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Longbeach Cafe celebrates 10 years at Whitney Plaza

The restaurant keeps people coming back with delicious food, friendly service and consistent experiences.

Colleen Collandra
Colleen Collandra
Photo by Petra Rivera
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Time flies when you are having fun, and for the co-owners of Longbeach Cafe, the past 10 years have flown by.

April 2 marked the 10-year anniversary of the beloved cafe. Over this time, the consistency of quality food and friendly service has kept people coming back to this Whitney Plaza staple.

“It really doesn’t feel like it's been 10 years, but then I look at my kids and I see where the years have gone,” said co-owner Colleen Collandra.

Co-owner Jeff Daly has been coming for years to visit his father, the former commissioner Jack Daly. During his Longboat visits, he became a regular at Isabelle’s Eatery, a similar restaurant that operated in the Longbeach Cafe location. When he was back on the Key, he saw that Isabelle’s had closed down in 2007 and this devastated him.

Sonja Wasmuth, Colleen Collandra, Pete Collandra Paul Sheehan, Crystal Nimons and Ivan Rojas
Photo by Petra Rivera

“I like Harry's and Blue Dolphin Cafe, but I really missed Isabelle's,” said Daly. “I would go there with my mom all the time when I was around Longboat. It was just the perfect casual place that brought a lot of joy because of the amazing food.”

Remembering that Collandra was a cook at Isabelle’s, he approached her with the idea of starting a new Isabelle’s. The two, along with Collandra’s husband Pete, bought the restaurant and opened it on April 2, 2014.

“I originally wanted to open the restaurant on April Fools',” said Daly. “I thought opening a restaurant on Longboat Key on April Fools' Day made sense, right? It would have been so funny but unfortunately, it didn’t work out with the town to open it on April 1. But Longbeach Cafe is built as a replica of Isabelle’s, a homage to it with our own touches, of course.” 

Colleen and Pete Collandra
Photo by Petra Rivera

For the Collandras, it was a no-brainer for them to pay homage to Isabelle’s as it was actually where they met. 

Pete was a Longboat Key firefighter for 30 years and used to stop at Isabelle’s every morning for breakfast. Colleen got to know all the regulars and their orders as an Isabelle's cook. The two of them clicked after the everyday breakfast runs and the rest was history.

The Collandras make the perfect in-house team with Colleen handling everything in the kitchen and Pete taking care of the business side. He also built and renovated the Longbeach Cafe space. Pete said their biggest accomplishment was putting in the back porch dining area. Customers will form a line out the door if it means they get to have waterside dining.

Along with their customizations like the back porch, the Collandras and Daly made an effort to keep the structure and atmosphere of Isabelle’s. Colleen said that they have similar food styles, restaurant set-up and personal service. 

“Consistency is everything about this place,” said Colleen. “I can guarantee that if you order something that you had from a year ago it will taste exactly the same as it did last year."

Longbeach Cafe prides itself on the consistency of its food. It's part of what keeps the regulars coming back. Colleen said that her favorite part is cooking and serving high-quality homemade food. She is always experimenting with new dishes but also makes sure to listen to her customers when they compliment her food. Colleen always notes her regulars' favorite dishes so she can give them a call when she is making them.

Crystal Nimons
Photo by Petra Rivera

“The food and the people that work there make Longbeach Cafe so wonderful,” said longtime regular Pat Dupps. “We've gotten to know them through the years. Her biscuits are just fabulous. My kids always want to go to get them. ... They seem to keep a lot of people coming back which says a lot about them.”

Employee Sonja Wasmuth has worked at Longbeach Cafe for four years and said that that is hard to compare Longbeach Cafe to other restaurants she has worked in because of the reaction from the customers.

“In other diners or cafes like this one, usually the plates have food all over the place and they don’t think about plating too much but here we value every part of what we do,” said Wasmuth. “Our plates always look clean and the food is plated nicely. But nothing can beat the reaction of when people try our food. When I walk past the tables, I'm always hearing, ‘This is so good.’ That is what keeps everyone coming back: that consistent satisfaction with our food.” 



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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