Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sanford Brewing Company

After an extensive renovation to an old building and months upon months of anticipation, Sanford Brewing Company (SBC) recently had their soft opening. So far, I'd say it was well worth the wait.

SBC is Sanford's second microbrewery, though they've just opened and have not yet finished a bath of their own beer, they have a number of craft beers on tap. The space is warm and friendly and inviting with some exquisite wood detail (give the custom made bar a look!). The brewing area is clearly visible behind some huge windows and two large garage doors were open on the mild afternoon/evening when we visited, a very welcoming space, for sure. 

We decided to have an early dinner here recently. We started with drinks. Though I originally chose to jsut have some water, i quickly spied some special sodas on their drink menu and chose a homemade raspberry soda. I'm glad I did because it was wonderful, a nice red raspberry flavor was complimented with a bit of mint and some lime juice. Though it was happy hour, our server was not very clear on just what was on happy hour, so when the bill came and i saw that a glass of Moscato was $10, i was a bit surprise. Even in a fairly nice restaurant, $10 for a glass of wine seems excessive. I will say, we were here one time early for a few beers, and they seemed a bit pricey for the size of the pour, too. But time will tell if those prices will draw people. But this time we came for the food, as we've heard good things.

Tommy ordered the SBC burger, your standard burger, but much better than most. He ordered it medium (his preferred temp) but it came out a bit closer to medium rare (my preferred temp) which is probably why I thought it to be great. The bun was nice and soft, too. It was served with lettuce can tomato and came with a side of fries. Tommy thought the burger to be a bit overseasoned, too. The fries are big planks of potatoes. They could have stood about 30 seconds more in the frier to give them a better golden color, but they were indeed delicious and seasoned nicely. 

I ordered a Turkey Carver sandwich. The menu clearly states that this is a "shareable" sandwich and I would certainly agree--it was huge and I ended up taking half of it home. But it was oh-so-good, too. It's a cold sandwich but was very tasty. Served with lettuce, fried green tomato, bacon, and a sort of pimento cheese, it was a very good sandwich, i loved it!  And still am, as a matter of fact. I will say this about the pickles that garnished Tommy's burger and my Turkey Carver--they were pretty bland and not very "pickly." I'm sure they were house made, but they needed a bit more kick, a bit more vinegar, and a bit more time to pickle. They were not that good. I hope they can improve, as home-made pickles can be a real asset to a menu item--these were not. 

I also ordered a side of the onion rings. They were served with a side of a spicy cheese dip that i believe is served with a number of other items. I like the cheese dip, though Tommy thought it a bit too spicy. I did not. The onion rings could use a bit of improvement, though. They were just OK. First of all, they were a bit greasy. The tempura type batter had come off some and the onions themselves (red onions which I liked) were a bit thin, and so not enough onion for the batter, IMHO. I hope that as times goes on they'll use their own beer in the batter, and maybe let the onions sit a bit and dry out (flour would help) before battering them to get a better batter coverage. Mind you, we ate them all and they were tasty, i just thought they (along with the pickles) could use some improvement.

Sanford Brewing Company is very new, and it shows just a bit. But they are also working hard. They've been getting a lot of local attention from friends of ours, and rightly so. The night we were there, some friends came in to eat, and as we were leaving, more friends came by. I think they have a lot of promise, and once they are able to serve their own beers, I think this will be a great addition to the Sanford eating and drinking scene. Our second microbrewery (and a third is on the way) is a hit, and we'll be back, for sure. Give them a try, I recommend them.

El Zocalo

El Zocalo is a new Mexican restaurant in Sanford, opened in the space formerly occupied by Tony's Deli. I am not sure what happened to Tony's, but I never saw more than a person or two in it, any time of day, and was surprised it hung on as long as it did. Nonetheless, the space had gotten a fresh coat of paint and is now a Mexican restaurant. I'd heard some good things about it on Facebook and so we recently decided to give it a try for lunch.

We were quickly greeted and offered to sit wherever we wanted, and in no time at all some fresh salsa with chips appeared. This was pretty good salsa, too. It tasted very fresh, was a bit chunky as a good salsa should be, and had a nice fresh flavor. The cilantro was evident, the onions nice and crispy, and the tomatoes lent a nice, fresh flavor. This was a good start to our meal.

Tommy had a chicken quesadilla and it was very good. The chicken was nice and tender and there was a lot of cheese. There was some lettuce, sour cream, pico de gallo, and guacamole in the center. I had some of the quesadilla and it was very good. The guacamole also had a nice, fresh flavor. It's hard to ruin a quesadilla, and this one was as good as any I've had or made.

I had the three enchilada meal for my lunch. One was ground beef, one shredded beef, and one chicken. It was served with yellow rice and refried beans on the side and topped with the chosen red sauce (green is also available) and some sour cream, and had a small lettuce salad on the side. My least favorite was the ground beef, it was nothing special and i could taste a lot of green pepper in it--not my personal favorite taste. But the other two were very good, the chicken and beef were both tasty and tender. Overall, i really liked my enchilada dinner, and it filled me up. 

It's always a bit dicey to visit a new place while they are still working out the kinks, but I have heard a lot of good about El Zocalo and if my first experience holds true, they may have a good long life in downtown Sanford. My only complaint is the lack of an online presence, I could not find them on the Internet nor on Facebook, and these days, social media is the way to go. But aside from that, we had a nice experience and will return again to try something else. I can't wait!


Though known for their home made marshmallows, Wondermade has recently expanded into ice cream--homemade of course! We've had their ice cream a few times and I decided it's time to write about it, especially since I learned the other night that you can mix and match flavors in a cup! Wow! Eureka! The best of several worlds, nestled in one luscious cup. 

A recent evening "sanfording" (hanging out in downtown Sanford, one of America's best kept secrets, found us wanting a bit of dessert after a great dinner at another local place. Walking off our dinner in downtown Sanford, we found ourselves outside of Wondermade. Now, during the peak of summer heat, they are open late weekend evenings, and often packed. They were busy the night we visited as well. As we perused the selections and taste-tested a few offerings (the cornbread ice cream is very good!), we learned that we could mix and match. So I had the Mint Chocolate Chip topped by Mocha Chip (right) and Tommy had the Salted Caramel topped with Triple Chocolate (should be called Death by Chocolate, it is soooo chocolaty!). We sat outside, watching the world go by, enjoying the night air and enjoying this wonderful ice cream. This is so much better than anything else you can get, in part because it's homemade right there. They have really perfected the art of ice cream and take great care with the flavor. No washed out flavors here, they are all very intense and oh, so good. We ate every last drop and left satisfied. 

Wondermade started out making homemade marshmallows, and they still do a great business with them, many sold on the Internet. But if you're in the neighborhood, do stop by and try the ice cream. I guarantee, you will not be disappointed, and will not leave hungry. By the way, the cup pictured was filled way over the top and for only a mere $4 was a real bargain--it is that good!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Peach's -- Holmes Beach

There are a number of Peach's location in the Sarasota/Bradenton, and I can see why they are so popular, good food, served well, at a reasonable price. This makes them "top notch" in my book.

 I ordered the Ranch Hand Omelet, bacon, ham, sausage, turkey, and a blend of cheeses. It was excellent. The eggs were nicely cooked and not overcooked. The filings were a decent portion and quite tasty. It was served with the requested toasted whole wheat bread and a side of fresh fruit. Everything about this omelet was spot-on, the way it should be. They know how to cook.

I could not pass up a half side-order of sausage gravy and biscuits. It was pretty good, better than a lot of places, but of course not as good as I can make. Still, I'd order it again. I think that it was home made. It could have used a bit more sausage and a bit less gravy, but still, I finished it up, with a bit of help.

Tom had a "real" breakfast, sausage, eggs over medium, sausage links, home fries, and white toast. They eggs were perfectly done, over-medium. Everything was just like it should be. 

Peach's is a very nice place. It's open and airy and light in side. The service was very good, friendly and fast. Our food came out very quick. Our coffee cups were kept full. There was absolutely nothing not to like about this place, and I'd be happy to return, again and again and again! Well done!

Skinny's Place

A hole in the wall, dive place with great food, steps from the beach. Can it get any better than this? Skinny's Place is very popular "fast food"--burgers and brews for the most part. You can get a cold frosty mug of Bud/Bud-light for $1.50, and they have other beers. Sides include fries and onion rings. And there are a number of variations on their 1/4 pound burger, up to and including the Mid Island Pounder--4 patties, if you dare. Make sure to say "mayo" or "no mayo" and the LTOP will be on the side (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles). There is a small bar and some other eclectic seating, inside and out. Order at the window, give your name, and they'll yell when your order is ready. But oh my, it is so worth it. Cash only, by the way.

There were four of us and we had quite a great lunch here, as you can see from the picture. We all enjoyed our burgers and cheeseburgers immensely. The tater tots were nice, but the onion rings were really very good, nice and thick, a good breading, and came out very hot, yet not too greasy. The burgers? Well, they may not be gourmet, but they sure tasted great. Add the side dressings and I for one, needed no additional condiments such as my normal mustard and ketchup--this burger was just too good to ruin with that.

We were there just before noon on a Sunday in early October, definitely after the "season" is over in Anna Maria Island. Still they were fairly busy, but I'm told that when it's peak season, the place is an absolute madhouse!  I can see why locals and tourists alike would flock to this place. A good burger, an ice cold beer, and only a few steps from the gulf beaches. This is island life. I highly recommend Skinny's. You won't go for the decor or atmosphere, you'll go for the food and be thoroughly satisfied, I am sure of it!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Anna Maria Oyster Bar

Anna Maria Oyster Bar has, I believe, 3 locations in the Bradenton, FL area. I can see why. The only thing that surprised any locals when we visited is that there was not a wait, but we were there after the "season" ended. Everything about our visit was top notch, we'd go again, for sure.

We were a group of six and were promptly seated, greeted, and told about their specials, drink and food--we arrived during happy hour, luck for us! My cold Jai Alai and all the other drinks arrived promptly. For my dinner I ordered the Salmon Oscar, a nice portion of properly cooked salmon topped with crabmeat stuffing, hollandaise sauce, and asparagus. It was excellent, absolutely fabulous. The salmon was moist and tender, and the crabmeat and hollandaise added to the richness. I had coleslaw for a side and I've never met a coleslaw I didn't like, this was no exception. The fresh green beans, wax beans, and carrots were also very good, nice and crisp. This was a very fine meal in every respect.

Tommy started with the Lobster Bisque, and I had a taste: awesome. The bisque was velvety, smooth and creamy and boasted of a nice rich lobster flavor. It was also served with crackers, and if you knew Tommy, you'd know how important crackers are with his soup!  

A number of the friends we were with had a number of various dishes, including fish chowder which they said was good. As a matter of fact, everyone enjoyed their meals, without a doubt.

Tommy, lucky for me, ordered the AYCE (All You Can Eat) fried shrimp. I say lucky for me because i may have speared on or two of them--or maybe a dozen or two! These shrimp were perfectly, perfectly deep fried, tender, crisp, buttery, and not at all greasy. I don't know how the do it, but I've never seen deep fried shrimp this perfect. A number of our friend had the same and the orders kept coming, promptly. I'd go there again just to order this. I'm telling you, these were truly outstanding. 

We all had a great time at Anna Maria Oyster Bar. They have a few locations and are very popular, we are told. I can see why! 

Star Fish Company

There are two parts to Star Fish Company, the market and a restaurant. Though this review is primarily about the restaurant, we also shopped the market a different day, and I'll comment on that as well, because fresh can't be beat, and their seafood is certainly fresh!

I decided to give the Fried Gulf Shrimp a try, as perfectly cooked shrimp are hard to come by. First off, the shrimp were cooked right, not overly cooked. I had them breaded and deep fried, but they were just a bit greasy, unfortunately. Tasty, but the breading was greasy. The cheesy grits and coleslaw I had to go-with, as well as the hush puppies, were both good.

Tommy started with a bowl of the Seafood Chowder. However, it was a bit on the spicy side, too spicy for him, and I ended up eating most of it. The seafood was mostly fish of some sort, and the chowder was certainly very chili-like, with some corn, onions and a few other veggies. While it was good, it was not great, unless you really like a spicy chowder.

However, Tommy's Grouper Sandwich did not disappoint at all. It was a nicely breaded and fried piece of fish, and not at all greasy. Served with the normal LTO (lettuce, tomato, and onion) on a bun, it was just a delicious sandwich. The fries were good as well. 
This is a real dive sort of place, a hole in the wall, but right on the fishing docks. You order at the counter and give your name, and the dinners come out in waxed cardboard boxes. Find yourself a table or belly up to the small counter area. It's a hard to find place and very popular with the locals.  

Now for the market. We were on Anna Maria Island visiting with my cousins, and on a subsequent day, they were cooking dinner for us. There were six of us all told. Debbie went to Star Fish market for 3# of shrimp and 2# of ahi tuna. OMG. It was all so very good. She lightly seared the tuna and it was among the best tuna i've ever had. Wow. And the shrimp? She prepared them two ways, boiled for peel 'n eat, and scampi, sauteed in butter and garlic--both excellent. I'd say if you're looking for good, fresh, local seafood, check out the Star Fish Seafood Market, you will not be disappointed. 

Sage Biscuit Cafe

I can see now why this place is a highly rated breakfast/lunch spot. We decide to have breakfast/lunch at Sage Biscuit Cafe and I'm so glad we did. We were here on a Friday in late September, definitely after the peak tourist season. Sage Biscuit Cafe is in Bradenton along busy Cortez Avenue, but not at all hard to find and had plenty of parking. They were plenty busy, but not packed, and we were quickly seated and taken well care of. 

I ordered the Fried Green Tomato BLT, and was not disappointed, it was all I hoped it would be. There was a lot of bacon on this sandwich, nice and crispy. The fried green tomato gave it a nice zing and a regular tomato slice added to the tomato taste. The lettuce was very fresh and crunch. And the whole wheat bread was just perfect for this sandwich. I loved it, a lot. It was accompanied by a dish of cottage cheese. A very good sandwich, i'd order this again, no doubt.

Tommy had the Eggs Benedict Capicola and said it was excellent--and the bite I had confirms that. He ordered it on a sage biscuit, though said next time he'd stick with tradition and have it on an English muffin. The sage biscuit was, however, quite tasty. The home fried that accompanied it were very good and not at all greasy. The hollandaise was just what it should be, and along with the creamy poached egg, made a nice counterpoint for the slightly spicy capicola. 

Tommy loves his pancakes, and since we rarely--if ever--have them at home, ordered a single buttermilk pancake to go with his breakfast. It was a very good pancake, tender, flavorful, all that it should be. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal here and I'd certainly go back. I can see why it's such a popular place. I encourage you to go and find out for yourself! We loved it.