Surprises in the Sunshine State, part II

Siesta Key Beach

Following up on a not-so recent post (sorry I’ve not been diligent lately about posting) about a trip to the Jacksonville/Saint Augustine area, here’s a report on another trip, this one with my family over the holidays to Sarasota. The trip included catching up with old friends, a day trip up to St. Pete, interesting museums, beach time, and, of course, lots of coffee.

Let’s start with the non-coffee stuff, shall we?


they named the laundromat after me!

We loved the three beaches we visited: Siesta Key Beach and Lido Key Beach in Sarasota; and the beachside Sandbar seafood bar and restaurant in Anna Maria Island.

beachside at the Sandbar in Anna Maria

Cannot give enough praise to Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures‘ mangrove tunnel kayak tour at Ted Sperling Nature Park on Sarasota’s Lido Key. Our guide was terrific.

picture: Almost Heaven website

Sarasota’s Ringling Museum, created from the massive estate of the family behind one of the world’s most famous circuses, is a superb complex. There are different package admission options; I would recommend walking the gardens, and visiting the waterside veranda at the back of the Ca’ D’Zan mansion, but skip the circus museum (unless you’re a really big circus fan) and the mansion tours to save time for the fine art museum. It’s massive and its collections are world class.

John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art
photo: Ringling website

We also visited The Dali museum in St Petersburg. Worth a stop. I’m not a fan of surrealist art, but enjoyed seeing Salvador Dali’s works from early in his career and how his work evolved into the surrealist pieces he is most associated with. An AI exhibit told me this painting represents my dreams.

We had some good food during our trip, but a couple places stood out.

Pancakes are the stars of The Breakfast House. Try the lavender stuffed blueberry version. Everything else we tried was also delicious.

photo: Breakfast House website

While in St. Pete we had lunch at Bodega on Central. Great Cuban food, juices, funky design.

So hey, why don’t we talk about the coffee?

Unlike St. Augustine/Jacksonville, not every place I went was good. But there were a lot of options and some real standouts.

If you’re searching for good coffee in downtown Sarasota, you might notice that Breaking Wave Coffee is at 1310 Main Street, and O & A Coffee and Supply is at 1316 Main Street. Sounds close. Actually they are storefronts in the same single story commercial building, separated only by a real estate office. I guess it’s kind of like McDonald’s and Burger King finding success locating their outlets near each other, but this is probably the shortest distance you’ll find between two places that have earned the Matty Macchiato Coveted Asterisk of Quality. TM

Both serve great coffee, both have friendly staff. If you have to choose just one, I’d say pick the one with the shortest line and, if you’re not grabbing it to go, an available seat. Either way, pop into O & A to see their custom Slayer espresso machine, made with a transparent case. The barista told me it was one of two in the world, and the other one is in Tokyo.

Speaking of custom Slayer rigs, the folks at Perq Coffee Bar in the Southside Village area work on a bright green beauty that matches the color scheme of the shop.

I really liked the vibe of the place, it feels like that kind of shop you would want to slow down and relax in. They also have a sign on the wall that made my pedantic heart swell.

And finally, another Sarasota shop also made my heart swell, but for entirely different reasons. On downtown’s State Street you find Rise & Nye’s, a coffee and ice cream shop that will serve you a terrific coffee and an awesome made-to-order ice cream sandwich. The shop deserves the the Matty Macchiato Coveted Asterisk of Quality TM on the merits of its coffee (and I am a sucker for a good ice cream sandwich), but its mission sets it apart.

Rise & Nye’s is staffed by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The business’ focus is on jobs, dignity, respect, and inclusion. While you’re enjoying your coffee, you’re likely to find a greeting on your cup.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *