Have Something Truly Special to Celebrate? Head to the Beach Bistro

    By Kara Chalmers

    Last week, I wrote about how my husband and I got married at the Sandbar on Anna Maria Island. It’s a great place for weddings, and for dining out. It’s close to our home, so we go back on anniversaries for drinks at sunset.

    Interestingly, one of our favorite restaurants – the Beach Bistro – is just a few short blocks from the Sandbar. On our very first wedding anniversary, my husband and I started the tradition of dining there, after drinks at the Sandbar. The Beach Bistro is an upscale place, and in our family it is strictly reserved for very special occasions. Of course, we headed there two weeks ago to celebrate five years as husband and wife.

    Let me start by saying that the Beach Bistro is one of the highest rated restaurants in Florida. It boasts the highest Zagat rating for food and service in the state, and it is included in Zagat’s “Top Restaurants in America.” There are lots more awards, raves and recognitions – click on the kudos page to see them all.

    The Beach Bistro is small, right on the Gulf of Mexico, so the view from your table is excellent. The ambience is relaxed and intimate, a long-stemmed red rose on every table, impeccable service. It’s upscale, as I mention above, but not pretentious or stiff.

    Our first dinner there, Nathan and I were blown away – by the food, the wine, the experience in general. We still can’t help but order some of the same things each visit.

    One example: the Lobstercargots ($23) – chunks of succulent Florida spiny lobster slow-cooked in seasoned garlic butter and herbed spinach in the same kind of crock used for escargots.

    Also, at the start of every meal we’ve eaten at the Beach Bistro, we’ve been given small samples of the “One Helluva Soup,” a plum tomato soup with sweet cream and Maytag blue cheese. In the past, I’ve often ordered the famous Bistro Bouillabaisse, which is described as lobster tails, jumbo shrimp, premium market fish, shellfish and calamari in a “killer” broth.

    This dinner, I ordered the small-plate size of the "Pretty Big... but not ‘Diver’ Scallops” ($21) – porcini-dusted, pan-seared, truffle-buttered scallops over cauliflower puree with shaved Reggiano cheese. Nathan ordered a Beach Bistro classic, the Florribbean Grouper, also the small-plate size ($24). This is Gulf grouper with a toasted coconut and cashew crust, pan-seared, oven-finished and “caressed” with a red pepper papaya jam.

    We also shared one of the day’s specials, a salad with fresh strawberries, greens and blue cheese, plus a dessert – Praline Alexandra with French vanilla ice cream and Frangelico ($12). The praline was heavenly, and the Bistro’s Florida Key Lime Pie, which I’ve had on previous occasions, is just as delicious.

    The guy at the table next to us ordered “Food Heaven” ($68 for an entrée-sized portion), and since seeing it, Nathan and I have resolved to order it the next time to share. Check out the description on the beach bistro’s classic dinner menu.   

    The Beach Bistro’s mission is “to provide you with one of the best dining experiences that you have ever had.” If you dine here, I’m certain you’ll feel, as I did, that the mission was accomplished with ease.