RITZY RETREAT With expansive marina views and top-drawer service, the casual Bay View Bar & Grill at The Ritz-Carlton may be Sarasota’s best-kept secret. After a few of the "No Stress" cocktails, you might even think about reserving a suite. The tropical smoothies are tasty and exotic, and you must share a Bay View Sampler, with spicy banana shrimp, blue crab cakes and chicken quesadillas. 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota. (941) 309-2008.
CAFÉ SOCIETY At downtown’s Café Epicure, the outdoor tables buzz with the conversation of beautiful urbanites, sometimes with dogs in tow. Owned by the Mediterraneo team, this hotspot features Italian favorites, including salads (arugula and avocado, anyone?), homemade pastas (don’t miss the black linguine with shrimp and asparagus), and pizzas until 10:30 p.m. Breakfasts on weekends-try the spinach and ricotta frittata. And there’s gelato at an adjoining shop. 1298 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. (941) 366-5648.
MULLET SUSHI? Old Florida survives at Cortez Kitchen, a cozy waterfront hideaway in historic Cortez Village where the ultra-fresh seafood is cooked and served simply. Like mullet? Have it sushi-style and follow with blackened grouper. Meanwhile, listen to the fish jump in Cortez Bay and the house band sing about Margaritaville. A few hours here will take you back decades. 4528 119th St. W., Cortez. (941) 798-9404.
SIDEWALK SEAFOOD There’s no better place to observe the pretty parade around St. Armands Circle than from an outdoor café table at Crab and Fin. The piano player’s nostalgic tunes coax the weary shopper to lay down her bags and survey the elegant menu, with lots of in-season seafood. Try the Oyster Grand Tasting and a glass of pinot grigio, or smoked salmon pizza with crème fraiche and fresh caviar. 420 St. Armands Circle. (941) 388-3964.
SHADY AFFAIR For a romantic tête-à-tête or a serious discussion about La Dolce Vita, dine under the spreading banyan tree at 5 One 6 Burns, next to Burns Court Cinema. It’s cool, comfortable and welcoming, with a surprisingly sophisticated menu that features everything from a "Burns" burger to a fresh seafood salad. You’ll linger long after you relish every bite. 516 Burns Lane, Sarasota. (941) 906-1884.
TALK OF THE TOWN Fred’s is the social hub of vibrant Southside Village, where an upscale crowd gathers to gossip, talk business and check each other out. A Sunday jazz brunch features Michael Royal and avocado and crab Napoleon, Licor 43 French toast with fresh mango compote and a hearty seafood pot pie. Everyone wants to sit outside here, so reserve ahead. 1925 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota. (941) 364-5811.
REINVENTING PALMETTO The French have the Côte d’Azur and now Southwest Florida has Palmetto, where new luxury high-rises and the Mangrove Grill overlook a picturesque yacht basin on the Manatee River. Expect American grill fare, with some surprises from local culinary legend and co-owner Sean Murphy, like lobstercargot (lobster slow-baked in a crock with spinach) and Gulf Coast paella. Enjoy acoustic guitar and a cool westerly breeze on the expansive outdoor deck. 102 Riviera Dunes Way, Palmetto. (941) 723-2556.
SAILING AWAY Overlooking the waters of New Pass, the Old Salty Dog is the quintessential Florida seafood joint-breezy, easy and with the mandatory peel-and-eat shrimp, burgers and grouper sandwich. If you must be sophisticated, get the yellowfin tuna cusabi salad or fresh scallops. But it’s not about the food-it’s that right-on-the-water view and the casual camaraderie. 1601 Ken Thompson Parkway, City Island, Sarasota. (941) 388-4311.
BAYFRONT TRADITION Intimately perched on Little Sarasota Bay, Ophelia’s on the Bay is one of the few places on Siesta Key where you can dine alfresco on the water. The New World cuisine is creative and constantly evolving. Start with the Maine spring lobster rolls and move on to the rack of lamb, and you’ll understand why this restaurant has been a Sarasota favorite for almost 20 years. 9105 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota. (941) 349-2212.
BEACH ACCESS The Sand Bar has been around since the ’70s and is famous for its mellow ambiance, solid seafood and super-sized margaritas and daiquiris. The view is stunning, with the outdoor deck directly on the sand. A must-do for visitors and for old-timers who need to remember why they moved here in the first place. 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria. (941) 778-0444.