Cheap Eats in Sarasota

By Andrew Fabian

The biggest expense in any vacation is travel and accommodations. So, when you arrive at your destination, knowing where to eat can help you save some cheddar and can also help you discover local restaurants that will make you feel like less of a tourist and more of a native. These 7 locally-owned Sarasota, Florida restaurants fit the bill, with lunches under $12 and dinners under $15 that will leave little room in your belly and some extra green in your wallet.

Cheap Eats in Sarasota - Locally Owned Restaurants With Lunch Under $12 and Dinner Under $15! Must Do Visitor Guides |

Spice Station

When Spice Station opened its doors in 2019 in Sarasota’s Rosemary District, it was to instant acclaim. The clean, stylish spot offers Thai cuisine and sushi for prices that border on ludicrous. Lunch entrees all hover around $9, with the Bangkok Basil Chicken taking first prize. It features ground chicken sautéed with bell peppers, onions and basil, is then topped with an over easy egg, and is served with rice. 

Cheap Eats in Sarasota - Bangkok Basil Chicken at Spice Station Thai restaurant downtown Sarasota, Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides |
Photo courtesy Spice Station

New Pass Grill

Located on City Island right next to Mote Marine Laboratory, New Pass Grill passes as just a dinky, salty bait shop. But the walk-up window reveals a full menu of American classics like hot dogs and hamburgers. A bacon cheeseburger and fries will run you $10, and you can practically eat it with your toes in the surf as this dockside establishment provides slips for incoming vessels. The burgers regularly win local best-of awards, and the menu appropriately chimes in about its burgers with: “this is the real thing, folks!”

Cheap Eats in Sarasota - Bacon Cheeseburger and fries at New Pass Grill near Mote Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides |
Photo courtesy New Pass Grill


In business for over 25 years, Sahara has remained one of the most successful Middle Eastern restaurants on the strength of its delicious food. Offering the tell-tale assortment of pita wraps and hummus, they also offer enormous salads that can be topped with an assortment of meats. For just under $10, you can enjoy a gyro wrap with fries and a drink, or a Greek salad with spring mix, feta cheese, tomatoes, olives, and grilled chicken, all topped with a house-made vinaigrette.

Cheap Eats in Sarasota - Gyro wrap and greek salad at Sahara Cafe & Mediterranean Foods in Sarasota, Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides |
Photo courtesy Sahara Cafe & Mediterranean Foods

Manny’s Tacos To-Go

Operating Friday and Saturday nights outside of Nick’s Bar on Bee Ridge, Manny’s Tacos To-Go is everything a street taco should be—savory, fast and cheap. At just $2 a taco, a filling meal can run anywhere between $6 and $10 depending on appetite and beverage. Offering seasoned pork, carnitas, steak, chicken, and cow-tongue for an extra ₵.50, each taco comes loaded with cabbage, onions, and cilantro, with lime wedges served on the side for some extra tang. There’s a picnic table, but most guests eat standing up.

Cheap Eats in Sarasota - Tacos from Manny's Tacos To-Go food truck in Sarasota, Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides |
Photo courtesy Manny’s Tacos To-Go

Star Fish Company

Seafood can be expensive, so the more middlemen you can cut out, the better. Star Fish Company operates as the dockside neighbor of A. P. Belle Fish Co., a commercial fishing outfit in Cortez that supplies the entire state of Florida. So, Star Fish pretty much gets their fish right off the boat. A sunset dinner can be had for just $14 when you order the grouper sandwich, although an ice-cold bucket of beer might raise the final tab a bit. Still, the view and meal at this Old Florida hangout outpaces most fine-dining seafood preparations you’ll find around town.

Cheap Eats - Dining dockside at Star Fish Company in Cortez, Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides |
Photo courtesy Star Fish Company

Pho 101 Noodle House

Vietnamese food has increased in popularity in the last 5 years on the appeal of its enormous bowls of soup. Pho (pronounced like “fun” without the “n”) typically features a chicken or beef broth stewed for over 24 hours with anise, cardamom, ginger, lemongrass, and black peppercorns. A bowl of broth is then filled with thin rice noodles, onions, cilantro, and meat ranging from poached chicken to Vietnamese meatballs. Filling and nourishing, a beef broth bowl of pho with chicken will run you $12. Don’t forget to add some hot sauce and a squeeze of lime.

Cheap Eats Sarasota - Pho with beef from Pho 101 Noodle House in Sarasota, Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides |
Photo courtesy Pho 101 Noodle House

Patellini’s Pizza

Since 1985, Patellini’s has been serving up NY style pizza to Sarasota’s downtowners. This family owned and operated establishment is not frilly or gourmet, the service is efficient, and the ambiance is cool enough to hang out in without being pretentious. And their everyday special will satisfy for under $8. It features two massive slices of cheese pizza and a 16-ounce fountain drink, a perfect, cheap way to fill up while browsing the boutiques on Main Street. 

Cheap Eats in Sarasota - Whole or by the slice pizza from Patellini's Pizza downtown Sarasota, Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides |
Photo courtesy Patellini’s Pizza

Check out these other great Sarasota, Florida restaurants

Cheap Eats in Sarasota, Florida. 7 Locally Owned Restaurants With Lunch under $12 and Dinner under $15! Must Do Visitor Guides |

Written by: Andrew Fabian | Author Website

Andrew Fabian covers arts and food for various publications in Sarasota, where he has lived since 2005. He graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BA in English - Creative Writing. When he's not running around town to various restaurants and arts institutions, he enjoys a nice woodworking project or an evening on the couch with his wife arguing the merits of a television show or movie.