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    Monday, 27 April 2015

    Incredible dining on Anna Maria Island….

    One of the most favoured things on Anna Maria Island, other than the beaches, the sunshine, the beautifully warm gulf seas, the stunning wildlife, the culture, the people, the fishing (I could go on!) is without a doubt, the food.

    There are some really wonderful eateries on the island. Each is unique, independently owned, some with stunning locations, some with a hugely sustainable focus, sometimes live music (I've even conga-d around one establishment!) but all with fantastic food and a great atmosphere. I really have never had a bad meal on Anna Maria Island!

    Table to Farm Anna Maria Island 

    One of the best culinary experiences I have had, I think, safe to say, ever, was celebrating my birthday, under the stars on Kings Farm in Bradenton.

    Table to Farm re(defining dining) is an eating initiative launched by AJ Laterri (an inspirational event co-ordinator and fantastic cook) showcasing incredible fresh farm food, by creating stunning menus and serving them on location of the farm. Be it under a beautiful tree in a field, between rows of stunning peach trees or enveloped by swaying vines in a vineyard.

    Table to Farm showcases the incredible fresh farm food on Anna Maria Island

    I’m not sure whether the taste of the food was enhanced by the romanticism of the surroundings with the fairy lights in the trees, the chandeliers hanging from the branches overhead, with delicate tea lights and the light from the silvery moon, plus a lone guitarist playing beautifully alongside our table; or whether it was purely that the food presented to us was absolutely amazing!

    Using some of the simplest ingredients, AJ and her team created a truly unique 7-course meal, flavours of which I have never tasted before, or have again, that would not be out of place in some of the finest eating establishments anywhere in the world (in my opinion!).

    To find out more watch this video: http://www.tabletofarmredefining.com/dinners/ 

    Sadly, the Table to Farm dining experiences only happen every few months, but it is an absolute treat. Keep an eye on their website for dates and ticket availability!

    Sandbar Anna Maria Island

    There are also so many other great places to eat on the island, from fine dining, to awesome burgers….

    One of the most popular restaurants is the Sandbar, as the name suggests…a restaurant, right on the sand at the Gulf end of Pine Avenue.

    It has recently (last year) had a re-fit. The restaurant inside is fresh and modern, bright and open and the bar area as you walk in is much bigger and welcoming looking out to the beach. But as it has always been with the Sandbar the true specialty of this place, is it’s position on the beach and I mean literally toes-in-the-sand, on the beach!

    Enjoy the stunning views out to the water in the beautiful warm sunshine for a delicious sandwich or salad for lunch, or the spectacular, romantic setting of a sunset whilst eating some of their delicious fresh fish from a really great dinner menu…..it doesn't get much better than that!

    Enjoy the beautiful sunset whilst dining on Anna Maria Island

    Local, fresh fish and seafood features prominently on their menu; the restaurant have a really credible sustainable program and menu…the conch fritters are divine, the soft crab BLT is awesome, and there are plenty of shrimp, crab and scallop recipes to cause decision dilemmas!
     
    As you can imagine, it gets busy, particularly in season, so you are wise to book a table!  The Sandbar was one of our favoured places on our visit, possibly due to the fact that we stayed at Limefish one of the Pineapplefish rentals, that is located directly on the beach just a 15-minute walk along the shore to the Sandbar. Not your average tipsy walk home, I have to say!

    Waterfront Anna Maria Island

    The Waterfront is another favourite restaurant of ours.

    I love the décor (particularly their huge fish tank that my kids love!) and the atmosphere. The food is just fantastic, best cocktails on the island and it has my favourite location….looking out to City Pier. For some reason I find it so serine and beautiful, I love sitting outside enjoying quality wine and a cocktail or two looking out to the pier.

    The menu is full of great fish options, meats, and lighter bites for lunch. One of the really lovely things about this place is that one page of the menu is devoted to rare seasonal items that are provided by local waterman, showcased by fantastic accompaniments using cutting edge techniques. So there is always so much choice, and constant variation on an already great menu. It supports our local fishermen and is a truly sustainable program.

    Breakfast on Anna Maria Island

    It’s not only lunch and dinner that is worth the outing on Anna Maria, there are a whole host of amazing places to go for a really great breakfast.

    Ginny and Jane E’s on Gulf Drive is one of the Island’s most popular and longstanding cafes. It’s quirky and fun…browse the store for great furniture, arts, gift, jewelry and more and then grab a table (all of which are for sale), and enjoy something off their great menu. The smoothies are delicious, and their waffles are something else!

    The Rod & Reel also do a really lovely breakfast. It’s a great place to go too. Walk along the pier, watch the fishermen at work, look out for manatees at this hotspot and then go and enjoy some good food. Makes it quite a leisurely morning! Steak and eggs is my breakfast of choice here, and their pancakes and omelettes are also really good, served with a warm muffin or toast and fruit salad (The Rod & Reel do a good fish & chips too, but maybe save that for lunch or dinner!).

    The Rod & Reel's breakfast menu on Anna Maria Island
    There's plenty of delicious meals to try on Anna Maria Island

    Another really nice place for breakfast is Harry’s Grill and Bistro. They have a lovely breakfast menu; French toast, croissants, breakfast wraps and sandwiches as well as stacks of egg choices. The place is nicely decorated and the outside seating is lovely and relaxed. Easy to wile away an hour or so here reading the papers and watching the world go by!

    Harry’s is also open for lunch and dinner, and they regularly have music nights, showcasing some really good local musicians bringing such a great atmosphere to the place. The owners have a really great story about how they came here to the island, similar to many of the business owners on Anna Maria who found the place, fell in love, and stayed!

    There are so many other great places to eat on Anna Maria, too many to mention here. But take some time to explore the island, stop by some of the restaurants you see and check them out.

    You won’t be disappointed with anywhere you decide to dine!

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