Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Sun Sand & Drinks

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Sun Sand & Drinks

Article excerpt

Southwest Florida has plenty of drinking destinations, but only a select few hug our world-famous shorelines of powdery white sand. From north to south, here is our list of the 10 best beach bars from Anna Maria Island to Boca Grande. -- Wade Tatangelo

1. Rod and Reel Pier Restaurant

875 N Shore Drive, Anna Maria; 778-1885

I have spotted numerous dolphins, a manatee, tarpon, sharks and a loggerhead sea turtle about the size of a Prius in recent years while seated at the downstairs bar of this iconic restaurant that has been around for more than six decades. Soak up the amazing vistas, which also include the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, while sipping an ice-cold beer and noshing on fresh seafood items such as the delicious grouper Reuben sandwich.

2. The Waterfront Restaurant

111 South Bay Blvd., Anna Maria; 778-1515;

Separated from the beach by narrow South Bay Boulevard, this beloved island restaurant features covered outdoor tables that overlook the Gulf of Mexico and the 103-year-old Anna Maria City Pier. Enjoy the view while sipping the bar's many superb craft cocktails and eating ahi sliders the size of baseballs. In addition to creative cocktails, The Waterfront also has an impressive wine list and craft beer selection, making it the ideal place for post- sunbathing leisure.

3. The Sandbar Restaurant

100 Spring Ave, Anna Maria; 778-0444;

Part of the Chiles Restaurant Group that includes the BeachHouse and Mar Vista Dockside on Longboat Key, The Sandbar boasts a gorgeous mix of indoor tables offering pristine waterfront views, seating right on the sand, and banquet areas nestled in the shade of the trees that line the beach. For beverages, go with one of the restaurant's "Crop to Cocktail Drinks," which use produce from Chiles' farms to create libations such as a garden-fresh bloody mary and jalapeno-juiced margarita.

4. Gulf Drive Cafe

900 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach; 778-1919;

What began as a little cafe frequented mostly by locals has grown into one of the largest full-menu and full-bar attractions on Anna Maria Island. The new centerpiece of the Gulf Drive Cafe is the Kokonut Hut, a massive open-air structure adorned with flat-screen TVs that puts you right on the sand without having to worry about getting blasted by the sun or missing the big game. Outdoor tables take you even closer to the water.

5. BeachHouse Restaurant

200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach; 779-2222;

A hub of indoor and outdoor activity, people pack the BeachHouse for lunch, dinner, drinks, weddings and, most famously, spectacular sunset watching. Haven't been in a while? The 20-year-old restaurant recently completed seven months of renovations including an expansive bar featuring large windows allowing for better views of the freshly re-nourished beach and Gulf of Mexico. …

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