When someone says Sarasota, Florida, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the white sand beaches of Siesta Key, beautiful Gulf views and a small town vibe. But what about those lesser-known spots? The ones filled with locals, sometimes sandy floors and just an overall homegrown vibe. Luckily for you, I’m here to help! From fan favorite watering holes to rooftop views and beyond, here are some must-visit spots to feel like one of us rare Sarasota natives.
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Gulf Gate Food + Beer
With a motto like “Eat Food. Drink Beer.” it’s no surprise this newcomer to the Gulf Gate Village has quickly become a local favorite. Home to some of the crispiest wings, a wide range of local craft beer and perhaps the best garlic parmesan fries in town (at least this writer thinks so) – it is the perfect spot to catch a game, meet up with friends and have a great time. After all, Food + Beer came together because two local dudes decided to start cooking some great food, and does it really get better than that?
Local’s Tip: Opt for a Florida beer flight and savor some delicious local beers.
The Westin Rooftop Bar
Boasting panoramic views of Sarasota’s downtown and bay front, The Westin’s rooftop bar is the perfect spot to start an evening out on the town. Home to a casual vibe, start off with some savory small bites and pair it with your favorite craft cocktail. One of the few rooftop bars in town, locals and visitors alike come for the views and stay for the good times.
Local’s Tip: Arrive just before sun down for some of the most picture-perfect views of the Sarasota bay.
Pangea Alchemy Lab
This is a place where you truly need the inside scoop to know where to look. Located off of Main Street in the downtown area, you’ll have to head down the back alley to get to its front door. Don’t let appearances deceive you, venture through a second set of doors and you’ll find a small, dimly lit bar filled with cozy couches, unique craft cocktails and some of the most knowledgeable “liquid chefs” around.
Local’s Tip: Get a spot at the bar to be mesmerized at the creation of the many hand-made cocktails they serve (some are even lit on fire!)
The Beach Club
A Siesta Key staple since 1947, The Beach Club has been serving good drinks, good vibes and good times for the past 72 years and they aren’t stopping anytime soon. The perfect spot for some ice cold brews after a long day at the beach or hearing some of the hottest DJ’s on the gulf coast; no matter what type of night you’re looking to have Beach Club is the spot for you.
Local’s Tip: Be sure to go on Tuesday and try your hand at the Beerlympics.
It may surprise people knowing how many craft breweries can be found in this small Gulf Coast town, and while all are equally amazing, one that truly stands out as a local’s favorite is Calusa. Veteran-owned and family-friendly, this innovative brewery has a brew fit for just about every palate. From their flagship IPA “Zote” to porters, pilsners and lagers, Calusa has just about everything, even a brewery cat or two.
Local’s Tip: Go for the beer, stay for one of the delicious food trucks that are constantly on rotation.
La Dolce Vita
This is one of those places that may appear ordinary from the outside, but once you walk through the doors of La Dolce Vita you are greeted with mouth watering aromas of authentic Italian cuisine. Owned and operated by a husband and wife, everything is handmade with expertise and love. You may arrive to La Dolce Vita as a customer, but you will leave as part of the family.
Local’s Tip: Don’t skip dessert…I mean it!
O'Leary's Tiki Bar and Grill
A cold drink, some live music and the sounds of waves crashing in the background, it doesn’t get more Florida than that. For locals, that’s exactly why they visit O’Leary’s Tiki Bar. A Sarasota staple for as long as this writer can remember, and recently underwent a fabulous tiki make-over, O’Leary’s is a place to come as you are, relax and unwind!
Local’s Tip: Opt for a frozen concoction to stay cool on a hot summer day.
Siesta Key Beach
You really can’t have an article about Sarasota without mentioning Siesta Key Beach. Voted America’s #1 beach on many occasions, there’s nothing quite like digging your toes into the powder white sand and listening to the waves crash against the shore. Just be sure to get there early to get that prime sun-bathing spot.
Local’s Tip: For goodness sakes…PLEASE don’t feed the sea gulls!