these clam bars,” Mark recalls. While Florida is packed with amazing seafood restaurants, the brothers found themselves missing the Italian clam bar experience. Those memories and flavors inspired Jeff and his sister-in-law Natalia to open the first Speaks Clam Bar in Lakewood Ranch in 2017. Sauces were a big part of the New York clam bar experience so it was imperative to include those in the menu.“Every New York clam bar had its one unique flair, but they shared one delicious commonality: a trio of marinara sauces. One was sweet, one medium, and the other was hot,” says Natalia. “The kick in the sauces comes from infusing hot pepper into the olive oil.” But while they stuck with traditional elements like the three sauces, they also put their own spin on the clam bar experience. “We kicked off with the essential clam bar setup, but then, in New York-style creativity, we pondered, ‘Why not jazz it up with fresh pasta?’” Natalia says. “This was a culinary twist not typically found in the traditional New York clam bars but we figured it would add a dash of flair to have the pasta crafted right before your eyes. A little showmanship to accompany the meal.” The menu at Speaks Clam Bar is seafood-centric but diverse. Diners looking for a casual nosh to accompany a craft cocktail can enjoy crispy Shrimp Arancini or Calamari Fritti accompanied by those signature sauces. If you’re in the mood for more elevated fare, the Lobster and Shrimp Pappardelle with baby arugula and cherry tomatoes in a white wine cream sauce has become a customer favorite. Jeff and Natalia have gone on to open a second Speaks Clam Bar on St. Armand’s Circle, but the original Lakewood Ranch location holds a special place in their hearts. “We’re absolutely over the moon with the warm embrace we’ve received from the Lakewood  Ranch community,” says Natalia.   Speaks Clam Bar, 8764 State Road 70 E., Lakewood Ranch, 941-232-7646,

Photography by Wes Roberts

Lakewood Ranch Lobster Pound

Owned by Jim and Kelly Pierzga, Lakewood Ranch Lobster Pound is a charming yet unassuming seafood haven. Originally hailing from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the couple were drawn to the warm weather and community feel of Lakewood Ranch. Since acquiring the restaurant from its previous owner in 2018, the pair has preserved its roots while adding their own unique flair. 

“We originally thought having a restaurant would be sort of a soft launch into retirement,” remembers Jim with a laugh. “Now we’re pushing an 80-hour week most weeks. But we love our job.”

Much of the restaurant’s success comes from its versatility. In addition to serving lunch and dinner six days a week, the Lakewood Ranch Lobster Pound features a counter where customers can purchase the same fresh seafood that comprises much of their menu. The Pierzgas have expanded the indoor seating area and added outdoor seating in the form of picnic tables shaded by umbrellas. Customers can dine in, pick up prepared food to go, get delivery within a five-mile radius, or get fresh seafood to cook at home. There truly is something for everyone. 

Since its inception, the Lakewood Ranch Lobster Pound has drawn inspiration from the lobster pounds that abound throughout New England in both menu and ambiance. A 2,400 gallon lobster tank provides an authentic New England lobster pound experience, allowing guests to pick out their own crustaceans to take home or have prepared on site. The food is served on checkered paper that is again reminiscent of the New England experience. 

“It’s a very relaxed atmosphere,” Jim says. “Nothing stuffy.” 

The Lakewood Ranch Lobster Pound has developed a reputation of serving some of the best lobster rolls in the Sarasota-Bradenton area. There are two classic styles of lobster roll, and the restaurant serves them both. The New England-Style Lobster Roll features chunks of fresh-picked lobster meat tossed with mayonnaise and served on a toasted split-top roll. The Connecticut-Style Lobster Roll is served in the same type of bun, but in this preparation the lobster meat is poached in warm butter and drizzled with lemon. It’s hard to say which one is better, so diners may want to order one of each and decide for themselves. Lakewood Ranch Lobster Pound, 8740 State Road 70 E., Lakewood Ranch, 941-755-3474,

Photography by Wes Roberts

Lucky Pelican Bistro

The Lucky Pelican Bistro has been a Lakewood Ranch fixture since it first opened in 2007, but the restaurant has really stepped up its game since a change of ownership in 2022. While the new owner resides out of state, the eatery has flourished under the capable management of Petra Demko. “Our dishes compare to the ones served at white tablecloth restaurants, but we don’t do the white tablecloth,” Demko explains. This approach has resulted in upscale seafood fare served in an unfussy space with a fusion of coastal rustic charm. 

Like the Lakewood Ranch Lobster Pound, there is a strong New England seafood influence at the Lucky Pelican Bistro. But the dynamic menu offers a lot of variation. Traditional New England seafood dishes like the Fried Oyster Plate coexist with more internationally-styled entrees like Bacon-Wrapped Swordfish Marsala and Fried Flounder Poblano. In addition to the standard menu, the kitchen manager whips up daily specials based on what ingredients are fresh and in season. The generous portion sizes promote a communal and shareable dining atmosphere.

“When I go in with my husband we always share a meal because I can’t eat everything,” Demko laughs. One of the most unique aspects of Lucky Pelican Bistro is the diner’s ability to customize their meal. All of the fish dishes are exchangeable. This means that if an entree looks good to you but you’re not a fan of the fish that comes with it, you can swap it out for a fish you prefer. The Sake Glazed Sea Bass entree can easily become a Sake Glazed Salmon entree. 

While the cuisine at Lucky Pelican Bistro is always evolving, the staff has remained consistent. Demko says most of the staff has been there since the restaurant opened despite three ownership changes in the last seventeen years.  “That makes a big difference. People come to the restaurants for the food, but they also come in for the service,” says Demko. “If one aspect doesn’t work, then  they won’t come in anymore. You need both. You need the good food and you need the good people.” LL Lucky Pelican Bistro, 6239 Lake Osprey Dr., Sarasota, 941-907-0589.