Sure, breakfast is important, but we don't just eat to live, do we?
Breakfast and lunch. As meals go, they’re utilitarian. One fuels you up for the day; the other keeps you going. But let’s say breakfast and lunch had a love child and named it brunch. Their offspring draws on the best qualities of both parents. Utilitarian? No way. Brunch is, hands down, the coolest meal of the day. Oh, and it’s the only acceptable time to drink booze before 5 p.m. Here’s a guide to some of our favorite brunch spots.
Mattison’s City Grille
When: 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays
Where: 1 N. Lemon Ave.
Morning has broken, and you’ve stocked up at the Sarasota Farmers Market. Now the sun is higher in the sky, and you’re feeling peckish. After all the hustling and bustling, an al fresco brunch at this lively outdoor cafe in the heart of the city will hit the spot. So shift gears, and relax. Order your favorite libation from the full bar. The unfussy menu offers up the standard morning fare. If you feel like skipping the eggs, go for the French toast ($11), lusciously dripping with warm berry syrup and cream cheese. The poached egg and avocado toast ($12) comes in a close second as a nutritious combo of protein and green. What else is cooking? Live acoustic music every Sunday.
The Blue Rooster
When: Buffet, 11:15 a.m. to 2 p.m.; music, noon to 1:15 p.m.
Where: 1525 Fourth St.
Get ready to lift your spirit, stomp your feet and warm your soul (and belly) with powerful gospel music and sizzling Southern grub during the Sunday Gospel Brunch. Folks returning from Sunday services line up early for this celebrated, all-you-can-eat buffet ($24.95, adults; $12, kids 6-12; kids under 6 free). Southern specialties include biscuits and gravy, cheesy grits, syrup-soaked buttermilk waffles, crispy fried chicken and catfish, collard greens, sweet potato home fries and, of course, the signature Hail Mary Bloody Mary. Along with the feast, there’s joyful music in the air, courtesy of Truality and other local gospel bands. It’s not a passive experience. You’re encouraged to clap, sing along and get into the spirit. Can you say “Hallelujah”?
The Muse at the Ringling
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays
Where: 5401 Bay Shore Road
Not surprisingly, brunch at The Ringling is an artful affair. Create a feast from its inventive brunch menu, which includes soups and salads, sandwiches, small plates and signature entrees. Minimalists will dig the refreshingly simple acai bowl with bananas and berries ($10). Primitivists will savor the Paleo Bison Chile soup swimming with baby kale, sweet potatoes and, yep, bison ($6). Another masterpiece? Toasted coconut pancakes slathered in local honey butter and warm maple syrup ($15).
But let’s not forget the liquid medium. Raise a toast to the good life with Dom Perignon champagne ($200 bottle). There’s also an inspired selection of fine wines and a Muse Mixology menu, which offers such masterly creations as the Muse Mojito ($10) and the Indian Beach, crafted with Redemption Rye, muddled fresh juices and ginger ($12). If you’re more the starving artist type, go for the $10 bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas. The first Sunday of every month features live jazz.
Jack Dusty at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays
Where: 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive
Everyday people can experience the lush life at brunch at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. From the view of the sparkling marina to the creative cuisine, the experience is as ritzy as it gets. Crave a dozen raw oysters on the half-shell ($34) to jump-start your morning? With pleasure. How about a seafood platter for two ($46), stuffed with shrimp, oysters, clam, ceviche, tuna niçoise and octopus salad? Coming right up. Want your Sunday spicy? Jack’s Chilaquiles ($16), bathed in a piquant salsa verde with cilantro crema and salty white Mexican cheese, will get your blood pumping.
The endless menu fascinates — as do the drink selections. Salty tar that he is, Capt. Dusty doesn’t skimp on grog. Bourbon for breakfast? Aye, matey. The signature Princeton ($17) is crafted with Woodford Reserve bourbon, Pierre Ferrand dry orange curacao and a batch of fresh juice and aromatics. Or get all fired up with the Gunsmoke ($15), a masterly mix of Diplomatico rum, cold brew coffee, apple cinnamon syrup and egg white. Need a nap after the feast? More than 200 ritzy guest rooms await you.
When: 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Where: 411 N. Orange Ave.
This brunch is a civilized affair with inside and outside dining and a menu that tempts with so many tasty options that you’d best plan on return visits. A good quiche is hard to find, but here you’ll find several. We suggest the Greek ($10), filled with creamy spinach and goat cheese. Sides are plentiful, but we recommend the cheese grits. Hate grits? These might change your mind. Or how about a crepe? The Fleur De Lis ($10), with scrambled eggs, Swiss cheese and asparagus, is a favorite. Still hungry? The Rosemary’s signature brunch options include a Bermuda Fish Cake Benedict ($13) adorned with key lime hollandaise sauce. With brunch like this, who needs dinner?
Mattison’s Riverwalk Grille
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Where: 101 Riverfront Blvd., No. 120, Bradenton
How could you possibly make brunch better? Locate it smack dab off downtown Bradenton’s stunning Riverwalk rambling alongside the Manatee River, add live music, and offer a “Build Your Own Bloody Mary” menu — that’s how. The locally sourced menu boasts several chef-driven entrees. Need steak to jump-start your day? The Niman Ranch Steak & Eggs ($18) stars a petite filet mignon, eggs and more. Or go healthy with the breakfast sundae ($10), created with fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, honey and toasted granola.
But let’s face facts. Some of us prefer to drink our brunch — and Mattison’s Bloody Mary menu is the ideal thirst-quencher. It’s fully loaded with 15 garnishes, including Gulf shrimp, bacon, olives stuffed with goat cheese and pickled green beans. If that doesn’t wake you up, there’s a live jazz brunch every second Sunday of the month and a live blues brunch every fourth Sunday of the month. Brunch has never been better.