Siesta Key, laden with white quartz sand beaches on the north end and fragile turtle nesting grounds on the south, is a little slice of tropical heaven just off Sarasota, Florida. At the time of writing, big developers are on the horizon, but it still holds its small-town beach-bum vibe, particularly during the off-season.
Famed for its beaches, Siesta Key hosts a wide variety of eateries, casual to fine, making it a gastronomic destination in its own right.
Let me say that my trip was cut short by the rude arrival of Hurricane Ian, so this list is a bit truncated. For example, I’m sure Gabbiano’s, The Cottage, and Summer House all belong on these pages. An appetizer to wet your zest in one of the best Siesta Key restaurants.
Here are 7 of our must-try Siesta Key restaurants, from casual to upscale.
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The 7 Best Siesta Key Restaurants
Bonjour French Café
5214 Ocean Blvd // +1 (941) 346-0600
If you are up to one of the best Siesta Key restaurants for breakfast, Bonjour French Café, located on Ocean Boulevard, is a sweet little spot for a French-inspired breakfast. Classic French posters dot the walls, and the smell of butter croissants and other baked delicacies wafts through the air, coupled with the aroma of espresso and the lilt of the owners’ accents.
Their in-house recipes use local produce and fresh ingredients. The satiating Croque Madame, with its thick-cut bread and bright over-easy egg on top, was toothsome—cut nicely by a mimosa. The crepes are a clear hit, loaded with fresh fruit, chocolate, and savory flavors. Crepe Suzette and Quiche Lorraine are two more of their standout dishes.
In the Provencal style, lunch includes salads like a classic hearty tuna or pasta and a variety of sandwiches on French baguettes. High tourism season brings long lines to get in, so be ready! Bonjour is a cute little bistro-style café where you can linger for a moment over your meal.
Note that their website is not up-to-date at the time of writing. (For example, they’re not open for dinner.) It’s best to call if you have any questions.
Turtle Beach Grill
8865 Midnight Pass Road // +1 (941) 349-2280
A shout-out goes to the Turtle Beach Grill, a classic, divey beach bar down at the Turtle Beach end of the Key, right across from the campground. Set in an old house, you’ll find classic rock, dance, and disco flowing through the air.
Ashley, one of their veteran bartenders, has been at the helm for 13 years. Their food is fresh, it comes at great prices, and they’ve got a popular happy hour featuring live music Thursday-Sunday from 5pm to close. During high season they’re packed, so plan to get there early!
I liked their lightly-battered coconut shrimp—plump, large, and fresh, complemented with a house-made citrus-pineapple sauce. It came with a side of proper, creamy, crispy Cole Slaw (not mayonnaise-y in the least). They serve a mean blackened Mahi taco and a tasty Black Angus burger. To drink, I’d recommend their Pure Margarita, made with Cuervo Gold, fresh lime juice, and agave nectar.
If you’re there for dinner, Turtle Beach Grill offers a solid selection of seafood, chicken, and pasta entrees. And boaters get a sweet bonus: complimentary dockage at Bayfront Yacht Works & Marina next door.
Big Water Fish Market
6639 Midnight Pass Road // +1 (941) 554-8101
The Big Water Fish Market is one of the best little places in town for a casual lunch or to pick up fresh seafood to cook at home. Located in a small shopping plaza on Midnight Pass Road, the market & deli is a casual storefront filled with colorful fishing kitsch and is one of the most fascinating Siesta Key restaurants.
Choose from a list of Chef’s Specialties: the Islamorada Piccata, grilled hogfish over rice and asparagus, topped with a fresh, creative sauce of white wine, garlic butter, lemon, capers, pineapple, cilantro, and more. Or the Snapper Sundown, grilled snapper in a sweet and spicy coconut lime sauce.
I feasted on one of the long list of “Handhelds,” a Mahi Melt sandwich that came on a soft brioche bun from St. Armand’s Baking Company. The savory blackened Mahi came topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, lovely melted Swiss, and spicy tartar sauce. As a condiment, they make a special house-made hot sauce in a bottle filled with vinegar, pepper, and carrots that’s spicy and sweet. The whole thing spilled over in a medley of juices—you will need napkins.
Besides fresh caught local fish (including Red and Black Grouper, Pompano, and Amberjack), they’re also the place for fresh Cracked Florida Stone Crab during the season, usually mid-October to mid-May.
Pi 3.14 Pizza & Blasé Martini Bar
5263 Ocean Boulevard // +1 (941) 346-1188
For a tasty pizza experience, there’s another spot tucked away in one of the small shopping plazas in Siesta Key Village, Pi 3.14 Pizza and Bar. It has a fun, small-town vibe, sporting beer and beach-themed décor on the walls and giant fans made of old boat propellers. It’s a terrific place to spot some locals and local bartenders and spend a casual afternoon or evening in one of the best Siesta Key Restaurants.
The Fungi wild mushroom pizza pie in a garlic sauce with truffle is sure to please any serious pizza lover. It came out piping hot with a quality mozzarella that was creamy and stretchy—cooked at 505 degrees for six minutes.
The truffle smell hits you as the pizza sets down, creating an instant sensory delight. The crust was crisp on the bottom and chewy inside with a yeasty note. It was a big hit, topped with chunks of soft, pillowy ricotta cheese. The pizza paired well with a Big Wave Golden Ale, which was a nice weight, not overwhelming, and didn’t compete with the pizza’s more delicate flavors.
Also noteworthy is Pi 3.14’s partner restaurant, the Blasé Martini Bar, just a few doors down. The bartender knows her martinis and makes them expertly. Large martinis arrive nicely chilled, with ice on the pond, just a touch dirty. And the blue cheese olives are insane! They hand-stuff them onsite with a banging blue cheese. The generously portioned Buffalo cauliflower is a nice switch up from wings (just be mindful that cauliflower and batter don’t hold up for leftovers!).
Siesta Key Oyster Bar
5238 Ocean Boulevard // +1 (941) 346-5543
Oyster lovers, ahoy! Don’t miss the family-owned Siesta Key Oyster Bar, SKOB, and their popular Big G’s Happy Hour, 50% off a dozen house oysters, happening daily from 3pm-6pm. Situated in the heart of Siesta Key Village, SKOB is no ordinary tourist joint. The kitchen is top-notch, using local produce and the freshest ingredients, and everything is made in-house. The food is outstanding.
SKOB has a festive, casual atmosphere, with a beach hut-themed outdoor deck made of plain wooden planks. Pop rock music entertains on the stereo, with live music starting around 2:30pm. License plates adorn the bar, and the tables sport creative license plate light shades. It was bustling on an early Friday afternoon in late September.
I found the expertly shucked Cape Cod Wianno Oysters plump, fresh, and silky, with plenty of salinity. House-made horseradish, mignonette, and cocktail sauce were a cut above. This is one of the best Siesta Key Restaurants for coconut margaritas with pucker-inducing lime, rimmed with smoked coconut crispies.
SKOB’s full menu brings a variety of seafood-based options, from succulent Tuna Poke Bite appetizers to New England Clam Chowder to an over-the-top Seafood Tower, a cornucopia of the freshest fruits of the sea. The scallops on crab & snow pea risotto with asparagus spears were delightfully filled with chunks of crab. The pan-fried scallops were plump, succulent, and sweet. The risotto was just right, a bit al dente, and bathed in a creamy lemon-caper sauce.
In one last charming touch, the ceiling indoors is filled with hanging dollar bills that guests donate, which SKOB periodically gifts to a charitable cause.
The Star Thai And Sushi
240 Avenida Madera // +1 (941) 217-6758
The lovely Star Thai and Sushi is an experience unto itself. I fell in love with this charming restaurant the moment I walked through the door. The décor is Asian Bohemian fusion, where dark wood complements dim lighting adorned with Asian lampshades, wall decorations, and potted bamboo trees. This Siesta Key Restaurants *feels* like Asia. Upbeat music was powered by a Spotify mix of old-school 80s and modern dance music.
Manager Golfy Pengthong greets everyone with an infectious smile. Angel, Head Sushi Chef, is a master trained in Lubbock, Texas, of all places, under master Korean Sushi Chefs. His presentation is unusually thoughtful and artful, making the whole meal fun and playful.
The Tuna Crisps were just wow. A gorgeous flat-bottomed porcelain bowl arrived filled with silver dollar-size rice cakes, lightly deep-fried to be crispy and chewy in the middle. They were topped with super finely chopped tuna, fresh and soft, layered over smooth, silky avocado, drizzled with a spicy mayo sauce. They were simply luscious with textures and flavors that worked off of each other. Most of all, they tasted like a mouthful of fresh, savory, and healthy.
The Hot Hamachi dish was superb! Fancifully presented in a traditional Chinese black lacquer boat with red accents, it carried slices of tender yellowtail lined up on a bed of thinly-chopped daikon. Each Hamachi slice held a thick sliver of dark green jalapeno topped with a dollop of tobiko. What a combo—the buttery, mild flavor of the yellowtail drew you in, and suddenly your mouth filled with jalapeno heat which wasn’t blazingly spicy, just big and warm.
Both paired well with an Asahi beer and a dry Otokoyama Sake.
Fresh, tender, buttery salmon and tuna nigiri were a light way to round out the meal. The Star Thai and Sushi experience is high-quality sushi with stellar service in a warm and friendly environment, where the staff have fun with each other, and the vibe spills over. The Thai food looks delicious, and good friends attest that it is! During high season they are packed to the gills, so plan accordingly.
Ophelia’s On The Bay
9105 Midnight Pass Road // +1 (941) 349-2212
Ophelia’s on the Bay is a hidden treasure amongst the all Siesta Key Restaurants. Situated in a beautiful, low-slung one-story wooden building right on the edge of Little Sarasota Bay, its full-window walls and open-air patio offer water views. Dolphins and manatees swim by on a lucky day, or waters shimmer during a full moon.
Gracing Siesta Key since 1988, long-time Executive Chef Daniel Olson purchased the restaurant when it came up for sale about six years ago. His passion flows throughout the menu. Many of the staff have longevity, like the silver-haired Csaba, which attests to the strength of Ophelia’s recipe for success.
Tarik, my waiter, embodied stellar service as he thoughtfully guided my meal. House-made warm bread with whipped butter appeared just as soon as I was seated, followed by a glass of champagne and order of Black Mussels that were ambrosial. The creamy, garlicky broth was a divine San Marzano Tomato Arrabbiata-Infused Nage with Sweet Basil Butter and shallots, filled with silky, plump mussels.
Next, a Strawberry Chop Salad every bit as satisfying as the menu had promised. It was an artful mix of contrasting textures and flavors sprinkled with strawberry halves and cinnamon-dusted caramelized pecans that burst with flavor. Dressed in a truffle oil-balsamic vinaigrette, the whole affair came topped with a luscious chunk of French Black Label Roquefort Papillon. A dry, mineral-forward Riesling complemented and didn’t compete with this complex salad.
The thick-cut Filet Mignon arrived juicily pink and bathed in a luxurious Courvoisier Demi-Glace. Hand-prepared Dauphinoise Potatoes were cut paper-thin and precisely layered in a square, topped with a nice lightly browned crust. The dish rounded off with a delicious creamed spinach garnished with white and green asparagus spears. And the flavor.
A delightfully dry 2019 Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon from the Oakville AVA in Napa Valley paired excellently with the filet, full of pepper, silk, and tannins.
Not to be outdone by the mains, their dessert menu glitters with detail and unique ingredients. Just visualize this Mocha Caboose: French Shortbread layered with Coffee Genoise Sponge Cake, Bolivian Dark Chocolate Mousse, and Cappuccino Bavarian Cream, Enrobe in Chocolate and Finished with Butterscotch Sauce. Add a double espresso, and you have the perfect end to a truly memorable meal.
Visiting other destinations in Florida? Check out our other guides:
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- 7 Must-Try Clearwater Florida Restaurants
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Tonya Hennessey is a freelance writer and non-profit professional who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, and grew up in the Minneapolis, Minnesota metro area. Early travels awakened her astonishment at the world’s varied cultures, landscapes, and, of course, food. She’s now marrying a passion for travel with love of the written word. Food tops the list of Tonya’s writing interests, with cultural and sustainable travel right behind. Learn more about her work on Instagram and her website.