Sharky’s on the Pier in Venice, FL is a great restaurant on the beach with a Florida-style atmosphere. Think Jimmy Buffett, the Gulf, tiki bar and a laid-back attitude! I would definitely bring out-of-towners back to this place.
Background Info on the Review
Sharky’s on the Pier is a Venice tourist staple that’s been in business for over 25 years! When I first moved to Florida, I had a friend who urged me to go almost weekly. I mean, sure, she was just trying to represent where she lived because Venice can seem a distant place that local Sarasotans don’t trek to without a reason. But when you make the journey, it’s really only about 15 minutes from south Sarasota! And I’ll tell ya, the view at Sharky’s is worth the drive itself, considering we don’t have many on-the-water restaurants in Sarasota. And even if you’re coming down for a vacation, this is a great spot to hit!
Insider tip: speaking with Justin whose family owns the restaurant, he tells me that they are getting started on building a second restaurant on the property which will be a different concept altogether – a more upscale option! Construction on that is going on now, so look out for the new place soon!!
When I first went to Sharky’s, since the restaurant is right on the beach and connected to the Venice Fishing Pier, it actually looks like a regular old beach parking lot that leads to beach bathrooms and buildings. But when you get in there, it’s the actual restaurant, and you can go in to eat, or walk around to go straight the pier or beach. Dad and I made our way to the restaurant for dinner on a weeknight. When we first arrived earlier on, the place was just starting to fill up, and by the time we left around 7ish, most tables were full and the tiki bar deck outside was pretty crowded! It was a fun place to be and I liked the “feel” there from the first time I stepped in there.
I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking:
Cheri’s Food Review
The Beach Party is a nice beach appetizer fit for a group of people – peel-and-eat shrimp, grouper nuggets, hand-breaded onion rings and some fried shrimp. The shrimp were a nice big size and had a great texture, and the breading on the fried ones wasn’t super heavy, even if they were a bit greasy. But that’s what you’re going for with an appetizer like this! Loved the peel-and-eat shrimp and it all comes with veggie dip, cocktail sauce and tartar sauce staples. Some things could have used a little more salt, but all-in-all a good starter sure to please about everybody.
This Brie and Apple Flatbread was a nice, unexpected menu item for a place like this and I was so pleasantly surprised to find something lighter and vegetarian as a choice. I tell Dad, “This is my kind of appetizer!” All the parts of this dish were really yummy: the soft, golden-brown flatbread, the gooey, warm melted brie cheese, slices of Granny Smith apple, a mango glaze and some slivered, toasted almonds. We both would have liked more apples on there, but that wasn’t enough to stop us from eating practically the entire thing without regard for the amount of food that was to come! I even got a bit nostalgic when I told Dad about the sheer volume of Brie and Apple Bagel sandwiches I’d eaten from delis when living in New York – love that flavor combination. Brought back some great memories!
The Cabo Calamari was our next appetizer. We were pleased with this one as we’ve had SO many plates of calamari since we started reviewing – to find that this one was great. The calamari wasn’t chewy at all, and had a light fried breading and some good-sized pieces of squid. It’s sprinkled with fresh pico de gallo and a jalapeno vinaigrette, which, if you’re not careful will land you a really spicy bite or two! But we loved that fresh, spicy twist.
The Summer on the Beach Salad is a blend of all-things-salad-y goodness: strawberries, mandarin oranges, candied nuts, Gorgonzola cheese and spring mix lettuce, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette. You can get any meat on the top for an up-charge, including mahi mahi, salmon, crabcake, shrimp, chicken or tofu, prepared blackened, broiled or fried. We were served blackened grouper. The salad was really great with really fresh greens and a great blend of all the other ingredients. I liked the way all the flavors complemented each other – this is my kind of salad here. Unfortunately, you can’t totally please Dad with a salad unless it’s got cranberries on it, but he still liked this one. We were a bit underwhelmed with the fish; Dad thought it was a touch on the fishy side, but I practically devoured the whole salad itself single-handedly. Other fish options that we were served were spot-on.
The Seafood Rainforest is a big platter of gulf shrimp and sea scallops on top of a bed of fresh mango, veggies, pineapple, cashews, rice and ginger-sesame sauce. Freshness! This was one of my favorite meals here because of the light mix of flavors and textures. The veggies were crisp and fresh, the fruit added a sweet touch and the scallops and shrimp were perfectly cooked. This was one of those dishes that I didn’t even try to restrain myself from finishing!
The Mahi Mahi Taco Taco, first of all, is the cutest name ever for a dish. There is the grilled fish, spicy, mango-pineapple slaw, pico de gallo, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese all atop shredded lettuce and two warm tortillas. It usually comes with french fries, but we got the sweet potato fries to try them out and man, was that a good choice! I was pretty pleased with the tacos in general because the fish was cooked well, with their grill marks and juicy flavor, but to me, they were a bit bland. The only thing I was missing was a bit of sauce to go over top or maybe some fresh lemon and lime.
The Shrimp Trio is 15 gulf shrimp cooked any way you want: comes broiled, grilled or fried. We got 5 of each kind. Dad and I love shrimp and were super happy with this dish – the shrimp were large and well-cooked, tender and juicy. If you love shrimp, I would get all three choices – the blackening was a great flavor and a little bit spicy, even though Dad thought there was a bit too much blackening. Loved the scampi butter that the others rested in – made for some rich flavor. The chef’s mashed potatoes with horseradish, butter and cream was my favorite side of all the meals, and the julienned veggies were still crisp and fresh. Though, I could have done without the brussels sprouts.
The Key Lime Pie is a special housemade recipe and it’s their biggest dessert seller here! I’m a huge fan of Key Lime Pie, as you probably know by now, and I have to say that this is in my top 3 key lime pies of all time. I say this because of the consistency. It’s definitely something special and different – it’s a lot softer than you normally get with key lime pie, which tends to be more cheesecake-ish. Which is fine, don’t get me wrong! But Dad even said that, “This is the Key Lime Pie for people who don’t like key lime pie,” which doesn’t really serve my point well, haha, but well, consider this: it will glide over your tongue like silk. How can that be a bad thing?? Even Dad liked it and of course I loved it, with its soft and tart filling, graham cracker crust and whipped cream.
The desserts are housemade here and the Strawberry Cheesecake is no exception. At the risk of sounding redundant, the cheesecake is really cream cheesy! It’s got a much fluffier texture than I’m used to but still holds on to that density that you always get. I’m not sure this was my favorite type, since I like the more traditional texture, but this one really melts in your mouth, kinda like cotton candy does! The fresh strawberries and sauce over top were a great balance to the the cake’s richness.
The Chocolate Triple Layer Mousse with Macadamia Crust and Candied Nuts is obviously a homerun. I mean, just look at that picture. Any chocoholic will be pleased and will get their fix with this one – there are three layers of creamy density, not to mention that it’s covered in chocolate sauce to boot. The nuts add a great contrast and well, just look at that picture!
Cloaked Restaurant Review
This is the part where I have an anonymous review done to critique the entire restaurant experience in a undercover way so that you can get a good idea of what it’s like for the typical restaurant-goer like yourself! It keeps us all honest!! Here’s what they said:
If you don’t live in the Venice area, a trip to Sharky’s on Venice Island is a bit of a haul, but definitely worth it for a pleasant beach-side atmosphere and great seafood. We came in late on a Friday night and spent our short wait for a table walking down the adjacent pier, which was a nice way to relax before a good meal. With the nearby area under construction, sometimes it’s easy to get turned around if you’ve never been there before, finding your way through the restaurant then out to the pier, but in moments we were enjoying the night breeze above the water. When we were seated, our table was beachside, and was not plagued with any of the problems you would imagine would come with the territory (bugs, sand). We were close to the reggae cover band, and while it was entertaining and a little loud, it added to the island-style atmosphere rather than diminished it, and tables further away or inside are always a possibility.
Our waiter was able to recommend a light frozen drink, the Mango Bango ($6 – predictably loaded with rum and mango) that we both enjoyed while waiting for our food. Although we were tempted by the Brie and Apple pizza, we instead chose two appetizers that seemed to be Sharky’s take on traditionals – the Cabo Calamari ($11.50) and the Cheesy Beach Bread ($7.50).
The Cabo Calamari was good, with its pico de gallo and jalapeno vinaigrette topping of a traditionally crusted and fried calamari, and wasn’t too spicy for most people. The bottom of the dish lost that breading from saturation with the other ingredients, but it was definitely good while it lasted. The Beach Bread was also tasty, as it featured a flavor of green onions and herbs rather than the standard butter and garlic.
For dinner, I chose the Macadamia Grouper and Coconut Shrimp ($21), and it was the best decision I could have made. Although the menu touts it as a petite fillet of Grouper, mine was enough to take home later, and was baked well-done with a crisp Macadamia crust that infused the nut flavor through the whole fish. The shrimp were butterflied large and were crisply breaded, and the whole dish was tied together with a tasty and sweet mango salsa that worked perfectly. My sidekick chose the Lobster Stuffed Flounder ($19), and it came as several small fillets stuffed with Sharky’s lobster and artichoke dip.
The flavor was rich, and the fish was tender without being too overdone or soft. Her side of rice was creamy to the point of almost being a risotto, which was another pleasant change from the standard pilaf most restaurants dish out. Although the desserts weren’t really featured on any of the menus or table cards of specials (aside from Key Lime Pie), our waiter was able to provide us with a variety of choices, from which we chose the Chocolate Double Trouble ($6), which was a dense chocolate mousse cake with a layer of hard chocolate in the middle and a crust that had almost a saltiness to it that complimented the sweet flavors very well.
Sharky’s was definitely worth the drive to the island, and the setting can’t be beat – long pier, quiet night-time beach, island music and decor and fantastic seafood that steps outside the box a little. Although we were there for dinner, they have a large lunch menu, and the idea of having a well-prepared sandwich waiting for you after a morning of fishing off the pier is certainly appealing. Don’t let the nearby construction daunt you – there is a great dinner waiting, and the setting will only get better as the weather cools off for the winter. And we don’t know if they all do this, but our waiter adorned our to-go boxes with fun drawings of sea creatures, which was a funny and warming touch. Hope you get the same!
Cloaked Review Ratings
|Food Quality & Menu|
Go to my Flickr account to check out my Sharky’s on the Pier, Venice FL, Restaurant review album to see the full set of pics.
Review Disclaimer: This review is part of a series of restaurant reviews that follows The Watering Mouth’s restaurant review guidelines. My Tasting photographs may not show the true portion of a meal a typical customer would receive. These reviews are based on two visits to a restaurant, one open Tasting where I taste and photograph a restaurant’s best dishes, and one full, anonymous review (like the typical restaurant-goer would experience) found at the bottom. We are honest with our reviews, and assume that each restaurant is consistently performing to the standards we experienced!