July 7, 2022

Looking for romantic restaurants in Sarasota-Manatee? Here are 21 of our favorites – Sarasota Herald-Tribune

The Crow’s Nest Restaurant & Marina offers an outdoor dining area with a view of the Venice Inlet.

Valentine’s Day is nearly here and that means it’s time to make sure that special someone in your life will be very happy on Feb. 14 – which, if we must remind you, is this coming Sunday. To help, we compiled our annual list of great romantic restaurants in Sarasota and Manatee counties, with the focus this year on places with premium outdoor seating. And as we continue to contend with the coronavirus pandemic, we mention a few restaurants that also specialize in to-go offerings.

Keep in mind, though, that most of these restaurants offer takeout and/or curbside pickup. Simply call ahead. And if you’re dining in, reservations are highly recommended at the majority of these places. These 21 great romantic restaurants can be found from Anna Maria Island to downtown Sarasota to Venice, with locations ranging from fine dining to more casual places featuring amazing sunset views. 

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The Bistro Bouillabaisse is a must-try menu item at Beach Bistro on Anna Maria Island.

Beach Bistro

6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach; 941-778-6444; beachbistro.com

An Anna Maria Island icon opened in 1985, Beach Bistro offers fine dining right on the sand or indoors with its impressive new air filtration system. Menu classics include the Bistro Bouillabaisse (one of the greatest seafood creations in the region), Grouper Floribbean and the American Ranchlands domestic lamb.  

Beach House is at 200 Gulf Drive N. in Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island.

Beach House

200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach; 941-779-2222; beachhousedining.com

Placing diners right on Bradenton Beach in a casual-chic setting that recalls a trendy tropical resort, Beach House serves popular dishes like Gamble Farm house salad (with produce from the local restaurant group’s own farm), the seafood roll and fried shrimp.  

Bijou Cafe is at 1287 First Street in Sarasota.

Bijou Cafe

1287 First St., Sarasota; 941-366-8111; bijoucafe.net

Open since 1986, The Bijou Cafe offers fine-dining in the heart of downtown Sarasota’s theater district with a menu inspired by owner Jean-Pierre Knaggs’ French and South African heritage. Popular dishes include the crab cakes, shrimp piri piri and roast duckling.

Blue Marlin is at 121 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, on Anna Maria Island.

Blue Marlin 

121 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach; 941-896-9737; bluemarlinami.com

Featuring fresh seafood from neighboring Cortez fishing village, Blue Marlin places diners under the stars in its Trapyard, where you can enjoy live music on the weekend. Menu favorites include the Cortez chowder, grouper prepared “Fulford” style, and the shrimp and grits.    

Cafe L'Europe, at 431 St. Armand Circle in Sarasota, Florida, opened in 1973.

Cafe L’Europe 

431 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota; 941-388-4415; cafeleurope.net

Cafe L’Europe remains a top destination for classic Continental cuisine such as the brandied duckling that has been popular since the place opened in 1973. Other menu favorites include the French grouper, French onion soup and, if you stop by for lunch, the Lido-Style Corned Beef served on potato pancakes.  

Columbia Restaurant, which opened in 1959, offers outdoor and open-air seating on St. Armands Circle.

Columbia Restaurant 

411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota; 941-388-3987; columbiarestaurant.com

Opened in 1959, Columbia continues to impress with its Cuban and Spanish cuisine, honored recently for the best sandwich in Florida by Food & Wine magazine. In addition to the famed Cuban, other popular menu items include the “Columbia Original 1905 Salad,” the paella, and the roast pork “a la Cubana.” Also, if you imbibe, be sure to order a pitcher of one of their masterful sangrias. 

The Crow’s Nest Restaurant & Marina offers an outdoor dining area with a view of the Venice Inlet.

Crow’s Nest

1968 Tarpon Center Drive, Venice; 941-484-9551; crowsnest-venice.com

 A Venice landmark dating back to 1976 that overlooks the South Jetty, Crow’s Nest was named one of the “100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America for 2019” by OpenTable. Popular menu items include the Grouper Key Largo, Walnut Crusted Salmon and the filet mignon served with circus legend and longtime Venice resident Gunther Gebel-Williams’ steak sauce.

Dry Dock Waterfront Grill is on Longboat Key.

Dry Dock Waterfront Grill

412 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key; 941-383-0102; drydockwaterfrontgrill.com

Hidden behind the Boathouse marina on Longboat Key and hugging Sarasota Bay, Dry Dock was also named one of the “100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America for 2019” by OpenTable. Popular menu items include the grouper sandwich (one of the best around), lobster rolls and the Boathouse Burger.

Fins at Sharky’s in Venice is an upscale restaurant located on the Gulf of Mexico, at the Venice Fishing Pier.

Fins At Sharky’s

1600 Harbor Drive S. Venice; 941-999-3467; finsatsharkys.com

Overlooking The Venice Fishing Pier and the Gulf of Mexico on the south end of the island of Venice, Fins at Sharky’s is best known for its steak and sushi with popular menu items including the smoked rib-eye. Looking for something a bit more casual? Stop by neighboring sister restaurant and bar Sharky’s on the Pier.

Alex Blatt serves Ken and Tara Broderick in May at Grove in Lakewood Ranch.


10670 Boardwalk Loop, Lakewood Ranch; 941-893-4321; grovelwr.com

Located in the heart of downtown Lakewood Ranch, Grove is a great spot for everything from sushi and steaks to fabulous breakfast and brunch on the weekends plus one of the best happy hours (for drinks and food) around. Like its sister restaurant Pier 22, Grove’s upcoming holiday specials include a Valentine’s Dinner for two to-go featuring a 16-ounce Chateaubriand, chocolate dipped strawberries, truffles and a bottle of prosecco.    

Harry’s Continental Kitchens is on Longboat Key.

Harry’s Continental Kitchens

525 St. Judes Drive, Longboat Key; 941-383-0777 or harryskitchen.com

This Longboat Key landmark dating back to 1979 offers patio seating in a lovely lush setting. Classic menu items include the crab cakes, baked grouper, sauteed veal medallions and the seafood Cobb salad featuring poached shrimp, crab meat and smoked salmon with a creamy dill dressing.  

Indigenous owner Steve Phelps is one of the most acclaimed chefs in the region.


239 S. Links Ave., Sarasota; 941-706-4740; indigenoussarasota.com

Home to James Beard nominated chef/owner Steve Phelps, Indigenous occupies a handsome remodeled home in the Towles Court artists colony found in the center of downtown Sarasota, with ample porch and patio seating. Phelps is all about using locally sourced, sustainable and seasonal ingredients, so the fish dishes in particular change often – sometimes even from one day to the next. Also, if you’re planning on having a romantic evening at home, Indigenous posts its menu on Facebook around noon most days with phone orders starting at 3 p.m. for scheduled curbside pickup between 5:30 and 8 p.m. 

There’s lots of outdoor dinning at Mar Vista’s Dockside Restaurant & Pub.

Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Pub

760 Broadway St., Longboat Key; 941-383-2391; marvistadining.com

Occupying a gorgeous, wooded swath of waterfront land on the Manatee County side of Longboat Key overlooking Sarasota Bay, Mar Vista’s popular menu items include the signature tater tots, grilled grouper, and Gamble Creek Farm butter beans, shrimp & sausage. 

Mattison’s City Grille Downtown Sarasota is at 1 N. Lemon Ave.


multiple locations: mattisons.com

Chef/owner Paul Mattison has three locations, with the one in downtown Sarasota right off Main Street and the newer location on Bradenton Riverwalk both offering large, open air dining areas with covering and plenty of space heaters for when us Floridians get chilly in the winter. Popular menu items include meat offerings from sustainable farming network Niman Ranch: the bistro steak (Sarasota), classic meatloaf (both locations) and a pork rib-eye (Bradenton). Also, the Mattison’s in Bradenton recently added some highly addictive Durham Ranch bison beatballs with root beer barbecue sauce.

Michael’s on East, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Sarasota, offers outdoor dining in its courtyard.

Michael’s on East

1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota; 941-366-0007; bestfood.com

If you (or your loved one) are craving an amazing steak paired with a world-class wine, be sure to make a reservation at Michael’s On East, now offering outdoor dining in its enchanting courtyard. While the main attraction is the premium beef aged a minimum of 25 days, Michael’s also offers alluring seafood and pasta dishes as well as a bunch of exciting vegetarian and vegan options

Ophelia’s on the Bay is a casually elegant seafood restaurant on Sarasota Bay. It offers both indoor and outdoor seating.

Ophelia’s on the Bay

9105 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota; 941-349-2212; opheliasonthebay.net

The best waterfront restaurant on Siesta Key, Ophelia’s overlooking Sarasota Bay has been a romantic dining destination since opening in 1988. The menu changes daily with tataki loin of yellowfin tuna, filet mignon and Gulf grouper among the regularly appearing favorites. 

Waterfront three-floor restaurant and bar The Point, on right, located on the Evie’s at Spanish Point property that also houses a separate tiki bar and restaurant, on left, opened earlier this year.

The Point restaurant and Tiki Bar

131 Bayview Drive, Osprey; 941-786-3890; eviesonline.com/location/the-point

One of the biggest restaurant and bar openings of 2020, The Point places guests right on Little Sarasota Bay with multiple dining areas including a third floor for optimum viewing of the location’s famed sunsets. The menu features a mix of Northeast and Florida favorites including the Hot Baltimore Crab Pretzel, North Atlantic Lobster Roll and a blackened grouper pizza.       

Pier 22 in Bradenton has a large outdoor dining area right on the Manatee River.

Pier 22

1200 First Ave. W.; 941-748-8087; pier22dining.com

Located right on the Manatee River with gorgeous views of the sun sinking into Tampa Bay, Pier 22 is the top spot for waterfront dining in Bradenton. Like sister restaurant Grove, Pier 22 does an outstanding job with everything from sushi to steaks to breakfast and brunch of the weekends; plus one of the best happy hours (for drinks and food) around.

Sandbar is at 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria.

The Sandbar

100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria; 941-778-0444; sandbardining.com

Sandbar places diners right on the beach of north Anna Maria Island for classics such as the fried shrimp platter, seafood and grits, and stuffed shrimp. Open since 1979, Sandbar is the oldest of Ed Chiles’ three impressive waterfront restaurants that also includes Beach House and Mar Vista.

Shore has two Sarasota-Manatee locations  including this one on Longboat Key overlooking Sarasota Bay.


St. Armands Circle and Longboat Key: dineshore.com

You can’t go wrong with either of Shore’s prime locations: St. Armands Circle or on the Manatee County side of Longboat Key overlooking Sarasota Bay. Popular dishes include the spice grilled filet mignon, miso marinated black grouper and the vegan kale caesar salad. Interested in adult beverages? Shore makes some of the best craft cocktails around. 

Jason Suzor is the owner of The Waterfront restaurant on Anna Maria Island overlooking Tampa Bay and the Anna Maria City Pier.

The Waterfront

111 S. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria; 941-778-1515; thewaterfrontrestaurant.net

Occupying an adorable historic home with open-air patio dining providing spectacular views of Tampa Bay, The Waterfront’s favorites include the lobster bisque, the scallops and pork belly fried rice, and the wasabi crusted tuna. Also, the restaurant is located right by the newly reconstructed Anna Maria City Pier, if you’re looking to take a romantic walk before or after your meal and perhaps some drinks. Waterfront makes some quality cocktails including a deliciously mind-blowing jalapeno margarita.