Many visitors to Sarasota stay on Siesta Key; unfortunately, most of the nightlife on the island is limited to a standard selection of beach bars. Of them, the Daiquiri Deck (5250 Ocean Blvd., 941/349-8697) is one of the more popular, with daily drink specials and a party-hearty atmosphere.
About a mile from Siesta Key is Gulf Gate, one of Sarasota’s more concentrated dining and drinking areas. There is a wide variety of restaurants and bars, and one of the best spots is Sarasota Brewing Company (6607 Gateway Ave., 941/925-2337). The food is only slightly above-average pub fare (wings, pizza, sandwiches, etc.), but the selection of hand-crafted beers is what makes it worth stopping by. There are usually half a dozen of the brewpub’s beer on tap, and they’re all usually exceptional; brewmaster Vincent Pelosi does a particularly good job with richly flavored beers like IPAs and porters, but their light and tasty wheat beer can be mighty refreshing on a scorching Sarasota afternoon.
Besides Sarasota Brewing, the Paddy Wagon Irish Pub (6586 Gateway Ave., 941/925-2344) offers both drinks and food, while live music venues like the Pastimes Pub (6540 Superior Ave., 941/924-7782) are a great place to have a drink while catching a local band.
One particularly unique spot in this part of town is Mother’s Musical Bakery (6525 Superior Ave., 941/924-0102), a family-run coffeehouse that hosts singer-songwriters nightly; the organic menu—which includes bakery treats and light noshes, as well as beer, wine, and coffee—is a perfect complement to the sounds onstage.
Downtown Sarasota doesn’t have a lot of nighttime action, but if you’re in the area after dark, head for the vintage brick building that houses the Gator Club (1490 Main St., 941/366-5969); the clientele is the cover-band-and-cosmo set, and the atmosphere is friendly.
If you’ve got a designated driver, make the 6-mile (15- or 20-minute) drive to the Cock & Bull Pub (975 Cattlemen Rd., 941/341-9785). Although it’s all the way out near I-75, the European-style pub specializes in offering an enormous selection of beer (they call their beer menu a “Bible”) in a comfortable rustic environment. They frequently host beer tastings and occasionally have beer dinners with fare that’s considerably more impressive than the limited menu of pretzels and pizza available on most nights.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition