Here are 5 restaurants that will transform your Anna Maria Island vacation! While the beautiful beaches, friendly people and luxury family beach rentals are plenty to rave about, the island has a few eateries that truly affect the way travelers feel about AMI.
Restaurants that will Transform your Anna Maria Island Vacation
There is one thing people all over the world have in common. Eating. Everyone requires nourishment. However, food isn’t just a requirement, it’s often an emotional experience that started before you were even born.
Many of us can think back on meals that effect us on an emotional level. Like that casserole your mother made every Sunday when you were a kid. The way your husband makes that secret barbecue sauce recipe before firing up the grill. Or even that special meal you had during your travels in Florida.
These Anna Maria Island restaurants are the exact place to go for that meal you’ll think of years from now. These are flavors and feelings you’ll take home and tell all your friends about. Not only are these restaurants full of fantastic menu items, but they offer a glimpse into the island life. Each has a culture all of it’s own, but still connects with those unique local island vibes.
Rod & Reel Pier – Seafood with a view.
The Rod & Reel Pier has been serving up traditional Florida fare since 1947. Wonder up to the bay side of north Anna Maria, and you’ll find what looks like an old house on a small old fishing pier. There’s always people fishing and lounging outside enjoying the gorgeous views of Tampa bay, Egmont Key and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This is a nice place to relax. The crowd is a mix of locals and tourists and everything is low key.
The menu at Rod & Reel is indicative of a typically simple and casual Florida eatery. Find basics like chicken wings, peel and eat shrimp and a Grouper sandwich. Each day you’ll find a different selection of fresh fish grilled, blackened or fried served with mango chutney or garlic butter.
This is the spot for a no frills meal with cold beers. Service moves at its own pace. The staff might be friendly, or they might be salty. Either way just relax and go with the flow. There is a bar downstairs and a dining room up top. Locals tend to prefer the bar seating. The beer selection is limited and mostly domestic, but this spot isn’t about fancy brews. Its about the experience of eating on beautiful blue waters, enjoying warm weather, doing a little lazy Florida fishing, and relaxing island style.
The Sandbar – Sunsets and Tourists
The Sandbar is the quintessential island dining experience. Toes in the sand dining room, sun burnt to a crisp tourists, fruity frozen cocktails and sunsets so pretty you just can’t even believe your eyes. This type of restaurant experience is why you decided on a Florida vacation!
The menu is more eclectic than one might expect from a touristy destination. A little bit of everything from southern home cooking to high-end seafood. Find things like shrimp and grits, sliders, fish tacos and even caviar too! The Seafood tower is a great option for tasting a variety of seafood including lobster tail, seasonal crab, shrimp, oysters, clams and smoked fish dip. Along with a lovely menu, The Sandbar offers a full service bar and a fantastic wine menu.
When you are looking for that fun beach bar vibe with a family friendly atmosphere, good food and accommodating service head over to The Sandbar in Anna Maria. There’s nothing like sitting in a crowd of happy vacationers all relaxing and watching the sunset while enjoying a great meal on the gulf.
Bridge Tender Inn – Salty characters and local culture.
The Bridge Tender Inn is where you’ll find a salty good time with funky local characters and some pretty decent food too. Finding those places that the locals frequent are what really makes a vacation feel authentic. Yes the touristy places are super fun. However, you have to find the local hangouts to really get a feel for an area, and this is one of them!
The Bridge Tender is nestled along north Sarasota Bay at the end of Historic Bridge Street. They offer both indoor and outdoor seating with a bar on the water and one inside too. There is nothing up-tight about this restaurant. Everyone is laid back and having a good time. The no frills staff are eager to please and have fun too, but not without a little of that salt life attitude only Floridians have.
The menu has something for everyone. Find crab cakes, burgers, Grouper and sandwiches. A lot of pub grub type of items, but with some nicer selections like roast duck and steaks.
The Bridge Tender Inn is extremely family friendly, but is open late to accommodate those looking for night life. From time to time you’ll find live music, and during Football season you’ll find a lot of Packers fans watching the games.
Grab a rum and coke and a crab cake and sit back with a view of the bay and the Anchorage. The Anchorage is the area in North Sarasota Bay where many year round residents anchor their various house boats. For many the Anchorage is not only home, but a way of life. If you hang out at the Bridge Tender long enough you’re sure to meet an Anchorage character.
Beach Bistro – Fancy fine dining and beach views.
The Beach Bistro is an award winning gulf front restaurant that will leave you amazed. Nestled in Resort 66 in Holmes Beach, the Bistro has been providing the island with fine dining since 1985. You won’t find anything else like it on Anna Maria Island and the locals will agree!
Here the menu offers only the finest ingredients. Find items like fresh caught seafood Bouillabaisse, foie gras, steaks and lobster too. Everything is of the highest quality as owner Sean Murphy’s primary goal has always been the pursuit of perfection. Along with an award winning menu, you’ll find an outstanding wine selection and a lovely full service bar.
Not a large restaurant the dining room offers an intimate setting great for celebrations, romantic evenings and special occasions of all sorts. Service at the Beach Bistro is above average in every way. You’ll truly feel taken care of as your server and support staff guide you through an amazing dining experience. Because the Beach Bistro has been serving the island for decades, you’ll always find locals enjoying their evenings here. It’s not uncommon for Sean Murphy to stop by your table as he loves meeting his guests in person.
Anna Maria Island has such a laid back feel that even this fine dining establishment still feels warm and welcoming. This dining experience is truly one of a kind.
Star Fish Company Restaurant and Market – The “real” old Florida.
Located in one of the countries oldest fishing villages, Starfish Market is an absolute must when visiting Anna Maria Island. The Cortez Fishing Village is located just over the Cortez bridge from the island. Everyday boats hull in fresh caught fish and seafood to feed Florida and beyond.
As you make your way from the main road through the village you’ll find quaint old cottages, tons of boats and a quiet neighborhood setting. Generations of families have been fishing from the shores in this community and it’s apparent as you look around. Many of the fishermen working for the Starfish fleet live in the village. You’ll feel like you have been transported back in time while in Cortez.
Star Fish offers both a restaurant and market. All restaurant seating is outdoors along the water where the fishing boats are kept. You’ll literally watch the days catch coming to dock while dining here.
The Menu is simple, fresh and classic old Florida Seafood. Find Gulf Shrimp, Grouper, Smoked Mullet and clams. Seasonal favorites include Stone Crab claws and Spiny Lobster. The side dishes are nothing but southern with cole slaw, hush puppies and grits. Order at the bar, find a table and the staff will call your name when the order is ready. Food is served in crisp white paper boxes. Bring cash!
Dining at Star Fish is something special. Sitting on North Sarasota Bay eating local seafood, watching the salt beaten boats come in, and Pelicans looking for a handout. This is the essence of what Florida once was, and continues to live on at Starfish.
These are the restaurants that will transform your Anna Maria Island Vacation in ways you never thought!
From mingling with locals, to enjoying a sunset with a group of strangers, to an intimate fine dining experience. Enjoy the true authentic flavor of the island life on your next Anna Maria Island getaway!