Known for its fabulous, upscale dining, Longboat Key has more than its share of good restaurants to try. The food scene in Longboat Key focuses on fresh seafood and outdoor dining. It seems almost everywhere has dining available on a deck or patio to take advantage of the tropical weather.
We found that Longboat Key leans toward inventive menus with a Southern influence. All in all, Longboat Key’s dining scene skews to the upscale side of things, and that only makes sense considering the island is well-known as a luxury community. Here are some of our favorite restaurants in Longboat Key.
1. Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant
Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant is one of the most well-loved restaurants in Longboat Key. Located right on the water, you can truly eat dockside, and with 14 boat slips on the dock, boating in is a fun way to arrive. The dining area under the hundred-year-old buttonwood trees offers a gorgeous setting, and even more so with the twinkling lights that decorate the beach area in the evening.
The atmosphere here is casual-chic with a sophisticated Old-Florida boho vibe. To kick off your meal, try the world-famous tater-tots. Stuffed with onion and cheese and served with housemade honey mustard, these are an appetizer extraordinaire. Pair the spectacular tots with a drink or glass of wine. You’ll have plenty of options as both the wine list and drink menu are quite extensive.
The farm salad includes mixed baby greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, fresh mozzarella, and fresh herbs — a light, satisfying meal, especially topped with the open blue cobia. Much of the produce in my salad is sourced locally. As true stewards of the earth, owner Ed Chiles and his crew are committed to using sustainable practices and partnering with community businesses.
One favorite community partner is World Central Kitchen, which works to provide meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises. As part of their partnership, a percentage of all sales of the monthly featured dish go to World Central Kitchen. Ed is also well known in the area for his sustainability efforts and his vision to leave the earth a better place than he found it.
As the owner of two other restaurants on nearby Anna Maria Island and the certified organic Gamble Creek Farms, he believes in tapping into local and sustainable sources whenever possible — after all, the corporate values of the parent company, Chiles Hospitality, are sustainability and eco-consciousness. Among the environmental projects they support is the All Clams On Deck project, which works to restore clam populations and seagrass meadows in the area which will ultimately provide improved water quality and healthier habitats for commercial and recreational fisheries.
But don’t go to Mar Vista based on their social consciousness alone. Go for the delightful variety of appealing menu items served in an incredible waterfront setting. Mar Vista is open every day of the week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sustainable Drink Choice: Coconut water served in a hollowed-out coconut is the perfect refreshing drink in an ultra-creative presentation.
2. Euphemia Haye
Named after the former owner’s grandmother, Euphemia Haye has been called the area’s most extraordinary restaurant by Frommer’s. The name may be a little tricky to say, but dine here once and the name will roll off your tongue. This quaint and comfortable restaurant offers fine dining nightly from Executive Chef Raymond Arpke, who owns the restaurant with his wife, D’Arcy.
The historic cottage-turned-restaurant features dinner on the main floor of the cottage, with dessert and a bar upstairs in the Haye Loft. In the cozy dining room, watch the chef prepare an amazing Caesar salad made fresh in a giant wooden bowl right before your eyes. According to our waiter, the manager grinds his anchovies and makes the Caesar dressing from scratch daily. No wonder it tastes so darn good.
This intimate spot is equally perfect for romantic dinners or a girls’ night out. Enjoy the warm banana walnut bread that’s brought to your table as you review the eclectic menu. Watch the manager prepare the flaming orange-brandy butter sauce that tops the prime peppered steak. As good as that looks, I can say that the grouper with pineapple jalapeno cream sauce is perfection.
I’ll remember Euphemia Haye for a lot of reasons: the down-to-earth waiter who patiently answered all my questions, the twinkling lights in the garden out front, the incredible desserts in the Haye Loft upstairs (try the bananas foster or cherries jubilee for an old-school treat), and the place where I ate the best Caesar salad of my life.
Euphemia Haye is open Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 9:30 p.m.
3. Viento Kitchen + Bar
Sometimes hotel restaurants aren’t the best, but dining at Viento Kitchen + Bar — the onsite restaurant at Zota — is a treat. Choose from sitting outside on the terrace overlooking the gorgeous infinity pool or grab a table in the light and bright dining area. The menu, which they’ve dubbed “Floribbean,” is influenced by Florida, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean.
For breakfast, choose from classic breakfast fare like eggs Benedict or the create-your-own-omelet. The avocado toast — an avocado-Boursin spread, heirloom tomatoes, and a sunny-side-up egg served on a large slice of asiago cheese toast — is a healthy and satisfying start to the day. Viento Kitchen + Bar is open daily for breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m.
Gluten-Free Favorite: If you’re looking for a satisfying, creative gluten-free option, try the shrimp and grits with blackened shrimp, andouille sausage, tomatoes, and smoked gouda grits.
4. Shore Longboat Key
A stunning location on the water at Sarasota Bay sets the tone for this modern coastal spot where you can dine overlooking the water or inside the sleek dining area. The views here are some of the best in town. With mid-century photos on the walls and an upstairs balcony, Shore offers comfortable sophistication. Whether you arrive by boat or by car, prepare to enjoy the fantastic, creative dishes.
Never one to pass on fresh ceviche, the shrimp ceviche and guacamole at lunch served with housemade toasted corn tortillas is light and wonderful. My husband dug into his shrimp and scallops served over risotto with spinach. As we dined, we watched more than a few boaters arrive, tie up on the dock, and make their way inside. This is the shore lifestyle, indeed. Shore is open Monday through Sunday from 11 to 9:00 p.m.
Pro Tip: Visit the Shore boutique onsite for adorable beachy fashions and upscale accessories.
5. Beach House
While not technically in Longboat Key, Beach House Restaurant is just over the bridge in Bradenton Beach. A welcoming place just steps from the Gulf of Mexico, this beautiful eatery is both a destination restaurant and a casual spot for a quick lunch.
It’s also a popular place for weddings. If I was getting married, I can’t think of a more romantic place than on the sand at the Beach House. During our visit, the staff was setting up for what looked to be a stunning wedding by the sea. With event space inside or beachside on the large, covered patio area, the event planners here are experts in setting up your event, your way.
All diners here will see the passion the owner and staff have for offering fresh, inventive, locally-sourced food in a comfortably upscale atmosphere with great service. We settled in at the large open bar for happy hour and decided on an appetizer and dessert for our late-afternoon meal. While seaside, it’s hard to resist fresh fish, so we quickly decided on an order of the peel-and-eat shrimp for our shared appetizer. The large prawns on the happy hour menu are served on ice with cocktail sauce on the side. They more than hit the spot.
On the dessert menu, both the chocolate cake and the Key lime pie sounded amazing to this sugar junkie. In the end, the pie of Florida won out. My order was what all Key lime pie should aspire to be: tangy, delicate limes, a sweet custard, and rich homemade graham cracker crust, all topped with cool whipped cream.
After the first bite of the Beach House’s pie, it’s apparent that prior to this, I’ve only sampled barely mediocre versions of the dessert. I don’t know what they’re doing here, but they’re masters at concocting the absolute best darn Key lime pie I’ve ever had. Now you know that if you want some of the best Key lime pie in the entire state of Florida, you don’t have to go to the Keys — just go to the Beach House.
The Beach House is open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Pro Tip: The on-site bakery produces almost all of the bread served here as well as a fabulous dessert menu.