This Florida tiki bar on Lido Beach is owned by the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club, but remains open to the public.
Walking along Lido Beach, you'll see an array of resorts on the sands' edge, with pools, bars and restaurants available only to guests. Yet if you're not paying attention, you might miss a humble tiki bar on the beach that remains open to the public.
Lido Key Tiki Bar is part of The Ritz-Carlton Beach Club, which is otherwise members and guests-only. But the tiki bar, which the Ritz-Carlton has operated since 2001, is still open for any beachgoer to wander up to.
The tiki bar had previously existed for decades as part of Azure Tides Resort. The Ritz-Carlton considered demolishing it when it bought the property, before choosing to keep it open thanks to public support.
Due to its lack of public parking or prominent advertising of its existence, Lido Key Tiki Bar remains something of a hidden treasure. I'm always interested in checking out any little-known spot or long-running establishment, so I decide to pay a visit.
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I stop by on a Sunday afternoon where the sunny weather has thankfully held out. I park at the Lido Beach public lot at 400 Benjamin Franklin Drive and walk about 10 minutes down the beach to get there.
The bar is a small square housed under a thatched roof, featuring two flatscreen televisions on either side. But the real sight to see is the open-air view of Lido Beach and the Gulf of Mexico just a few steps away.
The crowd when I visit is a blend of vacationers at the nearby resorts, and curious swimsuit and bikini-clad beachgoers. The bar also seems to attract a decent amount of regulars, judging from the customers comfortably chatting with bartenders on a first-name basis.
There are also a handful of beach chairs and thatched-roof tables to hang out at, and a few cornhole boards to play with. It stays open noon to sunset, where it provides a prime vantage point to watch the sun descend over the beach's horizon.
Lido Key's cocktail list offers several tropical drinks including margaritas, a "Category 4" hurricane made with four rums and fruit juices and a "Sarasota Smash" made with spiced rum, banana liqueur and pineapple and orange juices. I try their My-Oh! mai tai ($15). Made with amber and silver rums, amaretto and a dark rum float, it's tasty and quite potent, especially for a beachside bar.
The bar also features a handful of frozen drinks such as a daiquiri and mudslide. I go with The Vice ($12), a strawberry and pina colada daiquiri then topped with a strawberry, pineapple slice and coconut glass rim, a sweet drink suitable for sipping while sitting beachside. You can add a dark rum or Bacardi 151 floater to any of these for an additional $3.
Local craft beer offerings include JDub's Poolside Kolsch, Motorworks' V-Twin Vienna Lager and Darwin's Summadayze IPA — all lighter beers ideal for drinking in the sun — as well as the standard domestics and imports. Domestic beers cost $6 each or $32 for a bucket, while Florida craft and imports cost $7 or $38 a bucket.
There's a small selection of wines available by the glass or the bottle, with house wines costing $8. There isn't a happy hour.
Lido Key Tiki Bar also features a food menu with appetizers like coconut shrimp and chips with salsa, queso or guacamole. I order the quesadilla ($11, plus an additional $3 for grilled peppers and onions or $4 for chicken), a straightforward but tasty version of the dish with gooey jack cheese, fire-roasted salsa and lime crema.
For more substantial fare, there are a variety of sandwiches such as a mahi mahi BLT, blackened salmon and Black Angus burger. It also offers a couple of salads, including a Key West one made with dried papaya, goat cheese and key lime vinaigrette.
And in a nice touch for a beachfront bar, there are numerous frozen dessert options, including a chocolate cookie ice cream sandwich, ice cream waffle cones and sorbets.
As Lido Beach continues to see growing development and changes over the years, it's comforting to know its beachfront tiki bar still remains a reminder of its past.
Lido Key Tiki Bar: 1300 Benjamin Franklin Drive, Sarasota; 941-309-2577
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This story originally published to heraldtribune.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.