Anna Maria Island has always been a place where people come to relax and enjoy the ocean. Naturally, that experience would not be complete without some good food. The local specialty is, not surprisingly, seafood and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy fresh delicacies.
Even though the island is fairly small, there are still more than a few options for dining or a quick bite. If you want to ensure you get the best experience, pick one from our top five list and you can’t go wrong.
As for what’s on the menu, most restaurants on AMI focus on local seafood. And how could they not, considering that Florida is one of the top 12 states in the US when it comes to seafood production.
The main item on the menu will often be grouper, but you’ll get to enjoy a variety of fish depending on the season, especially if you look at the “catch of the day” specials. But don’t worry, you won’t miss out on the stone crab, clams, and shrimp – pretty much every restaurant serves them in some form or another.
Best Seafood Restaurants in Anna Maria Island
1. The Waterfront Restaurant
- Hours: 11 am – 9/10 pm
- Address: 111 South Bay Blvd. Anna Maria
- Website: thewaterfrontrestaurant.net
- Price: $$$
While Anna Maria Island offers quite a few awesome seafood options, the Waterfront Restaurant surpasses them all, at least in terms of popularity. The restaurant is a hit with locals and visitors alike, and it’s not just a passing trend: it’s been like this for years. So what gives?
Well, the Waterfront is simply a perfect example of what a good seafood restaurant should look like. It’s casual, but not too casual. The interior is nice and homey, but there is outdoor seating too (and yes, it’s at the waterfront). The service is great, the food is fresh and delicious, and the portions are huge. There’s a great bar and an awesome daily specials menu too. What more could you ask for?
The most popular dishes at the Waterfront include the always delicious Lobster Bisque and the Grouper Tacos with jicama slaw, cheddar jack, and pico de gallo. However, don’t be afraid to order other items on the menu too. Everything here is awesome, from the fish to the veggies and desserts.
The restaurant focuses on showcasing the freshest seasonal seafood, so you might get to try some fairly rare dishes too, depending on the season.
Diner’s note: The Waterfront doesn’t take reservations, but you can enjoy drinks from the bar while waiting. Most of the time you’ll get seated quickly, but during busy times it might take up to an hour and a half.
2. The Sandbar Restaurant
- Hours: 11 am – 10 pm
- Address: 100 Spring Ave, Anna Maria
- Website: www.sandbardining.com
- Price: $$
If you get a vacation rental at Anna Maria Island, there is a good chance you’ll be close to the Sandbar. Located right at the north end of the island, this restaurant with rich history is the right place to enjoy the authentic island atmosphere.
The current owners have been running the restaurant since 1989, but the history of the spot goes back to 1911. Even back in the days, when the only way to reach the island was by boat, the pavilion that is now the Sandbar used to be a favorite place for gathering and lunch, for locals and visitors alike. And it would be hard not to enjoy it, considering the amazing place right on the beach.
Now, yes, this restaurant has a bit of a touristy vibe, but is there anything really wrong with that? There is a wide range of options on the menu, the food is quite good and fairly priced, and the cocktails are amazing too which is a must when you are enjoying watching the sunset while dipping your toes in the sand.
As for the food, you’ll find any seafood classic you can imagine here: oysters on the half shell, delicious shrimp, calamari, ceviche, clam chowder, or a rich fish sandwich – it’s all quite good and it’s accompanied with delicious salads and freshly-baked bread.
Diner’s note: The Sandbar only takes walk-ins. The place is very popular so do get there early if you want to get a nice table, especially if you are aiming for a Sunday brunch.
3. Blue Marlin
- Hours: 5 pm – 9/10 pm
- Address: 121 Bridge Street, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217
- Website: bluemarlinami.com
- Price: $$$
The Blue Marlin is one of those unique places that simply have their own character. Located right on the historic Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, the blue cottage is difficult to miss.
The cottage is actually also a historic building, built in the 1920s and restored to be as authentic as possible. The cleverly built wooden tables inside are arranged carefully so as to preserve the intimate feeling of a family cottage, and the decor is spot on.
Moreover, this cottage hides some surprises too. When you step out of the cottage, you’ll find yourself on a patio that swaps the intimate seaside restaurant atmosphere for a fun & breezy outdoor bar. There’s an outdoor ‘streetfood’ kitchen with a counter too, and there is live music on the weekends.
But let’s step back into the cottage and consider what you can actually eat once you get a table in this lovely space. As you might imagine, the menu heavily focuses on seafood, but there are options like steak and chicken available if you have guests in your party that would rather skip the sea creatures.
Speaking of seafood, everything here is fresh and local, so you’ll often get to enjoy the various daily specials involving the catch of the day. If you like grouper, you’ll definitely be in heaven here.
It’s difficult to say which version is the best: is it the Grouper & Clams, delightfully seasoned and placed on a bed of arugula & asparagus, or perhaps the Fulford-style grouper in a sandwich with the addition of fried green tomato and baby greens?
Either way, there is lots to love about the food at Blue Marlin. But perhaps skip the Shrimp & Grits, there are restaurants in Anna Maria island that do it much better.
Diner’s note: The small historic cottage has a limited number of tables. Reservations are necessary on Fridays and Saturdays, but it’s always better to reserve your place as you might be out of luck if you show up as a walk-in.
Also note that there is very little parking available at Bridge Street. However, the guys at the Blue Marlin do their best to make you comfortable, and they have off-site parking, to and from which they will escort you with a golf cart.
4. The Feast Restaurant
- Hours: 11:30 am – 9 pm
- Address: 5406 Marina Drive Holmes Beach
- Website: thefeastrestaurantami.com
- Price: $$$
The Feast has been called a “casual fine dining restaurant”, and that’s perhaps the best way to describe it. One can’t fail but notice the laid-back atmosphere of this family-owned restaurant, but some of their dishes are really exquisite. But truth be told, the name is quite fitting: this is the place you should go if you want a filling, comforting feast of delicious seafood classics & more.
The menu at the feast is filled with delicious classics from start to finish. We love to start the meal there with some of the appetizers, because they are always delightful and fun. Choose your favorite between Grouper Bites, Cracklin’ Calamari, or Coconut Shrimp – or perhaps go with the fried Mozzarella Wedges and the awesome French bread with garlic butter.
In case you feel like something liquid, you’ll find both lobster bisque and clam chowder on the menu, and both are quite good. If, however, you’re craving a nice rich salad you’ll find plenty of options too – with shrimp, salmon, or grouper included if you like.
And we didn’t even get to the entrees! The list goes on with seafood platters and innovative pasta dishes – but there are also many non-seafood options, such as the pizzas which are another favorite at the Feast.
If, by any chance, you are craving dessert after all of this, you’ll be happy to learn that the Feast does not disappoint in this area either. The classic key lime pie, or a decadent peanut butter pie, it’s up to you!
Diner’s note: If you are looking to go somewhere without reservations, the Feast might be a good choice. The place does get busy at times, though, so making a reservation is always better if you want to be safe.
5. The Ugly Grouper
- Hours: 11 am – 10 pm
- Address: 5704 Marina Dr, Holmes Beach
- Price: $$
If you are looking to really experience the fun beach vibe on the island while enjoying some excellent seafood, the Ugly Grouper is the place to be. And yes, the Ugly Grouper is real – the quirky metal statue welcomes you into the restaurant and sets the stage for the enjoyable experience you are about to have. Photos optional.
Now, this is not a place for everyone, but if a family-friendly restaurant with a lively but relaxing atmosphere is up your alley, then we definitely recommend going here. The seating at the Ugly Grouper is exclusively outdoors, and there is live music every day of the week, including a session in the afternoon.
The meal choices are equally fun. There is, of course, grouper, prepared in any way imaginable – but the crowd favorite seem to be the grouper kabobs. The tacos are also a must-try, be it with shrimp or with grouper. Hint: the shell is made with cheese.
Finally, if you are bringing the kids, they will certainly be disappointed. There is an extensive and fun kids’ menu as well as the Ugly Slushie, made just for them – ask about the daily flavors. It’s also possible to get souvenir color-changing cups as a nice memento.
Diner’s note: The Ugly Grouper does not take reservations. The tables are distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis. But it’s not total anarchy, do register with the host at the stand upon arrival. Ugly Hour specials Monday through Friday from 2 pm till 5 pm.
6. Rod & Reel Pier
- Hours: 9 am – 8 pm
- Address: 875 N Shore Dr, Anna Maria, FL 34216
- Website: http://www.rodreelpier.com/
- Price: $$
Thinking about dining on the water? Well, the Rod & Reel Pier restaurant gives a literal meaning to the phrase. The restaurant is set inside a two-story wooden shack located right on the end of a pier with the views opening directly onto the Gulf of Mexico in front of you.
Rod & Reel pier is a place you must visit just for the unique experience. You’ll get to feel the true Florida vibes with the ocean waves rolling right beneath you. Enjoy a casual drink, breakfast, lunch or dinner while soaking in the views and watching the happenings nearby.
You can catch a stunning sunset or sunrise, watch the fisherman along the pier and the local wildlife including birds and sometimes even dolphins swimming around.
As for the food, don’t expect anything fancy, but do expect a good meal. From the rich breakfast offering to the fresh seafood selection for lunch and dinner, the menu at Rod & Reel is full of American classics.
The dining room upstairs offers cozy seating indoors as well as outdoors on the deck, and the casual bar downstairs will keep you entertained while you’re waiting to be seated.
Diner’s note: The Rod & Reel Pier is a unique venue which makes it quite popular. The place gets busy at times which might result in a long wait for a table, so make sure to get there early and put your name on the list.
Whichever option you choose when it comes to dining in AMI, the characteristic vibe of the island and the welcoming attitude of the locals will be inevitable. And that’s the thing about this place: if you are looking for high-end dining, you are out of luck. But if you are ready for comfort food classics and large plates of fresh seafood, this is where you want to be.