Taking on tides and coming to the surface are savory morsels from the sea reeling in to be seared, grilled, pot-boiled or pan-fried by the finest captains of the kitchen. Hunker down to devour a feast of oceanic offerings from oysters to stone crab, fresh catches side-kicked with hush puppies, seaweed for salads and mullet waiting to be smoked. From the markets of Cortez to the fish shacks of Siesta Key, and everywhere in between—nothing makes living on the Gulf Coast more like paradise than easy access to some of the best seafood in the country.


In another life, Andrew Eggebrecht may have been a shark. On land, the man goes by Andy—affable, polite and a good conversationalist with a firm handshake and just the right amount of irreverence—like the cool teacher who rides a motorcycle to work and swears when the principal isn’t looking. But alone in the water, where no name can touch him, he turns into a silent predator, gliding through the deeps at the top of the food chain and hungry for his next prey. As this stalking spearfisher, he is the stuff of little fishie nightmares. But as co-owner of the newly opened Spearfish Grille, which specializes in fresh-off-the-spear hogfish, he’s a whole new reason to spend the evening on Siesta Key.

Since early humans first discovered the joy in a pointed thing’s expedience in persuading a living thing to its decided opposite, spearfishing has held sway, both for its practical benefits (ever try weaving a net?) and as an excusable means for men to stand naked on the beach, hunting creatures with few defense mechanisms and even less awareness, but still feel powerful in the process. And in the Bahamas, Eggebrecht still hunts in the shallows with a handheld spear (probably clothed), where the water runs clear as glass and he can spot what he wants from above the surface. But in Sarasota, hunting hogfish for Spearfish Grille, he has no choice but to slip beneath the waves and tackle his prey head-on. 

Photo 2

This is largely for two reasons, the first being that hogfish simply prefer the deeper waters of the Gulf and will not be found in impressive numbers, if at all, from any shoreline vantage. But also, in addition to being exceptionally ugly, the hogfish is exceedingly slow—frustrating for a fisherman dangling bait and hoping for a hogfish to bite, but surprisingly good fortune for the fish, whose perpetual tardiness relegates it to the proverbial “second mouse,” who may not get the cheese exactly but also does not receive a surprise lip piercing for its trouble. Balancing out this good fortune, however, is a delectable taste that inspires many, such as Eggebrecht, to swim right down and poke them with a pointed stick instead.

Harvesting hogfish for the restaurant, Eggebrecht hits the waves with three other divers and an aim to bring in 30–40 pounds of meat—enough to stock the restaurant with fresh fish for the immediate future, but no more than they can use before spoilage. (A feat he estimates could take as many as three days with a traditional rod and reel, but he’ll accomplish in an afternoon.) Heading out into the Gulf of Mexico, about 13 miles or so from Big Pass, where the water hits depths of 50–70 feet, they drop anchor for the first of eight stops of the day. Equipped with spearguns and breathing tanks, the hunters dive individually, one per stop, to test their mettle against their chosen quarry. Like a battle between an aircraft carrier and a bath sponge, the contest proves decidedly, and predictably, one-sided in favor of the armed party.

And, have no doubt, Eggebrecht certainly is the armed party, with a six-foot-long double-barreled speargun custom-made in Sarasota of gleaming Burmese Teak. High-precision but relatively low-tech, three powerful elastic bands fire the stainless steel spears loaded inside, two slinging the shaft on top—the “velocity shaft”—and the third wrapping around below to fire a second spear from the underside, allowing Eggebrecht to follow-up one catch with the next, as the ever-accommodating hogfish travels in convenient pairs. And whether the final punch line to some cosmic joke or just a species-wide resignation to their delicious destiny, they’re just not the shiniest scales in the sea either. “They’re very curious,” Eggebrecht says generously, noting that simply by rattling a cord running down his gun, and installed specifically for that purpose, he brings the hogfish a-swimmin’ to their fate. And with a single shot, right below the eye, fate meets them halfway.

But it’s not just Eggebrecht and the hogfish down there, and the speargun holds another important purpose, especially for the lone diver. “You also use it, you know, to fend off any sharks,” Eggebrecht says nonchalantly, as if dissuading 200 pounds of hungry, toothy fish from chomping on one’s hindquarters were as regular a nuisance as a morning person on a Monday. But such is the life of a diver, probably moreso for those who make it a habit of stabbing fish while they’re down there. Typically, though, sharks pose no issue, either disinterested or easily discouraged with a rap near the gills. Eggebrecht’s even put his hand into a hammerhead’s open mouth to retrieve a fish rightfully his, but he’s had his close calls too.

Spearfishing out near Marquesas Key, Eggebrecht and two other divers hunt wahoo at the End of the Bar, where the great coral reef that stretches down the Eastern Seaboard finally ends, opening up into the deep blue ocean and all manner of sea life thrown together in a huge free for all—including sharks. “There’s everything there—it’s a big aquarium,” he says. “And when you look down, you’ve got sharks swimming in circles, all the way down to the bottom, hundreds of them.” He knows they’ll come eventually—they always do when blood hits the water—so it’s a race against time to get in, get some wahoo and get out with all his bits and pieces intact. It doesn’t help that some guys in the boat above him are cutting up tuna—a particularly bloody fish—and chucking it into the water.

But the tuna chunks also keep the wahoo in the area, where the divers hypnotize the speedy fish to a standstill with underwater mobiles made from reflective CDs and DVDs and harvest with ease, unworried. But as the sun begins to set and the sharks circle closer, Eggebrecht knows its time to pack it in. “You can spearfish with sharks for a little while,” he says, “but once they get the blood in the water, you’ve got to get out.” Surfacing, a glaring problem is immediately apparent. The boat is gone.

With at least eight sandbar sharks up to six feet in length not just circling, but now darting in to nibble at the divers and their flippers, the three men arrange themselves back-to-back-to-back, jamming their spearguns at the increasingly excited predators and “screaming like little girls for the boat,” which has drifted a quarter mile away in pursuit of a particularly big fish. Rescued minutes later (by the same heroes who abandoned them), Eggebrecht laughs about it now, but acknowledges that it may have turned out differently if he were a little closer to home.

“In the Keys, we’ll stay in the water with the sharks,” he says. “Here, when they show up, they mean business because they’re coming to you to eat. Here, you get out of the water.”

But not before getting that hogfish. —Phil Lederer

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 7

Say hello to the Oyster Benedict—made with fried oysters, two poached eggs, Bloody Mary hollandaise and asparagus. Added bonus includes a complimentary Mimosa, Screwdriver or Bloody Mary served with all breakfasts. Siesta Key Oyster Bar, $13, 5238 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key, 941-346-5443.   No wimpy flavor here with the ever-so-popular Murph’s Famous Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters. Fresh oysters are poured into a mini cocktail of zesty and spicy Bloody Mary mix to give that extra southern kick you crave, and garnished with a celery stick stirrer. Owen’s Fish Camp, $6, 516 Burns Ct., Sarasota, 941-951-6936. Craving some heat? Travel down to Route 41 for the Volcano Oysters—with spicy-sweet chili breading, and served by the dozen. All oysters here are “fresh from the sea-raw” and fancy schmancy are Primes. Cedar Reef Fish Camp, $MP, 4167 South Tamiami Trl., Venice, 941-451-8564.  Mix things up with a creative twist at Duval’s with its Famous Po’ Boys—a house specialty sandwich incorporating flash-fried oysters filling a French baguette with a spread of chipotle remoulade, napa cabbage and roma tomato garnishing. Duvals. Fresh. Local. Seafood., $14.5, 1435 Main St., Sarasota, 941-312-4001. B.Mattie


commercial fishing vessel Rachel J. Belle idles into Anna Maria Sound, the sun has only begun to heat the wooden planks and metal siding of A. P. Bell Fish Co’s well-worn docks. After ten days beyond the horizon and out of sight of land, the sea-weary crew is ready to steady their legs on solid ground and unload the thousand-pound haul of fish entombed in ice. Grouper, amberjack, red snapper, mahi and more are dumped onto conveyor belts, weighed, sorted and packed into crates full of ice, their shiny eyes and scales still glistening with vitality. From the saline mystery of their deep blue pasture to the Spartan interior of the processing facility, they are then trucked to markets and restaurants where the electricity of their free-range lives will be unleashed on the palates of seafood aficionados. “This little village feeds people all over the state, country, and world,” says Karen Bell, third-generation owner of A.P. Bell Fish Co. Fortunately for residents with a 9-4-1 area code, it also feeds people right down the street.

Nancy Feely, owner of Island Fresh Market on Anna Maria Island, used to hop in her van and shoot down to A. P. Bell’s to handpick whole fish herself. “I’d go down there and pick them myself, pack them in ice and bring them back to the store to filet them,” she says. Keely’s eye for freshness is what makes her Brazilian fish stew such a treat. Mahi, cobia, amberjack, and wahoo chunks are soaked ceviche-style in a citrusy marinade before being tossed in a pot with tomatoes, peppers and coconut milk, then garnished with cilantro. Though she’s content to put in the hours inside her shop’s kitchen, lugging around 40 pounds of amberjack on ice can be a bit much for a vibrant, well-sunned woman eyeing retirement. While she still does much of her own fileting, she’s happy to order her fish from Sammy’s Seafood just north of the Skyway Bridge, whose fleet of refrigerated trucks deliver fresh catch up and down the peninsula from their St. Petersburg location. That doesn’t mean the fish is any less local and flavorful—once a vessel is 100+ miles out to sea, the horizon is one sublime, boundless expanse that is fair game for fishing operations up and down the West coast of Florida. And if ever there was a doubt that fishing and smart phones could form a symbiosis, Sammy’s lays it to rest. Through Sammy’s TRACE program, Keely is able to tell regionally conscious customers exactly when and where the host of their filet was plucked from the clear blue waters of the Gulf. To go just one step further, Keely is part of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which provides commercial fishing operations and retailers like Island Fresh Market with sustainability guidelines to ensure healthy fish numbers. 

Photo 5

It’s all part of the new commercial fishing paradigm. Just ask Captain Brian Bochan, Sarasota’s very own old man and the sea. Bochan used to pilot deep-water fishing vessels out to sea and maintains a close relationship with his former maritime colleagues to make sure he gets the freshest product for his no-nonsense fish market and restaurant, Captain Brian’s Seafood Restaurant and Market. Bochan was making a buck selling seafood way back when the open seas were as lawless as the Wild West. “I started off as a crewman as a teenager,” he says, “and back then, I could walk up to a restaurant with a bucket of fish and sell it direct.” Nowadays, the game has changed, much to the chagrin of Bochan, who scoffs at the common misconceptions associated with commercial fishing and the words “fresh catch.” Licenses, quotas, permits and GPS tracking by governmental wildlife management agencies are all aimed at maintaining adequate fish populations and sustaining the aquatic ecosystem. The same technology that allows Sammy’s to track the origins of a yellowedge grouper filet means the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission can track the crews who do the catching. And a seasoned crew aboard the Karen J. Belle can do a whole lot of catching. One of the techniques employed is longline fishing, in which as much as 20 miles of line can have several hundred baited hooks attached intermittently and dragged through an area that has lit up the fish finder. Often, fishing operations can meet their quotas well before the close of season. That’s why, in the last 20 years, grouper has become such a prized commodity, whose price reflects its highly regulated supply. “Fish used to be the cheap meat,” says Bochan, though yellowedge grouper can now run $18 per pound and up. So, when diners order Captain Brian’s honey-glazed grilled grouper, they know they are getting a singular delicacy that most people around the world might never set their taste buds on. 

But even though grouper gets all of the fanfare amongst the migratory population and tourists of Sarasota, longtime locals and seasoned anglers know that hogfish is the “filet mignon of the sea,” says Scott Dolan, owner of Big Water Fish Market on Siesta Key. “It’s by far the most delicate, mild-tasting fish in these waters.” The dopey-looking fish feeds by digging up crustaceans on the ocean floor, so it’s hardly interested in the alluring look of a traditional line rig with a baited hook. No, the hogfish has to be caught in the most adventurous way possible: by an intrepid diver with a speargun. For this reason, hogfish is one of the few species of Gulf fish that is still caught by solitary fishermen and sold in small numbers to local fish markets. An experienced speargunner hits the hogfish just behind the eye to avoid damaging the priceless flesh that will end up on Big Water’s Hogfish Sundown—a filet tossed in a spicy coconut sauce with peppers and onions, garnished with cilantro and accompanied by steamed veggies. To make sure Dolan can keep fresh hogfish in his cold case, he keeps his supply contacts on speed-dial. Every day at around 3pm, Dolan makes his rounds on fishermen at sea, all in an effort to claim a measure of exclusivity for some of the product in his market.

The modern fish economy, with its long list of regulations and middlemen, has transformed the Gulf’s wild aquatic livestock into a precious commodity. Fish markets and their suppliers, with an eye on the future, are part of a supply chain they hope will nourish their coffers and palates alike for years to come. Though Ernest Hemingway might be turning in his grave over the loss of Florida’s quaint, old seafaring industry—with its romanticized leather-skinned captains and its superstitious disdain for bananas—the modern use of sustainable resource management will ensure that area residents will always have a well-stocked local fish market for those special meals that call for something flaky, buttery, light, lean and a little salty. — Andrew Fabian



Preserving the Old Florida favorite of sea-to-table wisps of deliciously pungent smoke, these eateries pride themselves on offering wide selections of smoked seafood to our coastal town—from wild salmon, wahoo, different varieties of local mackerel, mullet, bluefish and yellowfin tuna. With each offering their own regional and cultural styles, indulge in fish spreads, dips, caviar and the smoldering filet tself.

“One of our most popular smoked fish is our Alaskan-style smoked alder wood salmon,” says Bryce Bochan, general manager of Captain Brian’s Seafood Market and Restaurant. “We use wild salmon when available in season or Faroe Island salmon, and we cure it using a process we learned on one of our trips to Alaska.” It cures for 24 hours by a traditional method involving the fish being suspended over slow-burning wood shavings—a Captain Brian’s house blend, including red alder—and then hot-smoked for a few more hours to be fully and naturally infused for a mouthwatering smoky flavor. “We will often take a portion of this salmon and any of the other fish we smoke regularly too, and make a dip out of it.” Cue the Smoked Fish Dip, made all in-house, with the chefs hand-chopping the fish to control the results and reach a fine texture that isn’t too soft. Then they combine the fish with Captain Brian’s House Fish Dip Dressing—a mixture of lemon juice, sugar, minced onion, celery, capers, pickled jalapenos, sweet relish, mayonnaise, hot sauce and a fish sauce that makes dunking addictive. Captain Brian’s Seafood Market & Restaurant, $7, 8421 North Tamiami Trl., Sarasota, 941-351-4492.

The Lucky Pelican prides itself on getting all its fish delivered fresh, six days a week, for the past 10 years—while bringing in as much domestic fish as possible. Managing Partner/General Manager Patrick Moore says, “Our Smoked Fish Spread is made from fresh salmon, which has been rubbed with our proprietary rub and given just the right amount of smoke taste.” The smoking methods here are conversely more mechanical than traditional—the fuming smoke is generated in a kiln through the use of concentrated smoke condensates. The flow of vapor is computer-controlled in this type of high-end process. Moore says, “We then blend the salmon with herbs, cheese, sour cream and spices and serve with our famous grilled bread.”Lucky Pelican, $7, 6239 Lake Osprey Dr., Sarasota, 941-907-0589. 

Mullet Dip is served as a free starter to any meal at Walt’s Seafood Market and Restaurant and is also available in the market to take home. Walt’s been making its dip for four generations, and successfully kept the family recipe a secret all that time. Owner Brett Wallin smokes the fish on premise using oak and citrus wood smoking at a low temperature. Besides the local jumping mullet with its high oil-content perfect for smoking, Walt’s been known to also make smoked dips with Spanish mackerel, kingfish and mahi right behind the restaurant. Walt’s Fish Market, 4144 South Tamiami Trl., Sarasota, 941-921-4605. 

In Japan and other international markets, striped mullet is prized as a delicacy for its roe, known as “Bottarga.” Quickly becoming a growing industry segment in Florida, find a family-owned and operated business called Gulf Coast Caviar, jarring the finest of bottarga sourced only by local fishermen. They fish side-by-side with a fleet of local boats that catch and sell their fish the same day that they are caught. From there, they are roed by hand at a HACCP-certified facility. The roe is artisan-cured in a Department of Agriculture-approved facility by combining traditional techniques with modern methods. Find the amber gold caviar either air-dried and vacuum-sealed in signature packaging allowing it to be shelf-stable for years, or bottled into spices for a high Omega-3 seasoning great for pasta or sushi. Gulf Coast Caviar, 5900 South Tamiami Trl., Sarasota, 941-218-9588.

If you haven’t gotten your fill of cured fish yet, savor Morton’s Gourmet Market’s slow-roasted indulgences. A signature dish off its catering menu—the Smoked Salmon and Caviar Torte has smoked salmon, chopped red onions, avocado and deviled eggs all layered in a cream cheese torte and topped with caviar. Another option is Morton’s Smoked Salmon Platter, sporting baguette toasts, capers, dill sauce, chopped shallots and eggs, available in two grades—Norwegian, with a dark orange flesh and structured texture, or Scottish, with a peat smoke fragrance and soft texture. Morton’s Gourmet Market, 1924 South Osprey Ave., Sarasota, 941-955-9856. Smoked Salmon and Caviar Torte: Small, $90; Large, $140. Smoked Salmon Platters: Norwegian, $95; Scottish, $115.  B.Mattie




As you near the docks to drop anchor, a warm glow emanating from the dreamy twinkling lights and candles adorning the baroque porch greets you. The world is your “Rockefeller” oyster, baked and stuffed to the brim with reggiano gratinee of blue crab and spinach, Maine lobster bearnaise and applewood bacon. Let your intrigued gaze travel along the bountiful menu from the Burgundy Escargots Ophelia, dressed to the nines with elf mushrooms, black truffle champagne nage, basil butter and warm pastry bouchee, to the Atlantic swordfish pan-seared with macadamia-cilantro pesto, to the rack of lamb en sous vide with candied walnut chevre crust.  Ophelia’s on the Bay, 9105 Midnight Pass Rd., Sarasota, 941- 349-2212

Photo 6

With sun-kissed skin, saltwater-sodden hair and sandy toes from a long day out on the water, you find yourself ravenous as the wafting aroma of freshly-fried fish and shellfish captivates your senses and allures you. The milieu appears relaxed and seemingly effortless, with all of the passion channeling through the savory, cooked-to-order baskets, sandwiches, salads and platters. “Be a simple kind of man,” as Lynyrd Skynyrd says. Experience the pinnacle of freshness with the u-peel-u-eat shrimp, served chilled with lemon and cocktail sauce.Casey Key Fish House, 801 Blackburn Point Rd., Osprey, 941-966-1901 J.Glover


We are tearing down Cortez Road and passing the border to Cortez Village when something sounding like a strangled Phil Collins announced from the radio that we were, in fact, arriving in Paradise. On either side, strip clubs and eyesores give way to candy-coated cottages, old wooden construction and acres of green. The windows drop, letting the heavy scent of salt air, fish guts and waterlogged vegetation cooking sickly sweet in the noonday sun waft through like airborne nostalgia. No accounting of regional seafood would be complete without a stop in this historic fishing village, and we were low on time, but the Gods of the Radio were on our side.


Led by the photographer’s heavy foot, the first stop lands us on the opposite side of Cortez, where Chef Gerard Jesse holds court over his own seaside kingdom—The Seafood Shack. With décor that screams Old Florida fisherman and the menu to match, Chef Gerard fixes up everything from crab cakes and smoked fish dip to Gulf shrimp, local caught specials and one of the best grouper sandwiches in the region (there is a special ingredient), but right now he’s cooking up tacos—made fresh with whatever fish comes in. Today, it’s mullet, prepared “Old Cortez-style”—necks broken, blood drained and then brined for maximum flavor—and blackened. Waiting at a bar adorned with old maps covered in sea monsters and treasure maps, Megan the bartender slides over a Seafood Shack classic—John’s Damn Yankee. Named after a longtime employee, it’s actually two drinks—a Bud Light and a shot of whiskey—but neither last long as Jesse emerges from the kitchen with three corn tortillas near overflowing with steaming mullet, cabbage, Colby jack cheese and creamy baja sauce. “And the atmosphere doesn’t get any better than that,” Megan says, gesturing to the blue skies, gentle waves and diving seabirds that I’m ignoring for the sake of my tacos. “I’ll probably never leave here,” she says. Chef Gerard brings out a surprise treat—lionfish bites—and I’m inclined to agree.

But duty calls and the next stop takes us back across town to Cortez Kitchen, where any white tablecloth is better served as a makeshift sail. Tucked back among the industrial side of the Cortez fishing operation, a quick swivel gives a snapshot, with men painting boats at one end, hauling nets at another and a whole group of folks congregating by the water’s edge, where Killer Bait guts, cleans and dices catch for anyone with a cooler and some cash. Sitting outside, wavering between the soft shell crab sandwich and the oyster basket, curious about the grouper reuben and eyeing the scallop dinner (while doing my best to ignore the near-heresy of mozzarella sticks and chicken tenders on the menu), we settle on peel-n-eat gulf shrimp, fried okra and cheese grits. The shrimp come out massive and sweet—lightly seasoned with Old Bay and served with melted butter. “It’s better to leave them the way they are,” says Shannon, our server, as she brings the order. “Just your basic southern comfort food.” And it is, except the size of the shrimp, which will haunt me later at the beach when something unknown swims by my leg and I scream.

The day ends at the famous Star Fish Company, where I find a seat at the outdoor bar next to a man named Andrew, a transplant from Philadelphia who can’t wait to tell me that he now lives only three blocks away from this particular piece of paradise. “I didn’t want to shovel snow anymore,” he says, leaning back against the bar to take in the sights along with his beer. I turn my back on the seabirds and grey-green wooden pilings of the dock to survey the menu, before deferring to Denise, a red-haired server who leads me through the options and selects the Star Combination Platter—a general assortment of barely breaded (“dusted”) and fried shrimp, scallops, oysters and grouper bites. It seems a good overview of the place and I don’t disagree. We wait, Denise occasionally throwing out trivia, like the time Denzel Washington shot Out of Time on the property, but mostly just watching the wildlife and enjoying the water. “I don’t think I could ever work in an office again,” she says. —Phil Lederer



Fish friends and humans rejoice—this marine algae is not only edible, but an entirely versatile sea vegetable, deserving of soaking up the limelight in cuisine beyond Nori-filled sushi rolls. The savory and addicting ingredient seems almost too good to be true with its potent source of minerals and nutrients ranging from high doses of fiber and calcium to Vitamins A, B, C and E—that’s basically the whole alphabet in one tasty, trendy snack. 


Hikiki Salad A mouthwatering combination of salty and sweet stemming from its fixings of soy sauce and sugar, this traditional Japanese salad is a whirlpool of wild Kombu black seaweed, shredded lotus root and tender carrots, flavored with a sesame dressing for a breath of fresh air.  Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill, $8, 100 Central Ave., Suite 1022, Sarasota, 941-366-1033.


Macro Bowl A nutrition-packed lunch bowl comprised of chickpeas, sweet potatoes, avocado, Dulse seaweed, rice and tahini vinaigrette. Organic, sustainable and sourced locally, Lila also makes all its own sauces from scratch of the finest ingredients, including a no-oil dressing for its ‘Caesar’ salad—substituting Wakame (derivative of kelp) for anchovies to salvage that traditional fish flavor while ingeniously satisfying vegan principles. Lila Vegan Friendly Restaurant, Macro Bowl- $15, Broccoli ‘Caesar’ Salad- $14, 1576 Main Street Sarasota, 941-296-1042.

Kelp Noodle Stir Fry  This saucy dish is surprisingly low in calories and high in tasty delight. Dive into its raw kelp noodles, as well as quinoa rice pilaf, fresh vegetables, coconut and gluten-free tamari, all sizzling in a sweet Thai chili pepper sauce.Cafe Evergreen, $15, 801 South Tamiami Trl., Nokomis, 941-412-4334.





One day you’re rocking from the sand to the street in your beach attire, ready for a tall can
of beer to wash down a fried meal at a low-key bar, the next you’re dressed to impress in
Sunday’s finest seated at a proper white tablecloth, swirling a glass of wine paired with an
upscale feast. Siesta Key’s seafood game has evolved to encompass both dining worlds, for whichever mood you find yourself in this summer.



Forget your inhibitions—there is no judgement at captain curt’s bar and sniki tiki. Located in Captain Curt’s Village by Turtle Beach, this is the place you go when you want to be taken back in time to an “Old Florida” era where good seafood was a standard and prices were reasonable. Famous for their crab cakes and “World’s Best” Clam Chowder, Captain Curt’s remains a local favorite because of its quick service and relaxed scene.The outdoor tiki bar/patio serves soul food and tropical drinks until 2am. Play pinball or foosball inside while bands jam out live music. Captain Curt’s, 1200 Old Stickney Point Rd., Sarasota, 941-349-3885.


A casual joint off the main drag, the lobster potcures all your New England-style cravings at whichever checkered table you plop a seat at. A basket of cornbread is an added bonus to affordable dishes, including fried calamari, peel ‘n’ eat shrimp and baked lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. And don’t forget a bowl of the all-time lobster bisque—pleasing the masses with chunks of lobster meat in a homemade sherry broth. Dinner here for the whole family is a low-cost venture in a fun, cozy atmosphere. Lobster Pot, 5157 Ocean Blvd., Sarasota, 941-349-2323. 



Located in the heart of Siesta Key Village, the cottage serves up an eclectic dining experience inspired by the flavors of the world to create a fusion of fresh seafood and progressive culinary techniques. Dine al fresco with two outdoor dining patios and celebrate the modern twist of Florida charm. Wonton Ahi Tuna Tacos are a must-have if looking for tapas to share, while the Siesta Seafood Scampi and Hawaiian Escolar are standout dinner dishes.  The Cottage, 153 Avenida Messina, Sarasota, 941-312-9300. 


Renowned as a destination anniversary restaurant, ophelia’s on the bay remains an idyllic romantic hideaway and longtime local favorite. Its fine dining, outdoor patio promotes getting dressed up for prime sunset viewing while treating you and your S/O to a classy sit-down consisting of stunning craft cocktails and a Jumbo Tiger Shrimp Cocktail—just to start. Main entrees hold an international flair, so prepare yourself to indulge in perfectly prepared global selections like Chilean Sea Bass and Faroe Island Salmon while saving room for five-star desserts.  Ophelia’s On The Bay, 9105 Midnight Pass Rd., Sarasota, 941-349-2212. 


Newest to the block,  summer house contains a museum-worthy, must-see fish tank filled with a 1,000- gallon-tank of exotic fish, designed exclusively by Sea Clear Aquariums. The contemporary deluxe eatery upholds superior hospitality, with highlights such as chilled King Crab legs at market price, Colossal Lobster Tail, Diver Scallops and an impressive fine wine list for a truly immersive dining experience. Reservations are recommended to secure a table for a proper night out at this elegant seafood-centric hotspot.   Summer House Steak and Seafood, 149 Avenida Messina, Sarasota, 941-260-2675. B. Mattie