Hungry? Try Kazu’s Sushi & Asian Bistro’s Early Bird Bento Box. Feast from the teriyaki or sushi menus; items from each are served with miso soup and salad. The non-sushi menu also comes with pearl rice. The sushi teriyaki salmon bento box offers salmon sautéed in a piquant teriyaki sauce and topped with crispy Japanese panko bread crumbs. Arigato! ($9.50; 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.) 2063 Siesta Drive, Sarasota (941) 951-7778.
Remember when Mom would bring you a steaming bowl of noodle soup that made you feel warm and cozy inside? Pho Cali’s special combo noodle soup is like that—on steroids. This high-octane stew is packed with protein, including steak, flank, tendon and tripe. ($8.85) 1578 Main St., Sarasota (941) 955-2683.
Vertori’s is celebrated for its hand-tossed, brick-oven pizzas and house-made calzones and strombolis, but did you know about their “Small Plate” menu? For under $10, you can eat like you’ve been transported to your Italian grandmother’s kitchen. The garlic chicken with kalamata olives, tomatoes and feta cheese is tossed over creamy penne pasta. 6830 14th St. W., Bradenton (941) 751-0333.
Lynches Pub & Grub’s hearty Irish stew is more than pub grub. Stobhach gaelach is a beloved Irish tradition—and a Lynches’ tradition as well. This family recipe is served in a 12-ounce mug, packed with fresh rosemary, lamb, onions, celery and potatoes. Slop it up with a crisp baguette and add a pint of Guinness for the full effect. James Joyce himself might approve. ($8.95.) 19B N. Boulevard of Presidents, Sarasota (941) 388-5550.
The Ceviche De La Casa at Ceviche may come from the restaurant’s tapas menu—but it’s worthy of proper respect. This tangy combo of shrimp, scallops, squid and fish comes marinated in lime juice and tossed with fresh tomatoes, scallions, peppers and cilantro. When paired with a glass of crisp cava, it’s a meal that fills body and soul. ($9.95) 1216 First St., Sarasota (941) 952-1036.
If you’re fishing for value, Rotten Ralph’s all-you-can-eat fish & chips is the catch of the day. These golden-fried, supremely crispy fish fillets come served with heaping mounds of French fries and cole slaw. Did we mention the view? The Bradenton Beach location, with its open-air deck overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, inspires ooohs and ahhhs at no extra charge. ($9.99) 200 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach (941) 778-3953.
Michael’s On East’s “Lounge Bite” menu is a taste trip for lounge lizards on a budget. Try the Rosas Farm grass beef sliders—elegant little beef bites made from grass-fed and “humanely managed” cows. They come with a side of crispy French fries tossed in truffle oil and dusted with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. ($5 per item from 5 to 7 p.m.) 1212 East Ave. S. (Midtown Plaza), Sarasota (941) 366-0007.
Anna Maria Oyster Bar’s Garden Mahi Mahi dinner is a flavorful—and affordable—garden of tasty delights. The six-ounce mahi mahi steak is grilled and served on a bed of rice pilaf, encircled with fresh zucchini and squash. But what makes this stand out is the signature scampi sauce, a flavorsome blend of garlic, shallots, butter, olive oil, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, cream and a hint of Tabasco. ($9.99) 6696 Cortez Road W., Bradenton (941) 792-0077.
Feel like stuffing yourself on the cheap? Try Cosimo’s stuffed portobello mushrooms, a production starring everyone’s favorite mega mushroom, roasted and laden with caramelized shallots, sautéed spinach, sundried tomatoes and topped with a melt-in-your-mouth Gorgonzola sauce. Vegetarians, note: They don’t call the marvelous, meaty Portobello “the steak of the mushroom family” for nothing. It’s the closest you’ll get to a guilt-free steak dinner. ($9.59) 8201 S. Tamiami Trail (in Westfield Sarasota Square), Sarasota (941) 927-3800.
Who says you can’t get prime sirloin steak for less than a sawbuck? The BeachHouse Restaurant, on Anna Maria Island, has a killer new “Beach Value Menu.” Arrive before 5 p.m. and enjoy a six-ounce tender cut with cole slaw and fries or rice ($9.99). Be happy, because it’s Happy Hour; sip a piña colada, cold beer or house wine—each for under $5. 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach (941) 779-2222.
Our 10 Best are not ranked in order of numerical preference.