I remember the smell that infiltrated my nostrils as a kid when I walked out of SRQ airport. My sister and I would look up at our parents and scream, “It smells like Florida!"
We hopped in our rental car and drove through the roundabout-less streets, passed Denny’s, where high-rises now stand, and waited our turn on the drawbridge that stood where the John Ringling Bridge now lights up nightly.
We would cruise through St. Armands Circle and beg to go to ScoopDaddy's ice cream parlor. We rolled down the windows and flew over New Pass knowing we were minutes away from reuniting with our grandfather behind the gates at the Longboat Key Club.
Whether Poppy was waiting with treats from Kilwins along with four tickets to Disney World because he wasn’t ready for us to invade his paradise or piling us into the car to immediately go to The Buccaneer Inn — his love of Longboat Key filled our hearts. It became our home away from home.
Then some-odd years later, long after my Poppy had passed, I transplanted myself to Sarasota and instantly absorbed the lifestyle that I remember him indulging in so fondly — and the one my dad adored so dearly.
There are so many foodie moments that bring a smile to this seasoned Sunshine State redhead. But here are five of the foods, and where to feast on them, that make me proud to be an official Floridian (almost eight years in)!
Forked at Waterside
7600 Island Cove Terrace, Suite100, Sarasota; 941-355-3672; ForkedEats.com
Open seven days a week at 8 a.m., this Lakewood Ranch addition is perfect for early risers, families and gal pals looking to get a nice boozy brunch in before 3 p.m.
Sunshine Staple: Where else would we start this journey other than the fresh Florida orange juice route? Order standard OJ (small $5, large $8) squeezed fresh daily or get your buzz on with mimosas ($13) served with the nectar of the Florida gods and a La Marca split.
Gulf Coast Grazer: Munch on the Ms. Strawberry Shortcake ($15) French toast grilled with graham cracker coated-challah bread, sensational strawberries and cream cheese frosting.
Established in 1984, this seafood mecca has some of the freshest seafood in our community. This menu offers samplings that pull at my Connecticut heart strings as well as samplings that reassure me that Sarasota is home sweet home too.
Sunshine Staple: My mother’s last meal on earth will involve stone crab and a bottle of Perrier-Jouet — and I’ll be sure to grab the stone crabs (market price) from Brian’s. Place your order for these precious pieces of the sea at the market (9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday) or order at the restaurant (11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday).
Gulf Coast Grazer: Head to the market for local and New England seafood staples that come with two sides. Choose from Florida scamp ($29.95), corvina ($20.95) or snag some Maine lobster tails ($39.95).
Hop in the car and drive to the Beach House, where all your worries wash away with the best beachfront dining you will find in our community. Sip on tropical drinks, dive into delicious food, watch your kids release all their pent-up energy on the beach and take in everything paradise has to offer.
Sunshine Staple: Grouper sandwich ($33) prepared with beautifully blackened grouper, lovely lemon aioli, lettuce, tomato, onion and, of course, fries. One of the best renditions of the local sandwich I have had!
Gulf Coast Grazer: Snack on the shrimp bowl ($27) mixed with fried gulf shrimp, Cajun rice, mango salsa, chipotle lime sour cream and avocado.
This Siesta Key dining destination embodies what it means to live like a local. The flavorful island food is prepared with fresh local fish and served alongside craft beer — exactly what every Floridian craves.
Sunshine Staple: The enchantingly-delicious-every-single-time ceviche (price varies). One time I satisfied my belly with a bowl of shrimp, tilefish, jalapeños, mandarin oranges and sweet peppers, but I’m craving the cobia ceviche as I type. Specials change so check their Facebook page!
Gulf Coast Grazer: You’ll never go wrong with the daily fresh caught local gulf fish (market price) cooked blackened or grilled with one side like the house-made slaw or black beans and rice.
These sweet treats have been in the Sarasota area for over 35 years. You can find them at their brick-and-mortar location or at the Sarasota, Venice, Englewood or Lakewood Ranch farmers markets. Good news gluten-free peeps: These pies can be made with a gluten-free graham cracker crust.
Sunshine Staple: You knew it was coming — Key Lime pie. With options like the original (from $18.72), to specials like tropical fruit Key Lime pie, to raspberry Key Lime pie and mango Key Lime pie (full pies, $20.80 and up), you would think that these options would be enough. But you’d be wrong.
Gulf Coast Grazer: Pick from Key Lime pie on a stick ($6.24) covered in Belgian chocolate, Key Lime bites ($6.24 and up) and mini pies that include all the flavors above plus chocolate silk, banana cream, peanut butter, coconut cream and more (from $5.20).
Emma B. Jolly has worked at Observer Media Group for five years as the digital fulfillment specialist with previous experience at Sarasota Magazine, Harper's Bazaar and even "The Jerry Springer Show" (yes, that's right). In her spare time, she enjoys doing anything near or on the water, being a cat mama and, of course, being a foodie with her new hubby.