Sarasota is a beautiful small city on the Gulf Coast of Florida that feels like a small town. Each Sarasota shopping district is walkable, and most are within 10 minutes of each other. Sort of like lily pads on a pond, each with its own characteristic atmosphere and charm. While there are local shopping malls, it’s much more interesting to search out the unique shops & restaurants that make you feel you’re in a special place. Sarasota’s shopping districts include Downtown Sarasota, Burns Square, Southside Village, Southgate Shops, Gulf Gate, St Armands Circle, and Siesta Key Village.
- The Downtown Sarasota shopping district encompasses Main Street, Lemon Avenue, Pineapple Avenue, First Street, and State Street. Whole Foods Market Centre anchors the First Street and Lemon Avenue area. Also on First Street, you’ll find Envie, a fabuloso sort of home decor and gift shop, Petropolis pet boutique, T. Georgianos Shoe Salon, Write-On Sarasota, and Jane Boutique. Lemon Avenue is the site of the very popular Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market, which extends from First Street to State Street every Saturday from 7AM to 12Noon year-round. It’s full of produce, flowers, plants, ready-to-eat foods, arts and crafts, music, and all kinds of dogs leading their owners from booth to booth. At the corner of Lemon Avenue and Main Street, Mattison’s City Grille is an outdoor, covered restaurant with top-quality live entertainment most nights. Main Street is a multi-block stretch of local shops and restaurants that offer foods of every international flavor, including Asian, Greek, French, Mexican, Spanish, Italian, and American standards, among other tempting cuisines. During Season, Main Street, Pineapple Avenue’s Five Points Park, and Lemon Avenue are the site of numerous arts and craft fairs and holiday street festivals. Palm Avenue features many art galleries, which participate in the First Friday Art Walks each month during Season. It’s easy to miss State Street, which is tucked just south of Main Street. At State of the Arts Gallery, you’ll see world-class art by local artists, most of whom are entirely self-supporting through their art. Also on State Street is European Focus, a charming shop with gifts from various European countries, and owners who lead custom small tours of cities in Europe during the summer.
- Burns Square is a small historic Sarasota shopping district and dining neighborhood two blocks south of Main Street, on Pineapple Avenue and Orange Avenue. A destination for art-film afficionados due to the Burns Court Cinema one block west of Pineapple, Burns Square will surprise you with excellent quality fashion (L Boutique, L’Atelier, Paris Couture), home furnishings (Malika, Sarasota Trading Company, Jack Vinale 20th Century Classics), contemporary craft (Parkland Art Gallery), and orchids (Awesome Orchids), for example.
- Southside Village radiates out from the intersection of Osprey Avenue and Hillview Street, about one mile south of downtown Sarasota. There are restaurant hot-spots such as Libby’s, Sam Snead’s, Gateway to India, Chutney’s, and Pacific Rim. Morton’s Market is a gourmet market that displays a wide range of foods, including fresh produce, deli, home-cooking-style hot meals, meats, condiments, and baked goods. At night, the 5 O’Clock Club and New York New York fill the neighborhood with patrons ready for dancing and listening to music.
- Southgate Shops, on Siesta Drive east of Tamiami Trail, offers local Sarasota shopping on the north side of Siesta Drive, including Kazu Japanese food, Fuel motorcycle café, Deli Lane gourmet deli restaurant, Bloom Organics, a yarn shop, and a compounding pharmacy, among other retailers. On the south side of Siesta Drive is Westfield Shoppingtown – Southgate Mall, Sarasota’s upscale mall, with anchors Saks Fifth Avenue, Talbot’s, and Macy’s.
- Gulf Gate is an old neighborhood of mostly one-story buildings with international restaurants, bars and shops. On Gateway Avenue, The Irish Rover presents live music 6 nights a week, along with hearty comfort food. On Superior Avenue, Zest Café feels like a cozy European hideaway, with healthy, creative and delicious home-cooked food. On Gulf Gate Drive, Veg restaurant presents a menu of vegetarian dishes and friendly service.
- St Armands Circle is located on Lido Key, just across the John Ringling Bridge from downtown Sarasota. At its center is a small park, with shopping and dining streets radiating out in all directions. There are many popular restaurants on St Arrmands, including The Columbia, Cha Cha Coconuts, L’Europa, The Crab & Finn, and Settimi gelato and pizz. Shops include typical mall shops like Chico’s, along with some local unique retailers. Off one of the spokes of the Circle is Lido Beach, where you can walk right out to the Guld and watch the beautiful surf and sunsets. During Season, there are art shows and jazz concerts on the Circle.
- Siesta Key Village is lined with funky beach bars, restaurants, and cafes, such as S.K.O.B. (Siesta Key Oyster Bar), Gilligan’s, Baja Hub, The Beach Club, Blu Smoke, Blasé Café, Sun Garden Café, JoTo Japanese food, and numerous others. Many of them draw you closer with musicians playing live music on their decks and in their outdoor eating areas. There are also ice cream shops, of course, such as Big Olaf. For gifts, stop in at Bliss. The Beach Bazaar is an emporium of clothing, bathing suits, flip flops, kitchy gifts, hats, and other fun stuff for vacationers. Fun during the day, Siesta Village continues into the night with live music at many of its venues.
In addition to the primary Sarasota shopping districts, there are numerous convenience shopping strips around town, some of which offer specialty shops and restaurants worth checking out. For instance, at Paradise Plaza (intersection of Bee Ridge Road and Tamiami Trail), behind the Publix supermarket, you’ll find J-Pan sushi, Heather’s Closet boutique, and Monterey Grill. At the shopping strip on Tamiami Trail just south of Constitution Blvd, head for Simon’s Cafe, a locals’ favorite for healthy and tasty food.