Book at table at one of these waterside spots for brunch, lunch, dinner, or sunset cocktails.

By Eleanor W. Hand
November 24, 2008

With plenty of fresh seafood and gorgeous water views, these Sarasota-area restaurants offer splendid food with an unforgettable sunset free of charge.

Columbia Restaurant, St. Armands Key
As the oldest restaurant in Sarasota, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2009, Columbia Restaurant mastered blending Spanish and Cuban cuisines long ago. You’ll be tempted, but don’t fill up on the crusty Cuban bread smeared with warm butter. You’ll want an appetite for the legendary “1905” salad (named for the year the original restaurant in Tampa’s Ybor City opened), and palomilla, a thinly sliced and grilled top sirloin covered with onions, parsley, and lime juice.
• 411 St. Armands Circle; 941/388-3987 or

Dry Dock Waterfront Grill, Longboat Key
Grab a seat on the dockside patio to watch captains parallel parking yachts next to the restaurant. The casual indoor and outdoor seating also overlooks Sarasota Bay, where you’ll see pelicans flying past. Dry Dock ensures a top-notch grouper sandwich by only serving fresh Gulf of Mexico fish purchased from local fisherman. Or try its specialty, crab cakes. Ask about the daily dessert selection and hope key lime pie makes the list.
• 412 Gulf of Mexico Drive; 941/383-0102 or
IMAGE: Dry Dock 1,2, or 3.jpg

Daiquiri Deck, Siesta Key
Located in the village of Siesta Key, this infamous hangout attracts everyone from neighborhood artists to vacationing executives. The menu offers sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and salads. We suggest opting for either blackened mahi-mahi or coconut-crusted tilapia. But here, daiquiris take center stage. Choose from one of 25 frozen combinations or mix any of the 14 flavors to create your own concoction. With names like Purple Haze and Electric Lemonade, it’s hard to chose. Between 3 and 7 p.m., small daiquiris are 2-for-1.
• 5250 Ocean Boulevard; 941/349-8697 or

The Colony Dining Room, Longboat Key
This restaurant became a staple for locals and out-of-towners nearly four decades ago, and still offers contemporary cuisine and unbeatable views of the Gulf of Mexico. Try skillet-seared snapper with lump crab or tempura-fried Maine lobster tail with a key lime mustard sauce. Don’t miss the award-winning Sunday brunch with traditional fare, plus an array of fresh seafood, pates, and specialty salads.
• 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive; 941/383-5558 or

Euphemia Haye, Longboat Key
Look no further for a romantic dinner spot. Owned and operated by Chef Raymond Arpke, the restaurant makes nearly everything homemade. You can’t go wrong with the popular signature dishes of made-to-order Caesar salad, crisp roasted duckling, or flambéed prime peppered steak. For a more casual evening, dine in the Haye Loft upstairs from an abbreviated menu, and enjoy the nightly live music from 7:45 to 11:15 p.m.
• 5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive; 941/383-3633 or

Vernona, Sarasota
Executive Chef Frederic Morineau oversees a menu of Mediterranean cuisine filled with fresh, organic, locally grown ingredients. Awarded four stars by the Mobil Travel Guide, Vernona offers fine dining in an elegant setting. Before eating an olive-poached beef tenderloin or lobster macaroni and cheese, enjoy the sunset and a specialty margarita on the patio. Brunch features specialized culinary stations with caviar, sushi, imported cheese, and more.
• 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive; 941/309-2000 or