There’s good eating in Sarasota. According to some accounts, the city has more restaurants than banks, real estate offices, and churches combined. And in the main, they’re local, independent establishments, not national chains or franchises.
It stands to reason.
Back in the 1840s, when European settlers first arrived here in significant numbers, Zara Zote, as the Spanish had named it, was considered precious for its sparkling setting, brilliant climate and the bounty of Sarasota Bay.
So it is today with Sarasota (as the city came to be known, from the original Spanish). During our relatively brief sojourn on this bit of the suncoast,we set ourselves the onerous task of eating our way through the so-called ultimate guide to Florida food. We had no idea – and still don’t – if the ultimate guide to Florida food really is anything like it describes itself. But wherever we went off that list – and we managed two out of 20 places, in the course of just five days – was excellent.
Then again, when that abomination, the TV show Man vs Food, visited Sarasota, here’s what the Travel Channel reported the presenter eating on his “chow-down quest”: Deep-fried hot dogs and homemade pies.
Deep fried hot dogs in a sunny seaside city that rejoices in an abundance of seafood? The complete absence of taste is only matched by the lack of discernment.
Here’s what we found:
Owen’s Fish camp had the best fish tacos ever. And the old guy sitting right outside the restaurant looked lifelike enough though he was a resin statue. The orchids clambering up the giant banyan tree looked plastic though they were not.
Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish in St Petersburg, less than an hour away from Sarasota, served up the best hot smoked fish dinner possible.
The mullet was local and the German potato salad very Teutonic in its vinegary, bacon flavour. The smoked fish spread married excellently with the crackers, once each smeared square was delicately anointed with hot sauce and gaily festooned with bits of tomato, lettuce and onion.
In our time here, Sarasota and its surrounds served up the taste of the sea, with verve and good taste.
There really is good eating on this slice of the suncoast.