Brunch Anyone?

Brunch (brunch) n. [Colloq.] a meal that combines a late breakfast and an early lunch

According to Webster’s, “brunch” is a noun, but common usage suggests otherwise and we’ve been brunching for more than a century. Englishman Guy Beringer coined the portmanteau (combination of words) in 1895 when he wrote, “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

We all know brunch as a lazy, decadent meal that allows for sleeping in late and languishing over a full plate for hours. You can mix and match eggs, fruit, French toast, meat or seafood; coffee, tea, juice and even respectably down a cocktail mid-day. It’s more than a meal; it’s a social ritual, especially in this town. If Mr. Beringer were here today, he would not be eating his words. Some area restaurants serve up sumptuous brunch buffets while others modestly lay no claim to the colloquialism, offering morning and afternoon repasts in more traditional terms. But, breakfast, lunch; burrito, frittata… in Sarasota, brunch by any other name is still “egg-ceptional.”

Order breakfast or lunch and dine inside or out at The Broken Egg on Siesta Key. Open 7:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., this popular eatery has been an island tradition for more than 20 years. With huge portions of everything from deep-dish quiche and giant homemade pancakes to a shrimp Caesar wrap and oriental duck salad, you definitely won’t leave hungry. A wide variety of benedicts include lobster, crab, portobello and lox. The Sheepherder — poached eggs smothered with cheeses on top of hash browns — is a classic favorite. Home-baked pumpkin bread, banana bread, muffins, cookies, croissants and more, everything is freshly made, equally tempting and all worth waiting for, which you probably will do on weekends and in season. But the restaurant’s eclectic gift shop and art gallery provide plenty to peruse and purchase either before or after your meal.

Wine, beer and mimosas are available in addition to non-alcoholic beverages. What could be better than all of this? A second location. Broken Egg is now open at Lakewood Ranch.

Siesta’s nearby Village Café serves breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. in a casual, beachy atmosphere. Don your flip-flips, slip on a cover-up and sit inside or out in the sun while enjoying more traditional fare… sort of. You don’t see (or eat) a four-egg omelet every day. Western, Greek, lox & onion, veggie, cheese or plain, however you slice it, these babies are big. A Siesta Benedict, tons of salads, including stuffed tomato with tuna, share the menu with quesadillas, chili, Philly cheese steak and other savory sandwiches. The Café Cocktail is a blend of low fat yogurt, granola and other goodies for the health conscious, along with oatmeal, muffins and bagels. Family owned and operated since 1995, the café has retained most of the same waitresses, kitchen staff and customers since it opened. So, that yummy Greek omelet you’ve enjoyed for years will taste as good as you remembered, and your server (and everyone else) will likely know your name.

The Hob Nob Drive In is a downright Sarasota institution, offering ultra-casual dining and delightfully good food since 1957. Where else can you pull up for a juicy burger at 6 a.m.? The famous Hob Nob hamburger is a beefy double cheeseburger with all your favorite fixings. The authentic 50’s drive in is open from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m. You can order breakfast until 10:30 a.m. and anything else anytime, including beer or wine after 11 a.m. Most popular is the breakfast special: two eggs any style, bacon or home fries and a choice of toasted bread; either white, wheat, rye or English muffin. Fresh signature salads and great omelets, particularly the Farmer’s Omelet, breakfast sandwiches and pancakes complement other selections including sandwiches of fresh grilled chicken, blackened snapper and potato encrusted grouper.

Althea’s in Venice is a cozy enclave with a Victorian flavor. Family owned and run, it is laden with antiques and vintage accents, right down to its salt and pepper shakers. Since there’s no buffet, they don’t admit to serving an actual “brunch,” but on Sundays from 7:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. you can order from an extended menu including eight types of benedicts, such as pesto, lobster, salmon and vegetable, stuffed French toast, blintzes, country fried steak with eggs along with plenty of plate-sized pancakes. A slightly scaled down menu is offered every other day until 11 a.m., except Monday, when they are closed. Althea’s also serves lunch (except Sunday) and dinner, both extensive offerings of hearty American continental cuisine along with Greek, Italian, seafood and vegetarian specialties. No matter the meal, you can sit indoors or out; the canopied patio is great for people watching and enjoying the quaint ambiance of downtown Venice. A full bar outside and evening weekend entertainment in season add to the fun.

Find an official “brunch” in North Port at the Heron Creek Golf & Country Club. You can pre-arrange a round of golf and come country club casual to the Top Of The Green dining room, where live entertainment accompanies your meal. Presented Sunday’s from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the buffet includes an omelet station, carving station, fresh fruit, creative salads and delicious desserts, all for $15.95. After 12 p.m. you can purchase mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, or whatever you please from the full bar. Chef Kelly Hultz, a Johnson and Whales graduate, puts out a spread that might include beef tenderloin tips, penne pasta with artichoke hearts, roasted pork loin and chicken roulade stuffed with spinach or cranberry sage, along with Belgian waffles or French toast, eggs benedict and more. She suggests leaving room for the Belgian milk chocolate fondue, mini cream puffs, cheesecakes or éclairs. This special affair is open to the public as well as to club members. Guests may dine at Top of the Green, on the patio, or in the slightly more casual Grille Room (where jeans are permitted). Reservations are suggested.

It’s brunch and the beach at The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, where the Sunday buffet has a distinctively Floribbean flair. Caribbean chicken, conch chowder, and beef stew over curried rice are just a few of the island-influenced items. A changing display table might be topped with pates or special salads like mozzarella caprese, and staples such as eggs benedict and made-to-order omelets taste even better against a backdrop of the gulf’s sparkling waters.

A favorite of families, the Colony has lots of kid-friendly selections such as Belgian waffles with whipped cream and berries, swirled French toast and pancakes. Shellfish is plentiful; shrimp, oysters, clams and mussels, even mussel salad are favorite aspects of this feast. Find prime rib and/or turkey at the carving station, fresh fruits and vegetables and a dessert display with everything from bread pudding and key lime pie to cheesecakes, tiramisu, chocolate decadence, mousse and strawberry shortcake, and pumpkin and pecan pies in season. Mimosas and champagne are available after noon and are included in the price of $29.95. Make a day of it. Reserve brunch any time from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., then spa and shop… without even leaving the property.

If you go:
* The Broken Egg: 210 Avenida Madera, Siesta Key; 346.2750,
* The Village Café: 5133 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key; 349.2822
* Hob Nob Drive In: 1701 N. Washington Blvd., Sarasota; 955-5001
* Althea’s: 220 W. Miami Ave., Venice; 484.5187
* Heron Creek Golf & Country Club: 5301 Heron Creek Blvd., North Port; 240-5100;
* The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, 1620 Gulf Of Mexico Dr., Longboat Key; 383-6464;

Reprinted from Dining Guide Plus

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