Go ahead – take a drive down that dirt road! It’s the one you’ve always been curious about, located at the intersection of River Road and East Venice Avenue.
After an exotically beautiful and shaded stretch of canopied palm trees, you’ll discover Snook Haven, a tin-roofed and rustic restaurant, at the end of the road. Truly unique to Sarasota, the Venice landmark is “Ole’ Florida” at its finest and settled smack dab on the Myakka River. Come on in and take a seat!
You can experience it all, from BBQ, brews, boats, bands and banjos to backwoods beauty. And, Snook Haven has a wild, yet extraordinary, history of felonious activities, feature films and fishing camps. What better place to spend an afternoon, taking in some local entertainment while feasting on delicious smoked meats with a locally brewed beer in hand?
Snook Haven features an extensive smokehouse-style menu. We prep all of our meats on-site and smoke them in our state-of-the-art smoker daily. Out comes juicy, flavorful and fulfilling meats, including popular options like pulled pork, pulled chicken, beef brisket, ribs and wings. We recommend you drench them in our house-made and well-loved BBQ sauces. Our Original, Sweet, Spicy Whiskey and Carolina Mustard sauce blends will cater to any taste.
In the mood for seafood? Not to worry, we offer multiple fish or shrimp dishes. And, it’s not a visit to Snook Haven unless you start things off with an order of our signature Gator Bites, a true Florida favorite.
Lastly, don’t forget to check out our plethora of draft and canned beers. Of the 16 drafts we offer, many of them are locally brewed around Sarasota and feature favorites from JDubs, Motorworks and Big Top breweries, among others.
Feel free to opt for full service by grabbing a table on the deck or patio with fantastic Myakka River views, or sit inside for some much-needed air conditioning. You can also order from the window at the counter and take a seat at the picnic tables underneath our massive Spanish moss-draped oaks. The tables are adjacent to our main stage, which is a go-to option when live music is in session.
So Much (Strange) History
Seeking to unload contraband during the Prohibition era of the late 1920s and early 1930s, a league of smugglers discovered a hidden refuge along the shores of the Myakka River. Just upstream from the Gulf of Mexico and located on a remote peninsula, Snook Haven’s concealed grounds became the ideal place for the property’s initial occupants to land and ship their illegal stock to a thirsty Floridian population. With additions of a still to produce moonshine and a mule path to distribute the felonious goods, Snook Haven’s most colorful role as a community watering hole was set in motion.
Sometime during this period, a Hollywood studio location scout stumbled upon Snook Haven. Its picturesque “Old Florida” landscape designated it as the perfect stateside location for filming exotic jungle movies. The area became a staging site for film crews shooting multiple films, including the 1931 French Foreign Legion classic “Prestige” and 1938’s “Tarzan’s Revenge” starring Glenn Morris and Eleanor Holm.
The same striking, yet practical, characteristics that made Snook Haven the perfect location for the nefarious activities of smugglers and spirited ventures of Hollywood producers set the state for the site’s next occupants. Seeking a private fishing camp, a New England entrepreneur who made his fortune as a “gentlemen’s products” manufacturer took over the property. He built a river house and five additional cabins along the riverfront, which still stand today.
After changing ownership multiple times throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Snook Haven was opened to the public in 1988 as a fishing camp. The camp was complete with a boat ramp and a cook shack, which became the birthplace of our current restaurant! Since then, the Florida landmark has gained notoriety as one of the finest examples of “Old Florida” on the state’s Gulf Coast.
After the Myakka River was designated as one of Florida’s two “wild and scenic rivers” in 1987, Sarasota County purchased the property in 2006 and inducted it into its Parks system to further protect Snook Haven’s rustic beauty. And, in early 2013, the restaurant reopened under its current management team, Venice Pier Group. VPG also owns Snook Haven’s famed Venice sister restaurants, Sharky’s on the Pier – which was voted as Florida’s No. 1 Beach Bar in 2013, 2018 and 2019 - and Fins at Sharky’s.
Spend the Day
There are tons of outdoor activities you can partake in at Snook Haven. Go on your own adventure by renting a canoe or kayak at our front counter to explore the “wild and scenic” Myakka River. Or, you can book a ticket with the Logan River Tours and enjoy a relaxing, informative cruise down the river. Whichever you choose, be on the lookout for wildlife – eagles, turtles, gators and even manatees may make an appearance on your journey.
Snook Haven is also well-known for its extensive, and excellent, calendar of live music. Local bands from around Sarasota play almost daily during season and feature genres like bluegrass, country, rock and more. There’s something for everyone!
Hold on, do you hear banjos? Don’t miss the wildly popular “Banjo Thursdays,” which run rain or shine from October to May. Join the Gulf Coast Banjo Society and listen to American music of the past century for a memorable, delightfully entertaining afternoon.
One last thing – don’t forget to say hello to Big Hank and Nik, our resident gators. Big Hank was caught in waters just south of the restaurant by Venice residents Hank Duyn and Sean Koss. He’s almost 13 feet long - that’s enormous! Taxidermist Eddie Vitale spent over six months perfecting Big Hank for display because of his sheer size. In 2014, Nik joined Hank in the restaurant. Nik, named after Nikki Duyn who caught him, is a little over eight and a half feet long. Both Big Hank and Nik lived very full lives in the Myakka before being captured. They are now able to remain at home on the Myakka and admired by all.
Can’t find Big Hank and Nik? Walk through our front doors and look up.
We’re looking forward to serving you! Please contact us with any questions, comments or concerns.