Anita’s Homestyle Restaurant
Anita Nikolov’s family diner has weathered a variety of challenges over the years, including delayed construction on U.S. 41 out front and an extensive rebuild, but a recent trip showed that things have turned out all right. The restaurant seats dozens inside a roomy A-frame structure decorated with hot rod renderings and Route 66 memorabilia. The “BEAT” sandwich ($8.99) earns its acronym with bacon, egg, avocado and a fried green tomato. Doused in hot sauce, it’s an excellent treat, as are the well-caramelized hash browns that take up the rest of the plate. The flaky biscuits are worth the buck or two extra.
441 S. Tamiami Trail, Nokomis, (941) 485-3859
Tucked next to a small motel along a curve of U.S. 41 on Venice Island, the Blu Island Bistro is easy to miss but hard to forget. Blu Island does the expected uncommonly well. Its buttermilk pancakes, for example, follow a recipe chef-owner Alan Laskowski has been using for more than 20 years producing succulent cakes that are crispy outside and moist inside, forming a flavorful union with butter and warm syrup dispensed from glass thimbles. What really separates the Blu Island Bistro, however, is that Laskowski, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lets loose his creative impulses on a daily basis. On a recent morning, one of the specials was “Wealthy Whisky Bacon,” which featured two thick slices “grilled with a nice little char and a side of Chef Alan’s whisky glaze.” Other specials were “Sweet Potato Brussel Sprout Hash,” “Pastrami Benedict” and homemade chocolate croissants. Creative, yes, but satisfying, too. —David Hackett
625 Tamiami Trail S., Venice, (941) 485-8200
Vintage charm gets a tropical twist at The Breakfast Cottage, a lively yellow hotspot in Nokomis. It couldn’t be more inviting, with an eclectic mix of restored furniture and beachy accessories in hues of orange, yellow, pink and purple. The place to be is the front porch, shaded by a massive oak tree decked out in orchids and air plants. The menu is equally inviting: sumptuous, fluffy omelets ($9.99); buttery biscuits swimming in sausage gravy ($6.99); pancakes plain or topped with tropical fruit; and a lush assortment of eggs Benedicts, including a version featuring a crispy crab cake ($16.99). A purple orchid on the big white plate is the crowning glory. Our server, accommodating and adorable in pigtails and tattoos, embodied the fun, fresh spirit of the place. —Pam Daniel
2301 N. Tamiami Trail, Nokomis, (941) 313-9529
Always a favorite, downtown Venice’s Burgundy Square Cafe has a neighborly vibe, with tables of friends clustered together chatting about last night’s ballgame over egg platters and joe. The garden scramble ($8.95) mixes together eggs, spinach, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and cheese, with a pile of crispy-skinned home fries on the side. Other favorites include an eggs Benedict made with Maine lobster, scallops and Gulf shrimp ($13.50) and billowy, crispy-skinned pancakes ($2.50-$6.75). On pleasant mornings, snag a seat at one of the outdoor tables in the Burgundy Square arcade to watch tourists mosey up and down Miami Avenue.
2227 Miami Ave. W., Venice, (941) 451-8261
People don’t flock to this hole-in-the-wall bagel shop in a tiny South Venice strip mall for the ambiance. Fancy, it’s not. What does drive loyal customers are the oversized crusty bagels shaped by hand in the back kitchen, and the café’s big pick of flavors. The “scrambagel,” at just $3.99, is an excellent value: a buttery grilled bagel stuffed with scrambled eggs and American cheese. The Nova Norwegian smoked salmon bagel sandwich is worth every penny of its $8.99 price, with a generous pile of meaty fish atop a slope of cream cheese, and your choice of capers, red onions and tomato. Lots of other breakfast sandwich choices, too. —Ilene Denton
1811 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 493-2095
Sometimes you just want a healthy bite to start the day. Enter Café Evergreen in Nokomis, which is located in a cheery, sunlight-filled, Mediterranean-style building on the South Trail, complete with colorful stained glass-esque window details and bright green signage and trim. The menu bills itself as “healthy food for a healthy life,” and breakfast options include smoothies (go for the Mango Marathon, $7.45), juices, wheat grass shots and blue algae shots, and a variety of egg-based dishes like omelets and Benedicts (the latter made with gluten-free English muffins). We love the Evergreen Scrambler ($10.95): eggs, red onion, tomato, spinach, carrots, celery, roasted red pepper and a cheesy quinoa cake (it can also be made with tofu). Beverages include organic coffee, matcha tea and kefir kombucha on draught. If the weather permits, enjoy it and your meal outside in the Southwest Florida sunshine and get some extra Vitamin D. You’ll leave full and feeling good. —Megan McDonald
801 S. Tamiami Trail, Nokomis, (941) 412-4334
This small café in a U.S. 41-fronting Nokomis strip offers affordable breakfast food from sunup until 3 p.m. every day of the week, cranking out primarily egg-heavy plates. Winners include the rich corned beef hash, topped with a couple eggs, and the “bacon Benny,” an eggs Benedict upgraded with applewood-smoked pork. The decor is old-school touristy Florida, with images of the sun, the ocean, seagulls, shells, seahorses and lizards, and the service is relaxed and inviting.
2282 N. Tamiami Trail Nokomis (941) 966-6652
First Watch has grown at an insane clip in recent years, expanding from a Manatee County-based chain into the nation’s largest breakfast-only operation. And then last year a global private equity company with $39 billion in assets swooped in to take it over, inheriting more than 300 restaurants in 26 states. A wise investment. First Watch serves fresh, affordable, straightforward breakfasts from kitchens that don’t use heat lamps or deep fryers, and the food is often delivered at breakneck speed. The formula attracts everyone from pastel-dressed churchgoers to harried freelancers working on laptops. We opt for the farmhouse skillet hash, a filling mix of potatoes, eggs, cheese, onions, tomatoes, bacon and avocado.
Bypass S., #6, Venice, (941) 954-1395
Tucked into the rear of a Venice Avenue shopping plaza, Le Petit Jardin Café is a cozy and intimate destination, the kind of place where you can sip coffee and plow through a novel well after the server has rung up your check and you won’t feel hurried in the slightest. The menu complements the restaurant’s immense Impressionist mural of a French street market scene, with a selection of Gallic morning stars like crêpes ($7-$9) and croissants ($4.25-$8). On one recent morning, two women each ordered their favorite, the Delacroix crêpe, pumped up with ham, eggs, Swiss cheese and an addictive champagne mustard sauce. “Do you want more champagne mustard sauce?” the restaurant’s lone server asked. “I always want more,” one said, laughing. An extra serving appeared seconds later.
1500 E. Venice Ave., Unit 401, Venice, (941) 244-3231
Both refined enough to be lit with glass chandeliers and casual enough for a Spandexed cyclist, this downtown Venice restaurant caters to all comers. Longtime customers duck past the pastry and dessert case up front and snag tables in the small wood-floored dining room, asking for servers by name. “I’m on this side, love,” one waitress explained to a diner one recent morning. The vibe is quiet and relaxed, with the rustle of newspaper pages, the murmur of conversation and the periodic whoosh of the espresso machine. The crab cake Benedict ($9.99) will kill any hunger pains you might have, with discs heavy on the crab meat and doused in a mild but tasty Cajun Hollandaise. On your way out, don’t forget something sweet.
213 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 244-0430
Airport dining gets a bum rap, but a visit to Suncoast Café may change your mind. Situated in a cozy corner of the Venice Municipal Airport, the café serves hearty breakfasts and lunches to regulars and the occasional tourist.
Sit by the window and you can watch small planes and helicopters take off and land. Perch at the counter, and you observe chef Tony DuBoulay and his crew at work. DuBoulay, a native of Saint Lucia, has brought flavors of the Caribbean to menu items like a breakfast Cuban featuring slow-roasted pork and refried beans ($9.99). Try a quesadilla with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese and salsa ($9.99), or maybe the “flight attendant’s” omelet, boasting fresh tomato, spinach, green peppers, mushrooms and onions ($8.99). You might become a frequent flier. —Kay Kipling
400 Airport Ave. W., Venice, (941) 484-0100
Wee Blew Inn
This old-school diner pops out plates of eggs, corned beef hash and home fries in three minutes or less. The servers are as fast as the cooks, pouring coffee warmups before your brown mug is even half-empty and calling you “honey” when you walk in. The emphasis on speed means there are few frills on the menu. You’ll find eggy basics, plus French toast, short stacks and biscuits, at prices that start at $3 for an egg sandwich. Sit at the bar that runs the length of the kitchen to watch the cooks cook and listen to the steady clack-clack of the spatula on the flattop and the hiss of sizzling potatoes.
590 U.S. 41 Bypass Venice (941) 484-5616
The Caffeine Scene
Is it even breakfast without great coffee? We don’t think so. For all our fellow caffeine fiends, here are our two top shops for morning joe.
2385 E. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 488-8242
The slogan at this bustling east Venice shop is “from tree to cup,” and they mean it. Founder Gary Lauters II buys beans at fair prices from environmentally sound producers around the globe and then roasts them to perfection in a big gold and black San Franciscan Roaster machine that’s on display inside the warehouse half of the Black Gold building. On the other half, bodacious baristas convert those roasts into exceptional pours and pulls. The “con panna” ($3.50) is just espresso and whipped cream, and it’s amazing. Take home a bag of beans, too. Single origin coffees come from Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, Honduras, Ethiopia and beyond.
231 W. Miami Ave., Venice, (941) 484-3565
This downtown Venice hangout prides itself on serving healthy breakfasts, sandwiches, salads and smoothies, but we go for the alluring ambiance—and the coffee. Grab a seat at the high concrete bar near the back and enjoy the hip but unpretentious environs. Herbs grow in baskets hung on the back walls and under countertop lamps, while a handful of young folks who look like they do a lot of yoga chat over nutritious-looking beverages. The shop also serves a small but smart selection of espresso drinks, as well as a good drip and cold brew. Island Organics’ plain black coffee is terrific―fierce and fortified, but never bitter.
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