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Eating with Emma

Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch restaurants sure to be a hit on Mother's Day

Just in time to celebrate your mom, here's an ode to the favorite restaurants of my family's matriarchs.

Colony snapper ($58) takes my mom right back to her day at the Monkey Bar.
Colony snapper ($58) takes my mom right back to her day at the Monkey Bar.
Courtesy photo
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My mom is my best friend. While it wasn’t always that way (high school hormones, boyfriends of yore monopolizing my free time, moving nonstop to evolve, etc.), at 26 I learned that I couldn’t go a day without talking to my mom.

My mom has been eating at, I mean coming down to Longboat Key since 1974.

Whether it’s a text asking how the dogs are handling another Connecticut winter, an hourlong FaceTime discussing the weather and my outdoor plants, or a too-long-to-admit phone call to ask whether my latest ailment is normal at 33, Amy and I are in constant communication.

My mother was taught how to be a strong soul by her mother, Barbara, my late Mimi. I would not be writing these words without their guidance, compassion and love.

So on Mother’s Day, I wanted to share the matriarch's favorite restaurants. Since our family started coming to Longboat Key in 1974, we’ve eaten at a place or two over the years.

Here are three tasty spots where you should mangia with your mama.

Toasted Mango Cafe

430 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 941-388-7728; 6621 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota, 941-552-6485;

According to Amy: My mom has recently added this diner destination to her must-stop-eats after dining here the day after our hurricane wedding. Order up! French toast ($9.99) and an iced tea ($3.29) for Amy, who has officially entered her sweet tooth era. Seriously, if the Mango was open for dinner, you’d find my mom snacking on French toast as an evening entrée. Before embarking on her you-only-live-once eating habits, my mother typically ordered two eggs sunny-side up with a side of Rye toast. Now, she lights up like the Ringling Bridge at sunset when she even hears the words, “French toast.” She might even swap out the iced tea for a mimosa ($10.99) depending on her sun-seeker mood.

A Bite for Barbara: Mimi wasn’t a huge breakfast gal, but she loved a classic bowl o’ oats or yogurt. She would have either ordered the slow-cooked homemade oatmeal (cup, $5.29 or bowl, $6.99) and added seasonal fruit or nuts for $2 or the breakfast banana split ($11.99). No chocolate or ice cream with this split but rather yogurt with strawberries, blueberries, mango sliced banana and granola crumbles. While these light breakfast offerings would get Mimi in the door, it’s the fact that the Toasted Mango Cafe is a dog-friendly eatery and that alone would get her to sit — and stay for a while.

Toasted Mango French toast ($12.99) with powdered sugar — a muse all non-savory breakfast food items should be eyeing.
Photo by Emma Jolly

Cat Mom's Choice: Count me among millennials that, if given the chance, would give birth to fur babies. Taking care of two 20-pound dog-like cats makes me a mom too so I've included myself in this Mother's Day extravaganza. My pick pulls in the greatness of my mom’s go-to, but adds fresh mango, house toasted coconut (to die for!) and real whipped cream for Toasted Mango French toast ($12.99). The bread is fluffy, the powdered sugar is the muse all non-savory breakfast food items should be seeking and the fresh fruit makes you feel fit-ish. Skip the syrup when slurping up this bountiful breakfast creation because it’s sensational as is and a sweet start to any day!

Speaks Clam Bar

29 N. Boulevard of the Presidents, Sarasota; 941-232-7633, 8764 State Road 70 E., Lakewood Ranch; 941-232-7646;

Speak's broccoli rabe and sausage rigatoni ($18) is a fundamental part of our family dinners.
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According to Amy: “One order of broccoli rabe and sausage rigatoni” ($18) are eight words my mother says at least once every time she is in town. Who can blame her? If this mouthwatering meal wasn’t her top choice, it certainly would be mine. A trifecta of ingredients makes the house-made rigatoni rather remarkable. The mild sausage leaves subtle sweet notes and hints of heat, the bites of broccoli rabe are bitter yet buttery and the cream sauce is so luscious that you'll want to keep it in your fridge. (My mom does because it's available for purchase.) Gluten free pasta is also an option. You dairy-free peeps can ask for oil instead of cream and each bite is just as iconic.

Shrimp cocktail ($12) in a chic martini glass, my Mimi would have loved the lavish display.
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A Bite for Barbara: During the summer, Mimi would drive over and sit on our porch with a plate of shrimp, my mother's homemade cocktail sauce and Dewar’s on the rocks. I remember watching simple happiness overcome her — that feeling we locals get when we spy multiple parking spots in multiple quadrants on St. Armands Circle. That’s why I know Mimi would be walking into Speaks with coiffed hair, pink lipstick and dressed to the nines ordering the shrimp cocktail ($12). This appetizer is served in a chic martini glass with savory cocktail sauce tucked beneath each deliciously chilled crustacean. I can see her smile between each bite — because ladies never talk, or smile, with their mouth full.

These little dessert shooters at Speaks are the sweet treats, with small sized guilt.
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Cat Mom's Choice: Next up, sweet treats. Any mama on a “I’m watching what I eat” diet can devour these delicate dessert shooters free of any guilt. Options include four flavors: tiramisu, deconstructed peanut butter pie, chocolate hazelnut mousse and key lime. There are also two rotating flavors of Oreo cheesecake and strawberry cheesecake. But why stop at one flavor when you can get an entire desert flight? No one should count calories on Mother’s Day.

Michael's On East

1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota; 941-366-0007;

According to Amy: My mom used to go to The Colony with her parents, then with my father and then her girlfriends on weekend getaways for years. In fact, I had my first adult-style piña colada to go with my mom on our way to SRQ airport after we had a girls' trip of our own. So, when she saw that Michael’s On East had the Colony snapper ($58) on the menu, I watched her travel back in time to the days both her parents danced around the Monkey Bar — the same bar where my mother accused one of the Beach Boys of stealing her purse. But I digress. The snapper is superbly stacked with lump crabmeat that melts in your mouth instantly, basil and sun-dried tomato beurre blanc, sweet potato planks that I wish were part of every meal and haricots vert that elevate your foodie senses in all the best ways.

Michael's serves USDA Prime New York Strip, 14oz (Market Price) is hand-cut, handpicked, and aged a minimum of twenty-five days.
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A Bite for Barbara: My grandmother knew what she liked: singing in church on Sundays, picking the pink and purple hydrangeas that bloomed outside her kitchen window and being in the front row at her grandkids’ extracurricular activities. But truth be told, she loved a rare steak. I’m sure she would have loved the kind served by Michael’s. The USDA Prime New York Strip, 14 oz. (Market Price) is hand-cut, handpicked and aged a minimum of 25 days. Don’t miss adding sides like the roasted Brussels sprouts, Molly’s truffled mac and cheese and creamed spinach.

Espresso Martini ($17) at Michael's has me feeling like I could be the fifth gal pal on Sex in the City.
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Cat Mom Choice: Do I mention the magnificent Mezze spread appetizer with spicy Greek feta? Do I showcase Michael’s seasonal salad with fantastic figs? Do I choose the Chilean sea bass with lemon lobster risotto? All great, but one thing reigns supreme. No one makes an Espresso Martini ($17) like Michael’s. Mixed with Smirnoff vanilla vodka, dark crème de cacao, Kahlua, espresso and finished with a chocolate/sugar rim. You can find me sipping these dangerously delicious drinks any day Tuesday through Saturday at the piano bar around 6:30 p.m. while enjoying the sounds of the talented Joe Micals.  

Treat Your Mom: Michael’s is hosting a brunch buffet on Mother’s Day, May 14, at 10:30 a.m. in their ballroom. For $84.95/adults and $44.95/kids, enjoy salads, omelet, pancake and carving stations, an endless dessert display and more. Plus mimosas and bloody Mary’s!

To mothers who have lost children and to those who have lost their mother, to the foster moms and the stepmoms, to the not-yet moms and the fur baby mamas, to the single moms and new moms and to my mom and all the other moms out there — I hope you treat yourself or get treated to one, if not all, of these tasty three spots. 

My Mimi, my sister Madison and my mom at Mother's Day brunch in 1997.

Happy Mother’s Day.



Emma Burke Jolly

Emma Burke Jolly has worked at Observer Media Group since 2018 as the digital fulfillment specialist. Originally from Connecticut, this Gulf Coast transplant loves being by the water, reminiscing about what Longboat Key looked like in 1990, navigating life with her husband and their two Maine Coon cats, and sharing her foodie findings with you.

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