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Great dishes for less than $20 in Lakewood Ranch

Hungry for a tasty meal in east Manatee County that gives you a big bang for your buck? Coming right up!

Bet you can’t just eat one of Craft Growlers To Go’s bacon and guacamole grilled cheese sandwiches.
Bet you can’t just eat one of Craft Growlers To Go’s bacon and guacamole grilled cheese sandwiches.
Courtesy photo
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Lakewood Ranch offers abundant options for foodies who enjoy a good deal without sacrificing the quality of the meal. Being thrifty doesn’t mean scrimping on taste or ambience — or resorting to fast food joints. Here are a few suggestions for great meals at great places that are under (or a wee bit over) $20. You might break your diet. But you won’t break the bank.

Craft Growlers To Go and Tasting Room 

If You Go: 8141 Lakewood Main St. Unit N103; 941-822-8131;

Craft Growlers To Go is more than a popular destination for live music, friendly cheer and great beer. 

Owner Jeanne Dooley and her team keep guests well fed at affordable prices. Their menu’s filled with flatbreads, pizzas and tasty pub-grub stuff like hot queso dip, devilled eggs and bacon-flavored beer nuts. But if you want a beefier backup for your Hidden Springs Peanut Butter Deja Moo (from Tampa) or the Burial Surf Wax (from Asheville, N.C.), you can’t go wrong with one of three Argentine-style empanadas (Mediterranean beef, spicy chicken and spicy beef). And you can affordably fill up on all three — they’re $5 each. 

Craft Growlers To Go’s empanadas are from The Empanada Girl, who sells her spicy fare at Sarasota’s downtown farmers market.
Courtesy photo

Even better? Dooley sources the empanadas from the Empanada Girl (Stefania Fochi), who sells her folded delights at the Sarasota Farmers Market. Or go with the deliciously decadent bacon and guacamole grilled cheese sandwich. It’s only $10 so you know what that means: Have two and hit the gym tomorrow.

Remy’s on Main Street 

If You Go: 8138 Lakewood Main St., Lakewood Ranch; 941-355-9391;

At Remy’s you can eat a great meal every night for a week for under $20. 

The Bibimbap Bowl at Remy’s is chock full of greens and protein.
Courtesy photo

Here’s a few to start with: The Bibimbap Bowl is a bowl chock-full of veggies and protein, including pickled carrot, fresh spinach, cucumbers, kimchi, fried egg, and bulgogi (slices of marinated beef; 17). If seafood is more your style, try The Wharf, a plate of jumbo shrimp, scallops and Icelandic cod filets served with a potato anyway you like it ($18). Speaking of fish, you can also enjoy ahi seared tuna ($17), mahi-mahi ($19) and salmon ($19) and each comes with two sides. 

If you bring the kids, they can dig into happy meals at prices you’ll never match at home, including fried or grilled chicken ($7), fish and fries ($7), and spaghetti ($7). How easy is that?

Inkawasi Peruvian Restaurant 

If You Go: 10667 Boardwalk Loop; 941-360-1110;

When Peruvian native Jimmy Arias opened Inkawasi Peruvian Restaurant in 2019, he knew it would stand out. Sure, Main Street in Lakewood Ranch has its share of outstanding eateries — but none served Peruvian fare. Arias filled in the gap — and Inkawasi has become a foodie favorite ever since. 

Kleyver Zamora, the son of owner Jimmy Arias, is happy to educate guests about Peruvian food and wines.
Photo by Lori Sax

With a menu boasting Peruvian perennials like lomo saltado (seared beef stir-fried with veggies and served over rice), ceviche, chupe de camarones (shrimp chowder), empanadas and fried yucca, it’s the closest you can get to Peru without a plane ticket. 

Peruvian fare is a tapestry of global cuisines, blending indigenous ingredients with Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Spanish influences. Here, you’ll find fried rice, noodle and pasta dishes and plenty of fresh fish. 

Inkawasi’s Parihuela Inkawasi is a Peruvian-style bouillabaisse, filled with cod, shrimp, calamari rings, mussels and clams.
Photo by Lori Sax

We suggest the Parihuela Inkawasi, a Peruvian-style bouillabaisse, filled with cod, shrimp, calamari rings, mussels and clams. “The parihuela is considered a main dish, with energizing and toning properties,” says Arias. “Due to its simplicity and succulence, it is a popular soup.” Succulent, indeed! What sets it apart from its French cousin is the addition of ají panca, a Peruvian chili pepper with an almost fruity taste. This taste feast will set you back $21.95 — but we think the extra $1.95 is money well spent.

Speaks Clam Bar 

If You Go: 8764 State Road 70 E., Lakewood Ranch; 941-232-7646;

General Manager Chris Rodman with Speaks’ Rigatoni alla Vodka, a mouth-watering mélange of aged Parmesan, sweet heavy cream tomato paste and fresh basil.
Photo by Lori Sax

You’ve probably heard of Natalia Levey, the chef, restaurateur and the author of “Cravings Boss.” She’s the owner of several regional restaurants, including Speaks Clam Bar in Lakewood Ranch (there’s another Speaks on St. Armands Circle). 

The clam bar concept makes sense when you consider that Levey hails from a large Italian family from New York City’s Little Italy. Since Prohibition days, clam bars served as cultural hubs where Italian families gathered, socialized, dug into authentic Italian grub and, back then, indulged in illegal hooch. Speaks provides for all these things — except the hooch is now legal.

The Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Rigatoni at Speaks will please your senses and your appetite.
Photo by Lori Sax

Sticking with our under $20 theme, you could fill up on a dozen raw clams for 10 bucks and call it a night. Craving heartier fare? Prepare for pasta! The Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Rigatoni will please your senses and your appetite. The rigatoni is made on-site and sautéed in a lusciously sweet cream sauce, perked with an aged Parmesan and topped with sausage that’s fragrant with fennel and other herbs ($18). Or go for the Rigatoni alla Vodka, a mouth-watering mélange of aged Parmesan, sweet heavy cream tomato paste and fresh basil ($16). 

Buon appetito!

Libby’s at Lakewood Ranch 

If You Go: 8445 Lorraine Road, Lakewood Ranch; 941-357-1570;

There’s nothing impossible about the Impossible cheeseburger at Libby’s.
Photo by Lori Sax

Libby’s Impossible Burger ($16.50) is a delicious possibility. This meat-free “double mac burger” is loaded with American cheese and mayo and all the condiments you crave.

Chef Raul Rodriguez with the Krabby Patty, made with blue crab and Gulf shrimp sandwiched between two pieces of toasted sesame brioche.
Photo by Lori Sax

Sure, if you’re vegan, you can always settle on a salad. But let’s face it. Sometimes it’s burger time. We’re talking a fat, juicy, old-fashioned, all-American burger with cheese and ketchup and mustard and mayo oozing out of the bun. The only key difference? This burger is decidedly new-fashioned when it comes to its sustainable, healthier, kinder, gentler meat alternative. Oh — did we mention the mayo is plant-based, along with the cheese? (Libby’s wickedly tasty real-beef burger is also a possibility.) 

If you’re not in a burger state of mind, try the Krabby Patty sandwich ($19), made with blue crab and Gulf shrimp and slapped between two pieces of toasted sesame brioche and then deliciously drenched with sriracha aioli mayo. It’s definitely a mouthful — but one that will make you smile. 


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