The best hotel restaurants and bars make you feel like you are on vacation regardless of whether you have reserved a room or even left town. Fortunately, Sarasota and Manatee counties offer numerous options for those of us who love a good staycation, be it for a night or two, or perhaps just a few hours of quality food and drinks and then an Uber ride home.
For this story, we’ll look at six of the best hotel restaurants and bars for cuisine and libations in a fun setting with awesome views or perhaps surrounded by exciting attractions. And rather than choose exclusive resorts, we went with hotel restaurants and bars that locals regularly enjoy, with locations in the bustling entertainment hubs of downtown Sarasota, Lido Beach, Bradenton Riverwalk, and Anna Maria Island.
Basically, these are my favorite local places to play tourist because, as the saying goes, we live where you vacation. Presented in alphabetical order by name of the restaurant, here are the best hotel restaurants and bars in Sarasota and Manatee.
The Chateau Anna Maria
5325 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach; 941-238-6264, thechateauonthelake.com
The Chateau Anna Maria is the rare place where you can enjoy a meal fit for French nobility while wearing your favorite Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. Found on the ground floor of the Waterline Marina Resort, which is part of Marriott’s upscale Autograph Collection of hotels, the restaurant opened in late 2020 as a second location for The Chateau on the Lake, an upstate New York restaurant that appeared on the Food Network show “Summer Rush” starring owners the Foy family. The restaurant’s Anna Maria Island location in the city of Holmes Beach is basically in the lobby of the hotel. There’s a bar area for folks perhaps on their way to the adjacent pool area and another inside the adorable, shabby chic dining area centered around the open kitchen where the motto is “French-inspired, Italian portions.”
During a recent dinner visit we were a bit disappointed to learn the pan-seared scallops listed on the menu were no longer offered and that the prep-work-intensive calamari with a graham cracker crust was temporarily unavailable due to the ongoing labor shortage, but then the two appetizers our affable server suggested turned out to be surprising delights. I’ve consumed enough tuna tartare in my lifetime to find most presentations a bit pedestrian but that was definitely not the case at The Chateau. They serve a mound of fresh yellowfin chunks with leafy greens on a bed of verdant avocado and wasabi mousse that I could’ve consumed by the bowlful. That brilliant mousse also works quite well piled neatly with the raw fish on the accompanying fried sesame wontons, which are ridiculously flavorful and pack a fantastic crunch ($20).
Beef carpaccio is another appetizer that can get a bit boring but not at Chateau. The $27 platter of dark pink, tender, thinly sliced steak arrived with a winning mix of arugula, shaved parmesan, roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes, fried capers, and a saffron aioli smartly augmented by a showering of coarse salt and pepper. We were also impressed by the tomato soup whose creators were not afraid to lace it with a forceful kick of chipotle ($12).
The Chateau Anna Maria offers such tempting entrees as the pork loin with espresso chili rub ($45) and house-made duck confit fettuccine ($48) as well as the local fish selections black grouper with a black bean mango salsa ($49) and a pan-seared red snapper with saffron risotto ($45). There are also a couple of beef dishes offered at market price. If you feel like splurging – and while playing tourist, why not? – let me highly recommend the grilled chateaubriand.
The Chateau Anna Maria’s rendition of the 200-year-old French dish features a black Angus center-cut filet, cooked a textbook perfect medium-rare, which easily outperformed most other local steaks I’ve had for the same price of $65. And then there were the potatoes au gratin, but not the humble potatoes au gratin like your aunt used to make. No, this typically humble side dish is elevated with blue Stilton cheese, which gives a pungent aftertaste to the overall rich and creaminess. The handsome steak with its subtle char and the potatoes presented like a petite slice of white-sauce lasagna rest in a mahogany pool of port wine demi reduction highlighted by roasted carrot puree and, for an extra $10, topped by a handful of sauteed chanterelles. Ten bucks for mushrooms? Sure. We’re on vacation!
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Floridays Woodfire Grill & Bar
12324 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton; 941-741-8700; floridays-annamaria.com
Debuting about two years ago, Floridays is part of the Jimmy Buffett-inspired hotel Compass by Margaritaville on Manatee Avenue West, just before you reach the bridge to Anna Maria Island. The grill and bar named after a Buffett tune occupy a standalone building fashioned after a vintage fish house like the ones in nearby historic Cortez Village, with plenty of open-air seating overlooking Anna Maria Sound. Popular with dolphins, this bay is part of the Intracoastal Waterway between Anna Maria Island and Palma Sola Bay, just south of where the Manatee River meets Tampa Bay. Floridays’ bar area also overlooks the marina and hotel pool, which often features a singer-guitarist playing popular covers including, yes, some of those Buffett songs you know by heart.
But you don’t need to be a Parrot Head to enjoy the cuisine at Floridays, which specializes in seafood and classic Southern dishes with an emphasis on the wood-fired grill. First, though, you’ll want to begin your feeding frenzy with the fried green tomatoes. They would be a treat if only containing their crispy cornmeal coating but are transformed into discs of inspired deliciousness by gobs of goat cheese and candied pecans adorned by their tangy Floridays sauce ($10.99). Also consider warming up with a serving of the grilled chicken wings, which are prepared in the restaurant’s signature rub and served with a deftly balanced tomato-based barbecue sauce ($11.99).
For main dishes, there’s the grilled or blackened daily catch, fish and grits ($22.99), and then wood-grilled entrees such as shrimp and scallop skewers ($24.99), a barbecue chicken breast ($18.99), and several steak options. My personal faves, though, are the handhelds including the signature burger with the smoke-kissed beef topped by aged cheddar, red onion, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and special sauce ($13.99). The BBQ Burger (bacon, cheddar, barbecue sauce, red onion, coleslaw, and tomato) is also a fine option for a couple of bucks more.
Fans of fried chicken sandwiches will want to order the Old South featuring fried chicken tenders busting out of a toasted bun with pickles, lettuce, tomato, and a judicious swipe of mayo ($10.99). And then for heat-seekers, there’s The Five Alarm Chicken Sandwich ($12.99). It lives up to its name with the blackened chicken breast topped by habanero relish and Monterey jack for a spicy treat cooled off just a tad by the lettuce, tomato, and buttery toasted bun ($11.99)
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1111 Ritz Carlton Drive, Sarasota; 941-309-2266, ritzcarlton.com
A name synonymous with luxury, The Ritz-Carlton has been welcoming guests to its downtown Sarasota location since 2001 and has been credited with sparking the development of hundreds of condominium units and luring millions of tourists. It wasn’t until the 2013 opening of Jack Dusty, though, that the hotel became more accessible to us locals. Offering covered outdoor and indoor waterfront seating on the first floor overlooking a channel of water that flows into Sarasota Bay, Jack Dusty manages to be effortlessly trendy with a friendly Florida feel thanks to its nautical-themed setting and stylish bar.
The seafood restaurant is perhaps best known for its take on cioppino containing Gulf shrimp, Bay scallops, Cedar Key clams, Prince Edward Island mussels, and Gulf fish ($34), while the ceviche ($20), shrimp and grits ($32), are also listed among the dinner menu “classics.” Other entrees include a whole fried snapper ($42), roasted grouper ($42), crispy half chicken ($32), a couple of steak options ($53-$69) as well as an interesting take on beef stroganoff featuring braised short rib, egg noodles, and horseradish sour cream ($50).
Regardless if you’re visiting for lunch or dinner, you’ll want to consider starting your meal with their grouper fish spread paired with Croccantini crackers ($19) as well as the blistered shishitos peppers, which are showered with beautiful orange bottarga harvested from local mullet fish and accompanied by a seared lemon half for squeezing ($14). During a recent lunch visit, I also ordered a grouper sandwich, blackened with a pile of ponzu slaw and sriracha mayonnaise, that rivaled the fresh ones I’ve consumed on the docks of Cortez commercial fishing village ($31). And then there was one of the more satisfying salads of recent memory.
Yeah, Jack Dusty’s beet salad is a thing of beauty featuring ample slabs of the deep purple taproot along with creamy feta and a not-too-saccharine preserved lemon emulsion set off by pita croutons across a bed of arugula ($16). Even better, have your salad topped with a filet of blackened salmon ($14). Oh, and don’t forget to order the signature fries covered in parmesan, garlic oil and chives served with a powerfully addictive parmesan garlic aioli ($10).
In addition to lunch and dinner, you can also stop by Jack Dusty for breakfast or just drop in for a drink at the bar, which for nearly a decade has ranked as one of Sarasota’s top destinations for craft cocktails. For years, they were most famous for the Smoking Jacket cocktail featuring their own single barrel bourbon served with Demerara sugar, Angostura Bitters, and mineral saline in a smoked glass ($25). Now, though, I’m told it has been overtaken in popularity by The Siren. Also priced at $25, it’s a spectacular mix of Hendrick’s Gin (or Reyka Vodka) with elderflower liqueur, lemon, simple syrup, and a prosecco topper with separate spheres of grapefruit ice, cranberry ice, and orchid ice for the win.
Contemplating a hotel bar pub crawl? Jack Dusty shares a water view with the Hyatt Regency and its Currents Bar and on the other side is neighbored by the Westin hotel, which includes one of our favorite rooftop bars, the 19th floor The Roof Bar and Eats.
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Lido Beach Resort Tiki Bar
700 Benjamin Franklin Drive, Sarasota; 941-388-2161; lidobeachresort.com
Placing guests right on gorgeous and recently renourished Lido Beach, the Lido Beach Resort offers upscale dining during breakfast and dinner at its newer Drift Kitchen & Bar. Located on the eighth floor, it features 180-degree, floor-to-ceiling views of the Gulf waters and Sarasota cityscape with a menu that emphasizes fresh seafood and modern American cuisine such as shrimp and goat cheese flatbread. But, really, all the fun occurs on the first floor.
Enter the Lido Beach Resort through the lobby and follow the signs for the tiki bar, which will take you through a tropical courtyard with a boardwalk to traverse the shallow pool below. The large tiki bar, with surrounding tables, overlooks the beach and the lively pool area. Seated at the bar, you will be met with loud music, loud talk, and lots of people drinking boat drinks while dressed in their bathing suits. Open daily at 11:30 a.m., it’s an ideal spot for a super casual lunch, dinner or just some adult beverages.
For starters, you’ll want to try their chicken wings covered in a sweet-heat honey Buffalo sauce ($14) and then proceed straight to the Great Pass Fish Sandwich featuring blackened or grilled local catch (grouper on my recent lunch visit) with lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions and lemon aioli on a toasted Hawaiian roll ($20). Other popular options include the lobster sliders, steak sandwich, the pesto-marinated grilled chicken breast sandwich, and the grilled foot-long hot dog called The Dune Dog ($12).
Also located nearby on Lido Beach, about a 10-minute walk to the south, you’ll find the Sandcastle Resort. Long known as the Helmsley Sandcastle, it was built in 1953, ranks as one of the oldest beachfront hotels in Southwest Florida, and has been marked for a major redevelopment project that will transform it into a contemporary luxury resort with towers eight and nine stories tall. Owned by the same Delray Beach hotel group Ocean Properties as the Lido Beach Resort, the Sandcastle features an adorable pool bar overlooking the beach with a food menu similar to its sister resort.
And no pub crawl down Lido Beach is complete without stopping by for a drink at the landmark Lido Key Tiki Bar. Located directly behind The Ritz-Carlton’s private Beach Club only available to residents and hotel guests, the tiki bar is open to the public and starts serving drinks right on the beach daily from 11 a.m. to sunset. And you definitely want to stay for the sunset.
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Oak & Stone
1201 First Ave. W., Bradenton; 941-357-4306; oakandstone.com
Featuring a rooftop bar dubbed The Deck, Oak & Stone offers dining and drinks on the eight-story Springhill Suites hotel in downtown Bradenton overlooking the Manatee River with vistas of the Palmetto shoreline, Tampa Bay, and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The open-air space features several seating areas with low-top tables and three fire pits. There’s also the covered rooftop bar section and adjacent beer wall with self-serve taps for craft brews, cider, and wine selections – plus craft cocktails available at the actual bar. Oak & Stone, which opened in late 2019, also has a full restaurant and bar on the first floor, offering an even larger selection of self-serve beers (48 rotating taps including plenty of local brews made right in Bradenton).
The menu of comfort food classics with creative twists includes super-thin, stone-fired pizzas such as the Sweet Heat with pepperoni, spicy capicola, pizza sauce, pickled jalapeno, mozzarella, and Mike’s Hot Honey ($14) or the Winger topped by Buffalo chicken tenders, cheddar, ranch, hot sauce aioli, scallion, crumbled bleu cheese ($14). And then there are the famed slow-roasted oven wings, which are some of the best wings around. Soaked overnight and teeming with savory flavor through and through, they’re topped with a Buffalo-style wing sauce and a generous serving of blue cheese crumbles, with a side of ginger honey mustard sauce for dipping.
In addition, Oak & Stone serves faves like the smoked gouda mac and cheese topped with bacon crumbles, deep-fried pretzels with beer cheese and mustards, a spot-on chicken quesadilla, tacos, salads, bowls, and a bunch of sandwiches including the Voodoo Chicken featuring a crunchy coat of Zapp’s Voodoo chips ($15). There’s also the Griddle Burger topped with a melted cheddar blend, crispy onion straws, a pile of shredded lettuce, and a superb “secret sauce” that recalls a richer and more robust Thousand Island ($14.50).
Plus, Oak & Stone recently unveiled three more enticing items: Carolina Gold Wings tossed in a sweet mustard sauce ($15.50), a patty melt with caramelized onions, hot sauce, Swiss and American cheese on griddled rye ($14.50), and a burger topped with fried creamy cheese, candied spicy bacon, their Carolina Gold BBQ sauce, lettuce and tomato ($15.50). Looking for a great post-meal stroll? Explore the 1.5-mile Bradenton Riverwalk that starts right by the entrance to Oak & Stone. Another option is a target-rich pub crawl in the other direction down Old Main Street with a stop at neighboring waterfront restaurant Pier 22.
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Overture Restaurant & Gallery Lounge
1255 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota; 941-316-0808, artovationhotel.com
Another member of Marriott’s upscale Autograph Collection of hotels, Art Ovation opened in 2018 in the heart of downtown Sarasota’s theater district and immediately won over art enthusiasts with a lobby decorated with paintings by Ringling College of Art & Design students and alumni. Located right off the lobby is Overture, which offers chic indoor seating as well as covered al fresco dining overlooking Palm Avenue with the hotel’s main entrance facing Florida Studio Theatre. Yes, if you’re looking for a pre-show dining selection, seriously consider a reservation at Overture.
Open for breakfast and then dinner starting at 5 p.m., Overture’s compact menu is divided into “preludes,” “interludes” and “compositions” with a row in between for craft cocktails. In addition to three salad options, the preludes section includes a burrata platter that finds the milky globe of cheese surrounded by grilled peach, crispy prosciutto, crostini, and basil bits and arugula with balsamic fig syrup ($18). It’s a hearty starter, especially when you opt for one of the protein toppers: grilled chicken ($7), steak ($9), shrimp ($10), or grouper ($12).
Among the interludes, you don’t want to miss the crispy brussels sprouts that are covered with melted slices of Manchego and served with a sriracha agave that’s every bit as good as it sounds ($9). Overture also serves blistered shishito peppers similar to the ones at Jack Dusty, which is about a 10-minute walk to the west. Except, Overture’s Asian peppers, a variety that weirdly toggles between mild and “Man v. Food” hot, are topped with Manchego and a mango aioli for those who prefer a bit of aged cheese acidity and fruity sweetness with their spice ($9).
The eight items listed under the “composition” section of the menu include a couple of fish entrees (crispy salmon, jerk grouper) and a couple of pasta dishes (fettuccine with grilled chicken and prosciutto, fried ravioli with beef and burrata) as well as a pan-seared chicken and a couple of steak options including a filet mignon with house-made onion rings. During a recent visit, I treated myself to the steak frites that paired a sliced New York strip with a peppercorn demi and truffle fries flecked with more Manchego ($36) but my favorite thing at Overture remains the Triple Grind Burger. A patty made with the yummy blend of brisket, short rib, and chuck, the burger originally came drowned in enough of the house-made beer cheese to fill a soup bowl. Now, it’s another item topped with Manchego along with smoked bacon, arugula, tomato, and onion ($19).
For the record, while I enjoy dining at Overture, I prefer eating (and, yes, drinking) at the adjacent Gallery Lounge bar, which places you right in the lobby where there are not only locally created paintings adorning the walls but an actual studio space where you can watch Ringling students at work. Plus, there’s live music in the evenings including singer-songwriters performing impressive originals as well as jazz acts actually performing the kind of real jazz music rarely heard these days in hotel lobbies or anywhere else outside of venerable concert halls.
Finally, no visit to Art Ovation is complete without visiting their eighth-floor rooftop bar and restaurant Perspective, which is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and serves many of the same items as Overture including the brussels sprouts, burrata, and The Triple Grind Burger. Seeking a truly awesome staycation experience? Purchase Art Ovation’s day pass ($35 for adults, $20 starting for children) that includes access to the outdoor heated pool that shares that prime rooftop space with Perspective.
Wade Tatangelo is the Herald-Tribune’s dining and entertainment editor overseeing the weekly Ticket publication. He’s also co-leader of USA Today Network’s Uniquely Florida team creating statewide content. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. He may be reached by email at [email protected] Support local journalism by subscribing.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Best hotel restaurants, bars in Sarasota Bradenton Anna Maria Island Lido