Key Culinary Tours
Key Culinary Tours. Photo by Eddie Kirsch.
Key Culinary Tours
Key Culinary Tours. Photo by Eddie Kirsch.

Touring Sarasota by mouth

Taste your way through Sarasota on a local food tour

So many restaurants, so little time. That’s what travelers to Sarasota County might lament when faced with all the delicious eating and drinking options the area has to offer.

That’s why food tours are such a great way to check out the local dining scene. Tourgoers get to visit several restaurants over the course of a few hours, trying out house specialties while learning more about the eateries and the area.

St Armands

Key Culinary Tours offers a lunchtime walking tour of St. Armands Circle from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays ($65). Participants visit six different spots, such as the hip Shore Diner for its calamari salad and truffle French fires and longtime favorite Columbia Restaurant for its Cuban sandwich and famous 1905 Salad. Along the way, they learn about Sarasota’s circus history and other fun facts.

“The tours really give visitors a very rich history of our beloved Sarasota,” says Susan Robinson, owner of Key Culinary Tours. “At the same time you get a very interesting culinary experience At the end of three hours you feel like you had a robust lunch, and your head is filled with all kinds of new information.”

Surf Shack
Surf Shack

Key Culinary Tours also offers a happy hour tour of St. Armands Circle Thursdays through Saturdays from 4 to 6:30 p.m. ($59). Guests visit four spots, enjoying eats and drinks like a flight of Florida craft beers and jerk chicken taco at Surf Shack Coastal Kitchen and bruschetta and a glass of prosecco at 15 South Ristorante.

Downtown Sarasota

Owen's Fish Camp
Owen's Fish Camp

The company also took over ownership of Sarasota Culinary Tours and offers tours under that name in downtown Sarasota on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m. Stops include Nancy’s Bar-B-Q and Owen’s Fish Camp. “You come away feeling like you know Sarasota very well and are filled up at the same time,” says Robinson.

A new offering from Key Culinary Tours is its Saturday morning farmers market tour ($120). Beginning at 9 a.m., participants stroll through the Sarasota Farmers Market with a personal chef, learning about the different items sold there and picking up ingredients for lunch. Tourgoers then head to the Francis, where the chef cooks lunch with the food purchased at the market and offers tips and techniques along the way.

Tours are capped at 10 people, and ticketing is cut off 48 hours in advance to give the restaurants time to prepare.

By Bicycle or Trolley

If you’d rather pedal than stroll, contact Sarasota Bike Tours. It offers all kinds of ways to see Sarasota County, including a Taste of Sarasota Tour ($99.99).

Tours are offered on demand with a minimum of six participants required and might visit spots like Social Eatery & Bar and Made Restaurant. “It’s cool to be able to walk from place to place, but it opens it up when we can cover more ground with the bikes,” says company owner Jason Crain. The company provides all equipment needed, from the wheels themselves to helmets. Expect to cover four to five miles over two to three hours.

Or you could let someone else do the driving by hopping on a Brew Thru Tours trolley. The company helps introduce people to the craft beer scene in Sarasota and Bradenton, with tours ($40-$85) making stops at places like Mandeville Beer Garden, Calusa Brewing, and Big Top Brewing Company for tastings and all kinds of beer education. Check the company’s Web site for tour dates and other info to help you sip your way through Sarasota County.

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