Explore Your City - Anna Maria Island
I'm not sure how I've lived in Florida for so long and never visited Anna Maria Island. This past weekend I took my first trip, just 2 hours from home, for a family only getaway. I was less concerned with constantly taking photos and more concerned with cruising on a boat, looking for manatees, taunting crabs, watching the sunset, and enjoying the fam. So while this is not an in-depth report of everything there is to enjoy, I did manage to snag some pictures of a few highlights both on and off the island.
My brother had heard good things about this pizzeria just off the Cortez bridge back on the mainland so we decided to give it a try. My family took up half of the restaurant, as this is a tiny place, maybe seating 25. There was one waitress and one chef. It's a one man pizza show.
Pizzas are thin and baked in an all-wood fire oven. They are smaller than the average pie, around 12-13 inches and can get a bit pricey ranging from $14 - $18. Toppings include the more unique brisket and pulled pork to your standard pepperoni. Seen below is a sausage and arugula.
It was the only pizza I had while there, so I can't tell you it's the best on the island, but it was certainly worth checking out if you are nearby. I devoured my portion pretty quickly.
The outside of this building is a color lovers dream and inside it's just as tacky/beautiful. The brightly rainbow striped facade can't be missed as you cruise down Gulf Drive. You'll pass other cute ice cream parlors, but none with quite such a hypnotic draw.
Inside it seems like you are stuck in an 80's time warp and Rainbow Brite is the proprietor, or if you weren't into Rainbow Brite maybe this was like Barbie's beach sweet shop, but we all know Ken did all the work. Ice cream carpet, white basket weave wall decor, and plenty of ice cream flavors to choose from.
The ice cream was good, but I can't compare it to any other place on the island. They did however win me over with a Pika-Chip flavor.
My family thinks my obsession with donuts is odd. "What's so special about them?" they say when they realize I woke up alone at 6AM to get to the popular spot on the island by the time they open at 7AM. Well between us, the only reason I got up before the sun was because a girl at the local Publix told me that if you don't get there when they open you'll be stuck in a never ending line, and with a boat to catch at 8:30AM I had to hustle.
What she did not tell me is that the week after Labor Day is apparently one of the slowest on the island, so slow in fact that lots of shops and restaurants even close for a few weeks to recoup from the busy tourist season. I showed up to a basically empty shop, with only three girls ordering in front of me, wearing shorts I refer to as denim diapers. Well random cashier at Publix, shopping was a pleasure, but your advice was not.
Truthfully, the drive in the morning was beautiful and peaceful, until a cop busted me for "speeding" (going 33 in a 25 is hardly too fast, too furious) but the perks of being a polite girl and having windows wafting out the smell of fresh doughnuts got me off with a warning.
At this point the readers are thinking "Lindsey, shut up and tell me if they doughnuts were good!"
Yes they were good (not the best I've ever had, but solid) and there is something to be said for the power and confusion I felt in choosing each topping and glaze carefully on a X Y graph early in the morning (I had to throw away my first sheet).
If you visit the island, this shop is worth the wait, real or made up by a local.
Right next door to the Donut Experiment was a taco spot. Smart beach synergy if you ask me. Imagine a chilled out beachy-vibe Chipotle without the E. Coli.
Burritos, tacos, and rice bowls await, and they were good. You can eat outside on the porch and take in the breeze and eat what felt like really fresh ingredients. I got two tacos which were larger than my hands and they filled me up and left me ready to take in the sunset.
Later as we drove around inland I noticed Poppo's Taqueria's were everywhere, so I invite them to come to Orlando and replace Chipotle. Please and thank you.
Seafood lover I am not, but when you are near the ocean a seafood meal is demanded by the masses. Oddly enough we got our taste of the ocean closer inland on a family trip to Home Goods. Don't we sound exciting?
As my parents sang the endless praises of a scallop salad they had at the Lucky Pelican previously, my siblings all sang the tune of "whatever you want is fine", the default of growing up in a large family where you know there is only a 14.3% chance you will get what you want.
I decided go for it and embrace the entire ocean and get the seafood burrito. Packed with spicy shrimp, fried cod, crawfish, corn salsa, cilantro, Jack cheese and Jambalaya rice. For all that it had going on, it was surprisingly lacking in flavor. I ate about half of it and of course ate all my fries because fries never let you down. It's possible I didn't choose wisely as most everyone else enjoyed their food. Oh well. Thankfully the oysters I started with saved the meal.
Tide Tables is the epitome of a Jimmy Buffet song. Outdoor bar with tables right on the water. Cold beers, fresh catches, and fun-to-watch locals. Unfortunately while I was here I was in a heat coma, and sat like a zombie waiting for my food and didn't bother to take one picture. I can tell you the food was good, the atmosphere was pleasant, they had a decent selection of specialty beer that came in frosty mugs, and the waitress told me she hated Jimmy Buffet. So yes, I'd go back.
What looked like a vintage shop from the outside is actually a bustling cafe on the inside. It's an eclectic mess, with funky art hanging from the ceilings, signs everywhere, tacky tourist merchandise, but once you walk through the confusion there are several mismatched tables and chairs and a counter to order.
We visited on a Sunday morning, and there was a long line of messy haired beach lovers all wide-eyed looking for a table to claim as their own. I'm always ready to hover near elderly people who are just sipping coffee at a table for eight and cough in their personal space just as the Gilmore Girls taught me, so we found a large table for the whole family pretty quickly.
I had been told by a local Orlando business owner to go there for the crème brûlée french toast, but my stomach had hit a wall the night prior after a homemade Cuban feast put on by my more domestically capable siblings (I buttered the bread) so I just couldn't fathom trying to eat the french toast.
Instead I got an egg, sausage and bacon wrap, which was pretty respectable. Sadly though throughout my meal I was teased by many patrons who had all ordered the french toast. As I sat there in a restaurant/hippie junk yard, huge chunks of pound cake swirled around taunting me. Did I make a huge mistake? I may never know.
It's a solid breakfast spot on the island, and there is a lot of people watching to enjoy while you wait for your food. Nothing like a good table fight first thing in the morning.
Local Anna Maria Island Color
A few random cell phone pics of pretty beach things.