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Chef Charles Amherst, his wife Andrea, right, and daughter Ashley serve up Southern and Caribbean cuisine at Chaz51.

Image: Kim Hackett

A community is not truly a community until it has its own joint. And for the pioneering residents, and industrial workers in North Venice, that joint is Chaz51. Nestled in an industrial park east of I-75 and Laurel Road, the breakfast-and-lunch bistro offers a combination of Caribbean and Southern with all kinds of gourmet twists. 

Owner and former Ruth's Chris executive chef, Charles Amherst, opened a year ago. He serves up jumbo shrimp and grit patties, butternut squash bisque, BBQ pulled pork, crab cakes and a plentiful menu of gourmet breakfast dishes, such as pumpkin pancakes and crab-cake benedict. 

"We were looking for a change," says Amherst, about his decision to open his own restaurant with his wife, Andrea.  The bistro has become the de facto town hall with neighbors in the Venetian Golf and River Club, Willow Chase and the other new communities meeting up for coffee, breakfast and shooting the breeze. 

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I discovered Chaz51 when my friend Lan Huynh (aka the mom of the Venice YMCA) invited me to lunch. The restaurant is on Triple Diamond Blvd, just off Knights Trail Road, where PGT and Tervis Tumbler are located and thousands of houses are now going up. Nurturing Lan, who hands out exotic fruit at the YMCA and gives free racquetball lessons to kids and anyone who is interested, ordered three plates for us --the Ahi Tuna Salad, Shrimp and Grits, and the Open Roast Beef Sandwich. Beautiful presentation and flavorful. 

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Charles Amherst, a Haiti native, says he opened the Ruth's Chris in Kansas and then Sarasota. After 15 years with the company, the North Port resident decided he wanted his own restaurant. It's a family run place with daughter Ashley-Renee, 23, and son Charles, 27, pitching in.  Chaz51 is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 103 Triple Diamond Blvd, Suite 2, North Venice.

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