The Riverhouse Reef Grill & Bar - Delicious food, great service, spectacular setting and water view!

The Riverhouse Reef Grill and Bar in Palmetto, on the north bank of the Manatee River, was our Thanksgiving weekend Saturday destination.

Having family and friends in from out of town, we were looking for new places to explore, perhaps even a short road trip from our favorite Sarasota restaurants.

So, I suggested this destination spot.

As it would turn out, it was a good suggestion.

The ride from Sarasota, north on Rt. 301 through Bradenton, into the downtown area, then over the bridge to cross the Mantatee River, was only about 30 minutes.

We had left the Sarasota Best Western Hotel parking lot at Rt. 41 and Stickney Point Road about 10:55 a.m. and we pulled into the marina parking lot near the Riverhouse Reef Grill about 11:30 a.m.

The location here is spectacular; the water, the marina, the hundreds of boats docked right there that you can see, close up, from the walkway through the marina. We arrived well before noon, so we took a stroll all around the marina a couple of times.

Being a holiday weekend I was surprised to see how sparsely populated both the marina and restaurant were.

When it was agreed upon by all that it was time to mosey over to the restaurant at noon, it still wasn’t crowded and we had our choice of pretty much any seat in the house or any table on the outside patio surrounding the Riverhouse.

We requested an outside table; the sun was out and warming the afternoon from what had been a cool Florida morning.

Sitting in the sun perusing the menu, we ordered drinks and an appetizer for which I had a coupon clipped from a local Sarasota newspaper.

The waitress was fun, friendly and quick and we had our drinks, then our appetizer, coconut fried jumbo shrimp, all in about 10 minutes or less.

The coconut fried jumbo shrimp was delicious with its crunchiness, hand rolled in coconut and banana chips and served with a sweet-tangy pineapple-chilli dipping sauce. It hit just the right note.

Surprisingly, they had a rather extensive and diverse lunch menu; fish tacos to specialty burgers to pasta.

While I opted for the Chicken Parmesan ($12), which came topped with a delicious and tangy house marinara sauce all over angel hair pasta, my sister chose the Lobster Pot Pie ($15) which consisted of cold water lobster, peas, carrots, potatoes, shallots and chives baked in a large crock under a puff pastry. She said “it was very good.” And she also had the new age wine with a lime - very good drink.

Others in our party of 5 ordered Fish and Chips ($10), a Mushroom Swiss Burger ($11) and Salmon ($17).

Everyone enjoyed not only their lunch, but the spectacular view and setting in which we were seated, along with the friendly and attentive service we received.

We had the whole side patio of the Riverhouse Reef Grill almost all to ourselves most of our time there until about 1 p.m. when it started to get busier.

Other tempting offerings on their lunch menu to keep in mind for my next visit include their Shrimp Po Boy - Key West Style: Battered and flash fried shrimp on a crusty baguette with lettuce, tomato, onion rings and a special seafood Roumelade ($12), Redfish ($18), Grouper - Gulf Grouper prepared grilled, blackened, pan sautéed, or fried. Served with caramelized onions and a cilantro lime aioli at market price.

They have a full list of appetizers, too, including, at this writing, a Happy Hour $5 Sampler which includes their Coconut Shrimp, Kickin' Chicken, Kickin' Shrimp, Island Ribs, Cabo Fish Bites, Lobster Fritters and Lobster Stuffed Mushroom Caps. That sounds like a deal to me!

They also feature a small vegetarian specialty menu, a kids menu and a dinner menu that adds steaks, BBQ Chicken and Ribs, Lobster Tails and more.

And you may select from their dinner menu any time of day as it is served all day. The lunch menu is served daily only till 4 p.m.

What's your favorite Sarasota dining spot? What's the best meal you've had there? Let others know about your recommendations by writing your own Sarasota Dining Review. Click here to share your favorite!

For the spectacular location and view, great service and delicious food, if you’re looking for a short road trip and some new scenery, I would definitely recommend the upscale, casually elegant Riverhouse Reef Grill on the north bank of the Manatee River in Palmetto., just across from downtown Bradenton.

Hours: Sun – Thu: 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri – Sat: 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m. Brunch: Sun:11 a.m./11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. (brunch buffet and regular menu available) Happy Hour: Every day from 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. (6 p.m. During-season).

995 Riverside Drive, Palmetto FL
Regatta Pointe Marina, Intra-Coastal: Marker 19, Manatee River

Directions: From Sarasota: North on Rt 41 to North on Rt 301 to North on Rt 41 to west (left) onto Rt 64 to North (right) onto Business Rt 41, cross the bridge. Once across the bridge, make a left turn onto Riverside drive, which will take you into the parking area outside the Regatta Pointe Marina and the Riverhouse Reef Grill and Bar.

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