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Eating with Emma

The best fish and chips in Sarasota and Manatee counties

At the Salty Dog be sure to say, "I'll get the fish and chips, extra crispy please."
At the Salty Dog be sure to say, "I'll get the fish and chips, extra crispy please."
Photo by Emma Burke Jolly
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There are a few things that no one prepares you for when you lose someone you love: the unexpected stream of tears when you're listening to a happy song that reminds you of a moment in time, the brain fog that seeps into your everyday functionality and the fact that the term "comfort food" takes on a whole different meaning. 

I've learned so much about my mother in the last year (including just what a strong cookie she is and how chic she looks with her cute new bob haircut), but one thing that has never faltered is her reliable sense of where to find satisfaction in a fish and chip entree. 

If it's listed on the menu, my favorite woman on the planet is without hesitation ordering the crispy golden platter of fish and fries that originates from her favorite place in the world, England. (Seriously, ask her anything about the royal family and you'll get an answer even better than an AI-generated one.) 

So let's dig into some of the culinary comfort food that made its way across the pond and into our Gulf-side community.

Star Fish Company

12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez; 941-794-1243;

Star Fish Company serves seafood caught in the Cortez Village waters and filleted at its market.
Photo by Nancy Guth

Recently recognized as one of USA Today's top restaurants of the year, this historic Cortez Village foodie paradise has been standing since the 1920s, with a market added in the 1960s. With so few waterfront restaurants in the area (always a shock to our visitors), Star Fish not only has a fantastically Floridian view but their simple yet sensational menu make the combo (water and food) also as spectacular as the fish and chips.

You're So Golden: You have lots of options for which fish you want fried alongside your chips here in Cortez. They include include grouper (market price), mullet ($9.95+), swordfish ($21.95) and so much more.

Oh My Cod: Make way for the Cortez special ($26.95) served with the best hush puppies this foodie has ever noshed on, homemade coleslaw and your choice of broccoli, fries or cheese grits. But it doesn't stop there. Choose two of the following: shrimp, mahi-mahi, oysters, scallops, grouper, crab cake or clam strips.

Owen's Fish Camp

6516 University Parkway, Lakewood Ranch, 941-951-5052; 516 Burns Court, Sarasota, 941-951-6936;

Call me a repeat offender, but the foodie gods keep pointing me in the direction of Owen's (the original downtown or the LWR location) especially because they know exactly how to dish out a plate of fish — no matter whether it's fried, blackened or grilled. Open in both locations every evening starting at 4 p.m., Southern hospitality flows through the staff, into the kitchen and in each yummy bite.

Flaky fish and crispy fries served up at Owen's Burns Court location.
Photo by Emma Burke Jolly

You're So Golden: Plated in Burns Court is the fish n' chips basket with fries and slaw for ($18.99) that pairs perfectly with a nice Jack Daniel's iced tea. Make your way past 75 and dig into the fish n' chips made from Atlantic cod and served with fries and slaw ($24.99) — with full bar access at all times.

Oh My Cod: No matter how influenced I may be by patrons around me ordering meals that make me wonder, "Maybe I should change up my order," I will be a naked-fish girl (market price) until my last bite. Any locally caught fish of the day with lemon-caper butter is my first recommendation to any newbie at Owen's. Sides? Slap on some cheesy grits and collard greens and I am the happiest version of myself.

The Old Salty Dog

1601 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota; 941-388-4311;

What better way to bite into a beautifully battered meal than on the water at City Island's Old Salty Dog? Serving Sarasota since 1985, with this location opening its doors in 1991, this stop is a must for locals (whether you want to admit it or not) and visitors alike. My family has been frequenting this restaurant since its debut, making memories over heavy pours of adult beverages and asking for the same meal every single time.

The Burke clan has been sitting at The Old Salty Dog since its first days, and this view is a big reason why.
Photo by Emma Burke Jolly

You're So Golden: Order the traditional English fish n' chips ($18.99) and ask, "Can I get that extra crispy?" Trust me, it made the world of difference for the connoisseur of chips, Amy Burke. Filet of cold water fish, deep fried (and extra crispy, remember!) with fantastic French fries. Be like a Burke and order a side of boom boom sauce to change up the ketchup game.

Oh My Cod: Want to wrap up the fish in a different way? Order the firecracker wrap with grouper ($19.99) in a chipotle tortilla with lettuce, tomato, tortilla strips and that bonkers boom boom sauce. If you're like me, hold the tomato.

Georgie's UTC Restaurant & Bar

229 N Cattlemen Road, Suite 69, Sarasota; 941-952-5001;

This UTC dining destination definitely elevated the cheap and hearty 19th-century English meal wrapped in newsprint to a modern-day entree served in a fabulously decorated ready-for-Instagram foodie bistro. With multiple events taking place — from Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a pianist to Friday Night Fever with a DJ starting at 9:30 p.m. — this lively location has something for everyone.

Drive over to UTC and bite into Georgie's fish and chips ($24).
Image via Georgie's UTC Restaurant & Bar / Facebook

You're So Golden: Georgie's fish and chips ($24) is compiled of beer-battered Dover sole, crispy chips, lemon and, to quote the menu, "UTC's best house made tartar." Up the game and order truffle fries ($8) and feel like late Queen Elizabeth herself. 

Oh My Cod: Talk about innovating and elevating — treat yourself to the Gulf grouper ($39) lightly blackened with truffle risotto, asparagus and lemon butter. Who needs chips when you can get truffle risotto, right?

Shakespeare's Craft Beer and Gastro Pub

3550 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota; 941-364-5938;

You didn't think I would leave off Shakespeare's when rounding up the perfect pairings of English fish and chips, did you? I'll always remember one of the last conversations I had with my dad, when I asked, "Do you think the owners know how much our family loves it there?" He smiled and wrote, "You are like their own PR team." I will continue to write about my favorite hole-in-the-wall serving up scrumptious plates until I've covered everything on the mouthwatering menu. (I promise I'm not on their payroll.)

The fish and chips Shakespeare's is made with flaky white fish dipped in the pub's English-style batter.
Image via Shakespeares Craft Beer and Gastro Pub / Facebook

You're So Golden: Once you've ordered your pint, go ahead and order the recommended English fish and chips ($16.95) made with flaky white fish dipped in the pub's English-style batter that tastes like it crossed the pond on a ship itself. Fries piled high accompany the crispy fish, and you can choose from the authentic side of peas or cole slaw. Or do what I do and ask for both.

Oh My Cod: While I could never understand my parents' obsession with fish filet from Micky D's, I can definitely get down to clown with Shakespeare's crispy cod sandwich ($15.95). Dipped in that delectable batter, this cod is accompanied with lettuce, (no) tomato, onion and tasty tartar sauce.



Emma Burke Jolly

Emma Burke Jolly has worked at Observer Media Group since 2018 as the digital fulfillment specialist. Originally from Connecticut, this Gulf Coast transplant loves being by the water, reminiscing about what Longboat Key looked like in 1990, navigating life with her husband and their two Maine Coon cats, and sharing her foodie findings with you.

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