Woody's under cover has a log of space with room reserved in front of the stage for dancing.

If you are driving north on I-75, you can’t miss the blazing yellow sign below the Manatee River bridge. Along the riverbanks is an al fresco restaurant and bar called Woody’s River Roo. This Favorite Florida pit stop brings the party on the Manatee River. It’s the same i-75 exit as the outlet mall in Ellenton (U.S. 301.)

It’s a little hidden so I have a trick to find it below.

Woody’s looks like a beach dive from the outside. Sometimes it feels like one. But no matter when I’ve stopped there, it has always been a lively spot full of characters. In a good way. Retires and bikers, weary outlet shoppers, families and everyone in between finds their way here. It’s even open late if you are a night driver.

The main dining area surrounds a stage and dance floor where there is almost always live music. Perfect if you need to stretch your legs after driving. The only problem is, you might not want to leave. Woody’s also has more serene seating on the docks behind the restaurant.

Favorite Florida pit stop brings the party on the Manatee River and the food too

The bar is large, the drinks are tropical and cold, if you are the passenger that is. And the food is mostly Florida fair with lots of seafood. But it’s not all they serve. The menu is quite large and there really is something for everyone. Find a lot of food in baskets from fried shrimp and calamari to wings, Thai shrimp egg rolls and more.

The fish dip was pretty mild when I tried it, if that is the kind that you like. My friends devoured it. I would prefer a side of jalapeños for a kick. For sandwiches, the Fish Roo-Ben is a home run every time. With grouper, coleslaw and 1000 island dressing, it’s a big, delicious mess. Desserts are homemade. If you don’t have room, grab one to go.

For another great pit stop the same exit, click here. However, this Favorite Florida pit stop brings the party off I-75 on the Manatee River. Here are a few photos of the food and a little of the action.

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