By the time he was 20, Christian Zebier was serving as maître d'hôtel for a prestigious restaurant in Belgium. After a five-year stint teaching primary school, he realized that his heart lay in hospitality, and that children have terrible table manners. The first business Zebier began, Air du Temps, deployed an elite staff to serve such distinguished parties as the Belgian royal family.
Zebier stuffed his fine-tuned sense of hospitality into a suitcase and brought it to the United States, where he opened Brasserie Belge. He felt that Sarasota's open-minded, well-traveled residents could appreciate the traditional ambiance of a brasserie. The restaurant's attentive staff serves a menu of Belgian cuisine, such as Prince Edward Island mussels delivered fresh every morning and served with one of 12 styles of belgian fries. On the leather couches of the piano lounge, patrons enjoy Belgian beers, specialty martinis, and small plates.
As a café, bakery, and art gallery, Burns Court Café provides pleasant sensory overload for its guests, whether they’re enjoying live jazz music or staring in a daze at the Italian gelato and sorbet selections. Here, French café fare—such as daily quiches and melt-in-your-mouth croque-monsieur (the Frenchy take on grilled ham and cheese)—merges with real Italian coffee and Boar’s Head meats and cheeses. Once monthly, the café features a new exhibition with work from local artists.
Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant not only imports ingredients and products, but also recipes. With roots in northern Spain and Catalonia, these dishes come together on a menu of more than 100 hot and cold tapas selections, along with paella and cazuela. Paella, a widely varied rice dish cooked at length in a wide pot over open flame, can contain Serrano ham, scallops, pork, chorizo, and saffron rice the stunning golden hue of an alchemist's magazine advertisements. Though the restaurant spans multiple locations, each one presents guests with some charming element: a poolside patio at the Tampa location, a central tapas bar in Orlando, and a flamenco room in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, no matter the location, events bring about live music and joviality, all supported by an ample list of Spanish and Portuguese wines.
A menu of comforting breakfast dishes, brimming sandwiches, and homemade baked sweets fills Broken Egg with a bouquet of warming aromas. Three-egg omelets ($12.99 each), such as the Siesta Key with blue crab and swiss, or the Longboat Key with salmon, cream cheese, and capers, allow patrons to draw out breakfast experiences without listening to Tony the Tiger's long-winded tales. Masters of the griddle forge plate-smothering pancakes from whole-wheat or buttermilk batter that can be dolled up with 13 different toppings including coconut and pecans ($4.99+). The Boar in a Quilt bundles two hearty sausages in a large blueberry pancake ($7.99). During lunch hours, the grouper sandwich's grilled or blackened fillet dons a cloak of house remoulade ($13.99), and in the Dickie V burger, a turkey patty sticks to a strict curfew between onion-bagel halves ($8.29).
Honored by the U.S. Commerce Association with 2011’s Best of Friday Harbor Award, the Blue Dolphin Cafe boasts Culinary Institute alumni who concoct fresh breakfasts and lunches throughout the day. The eatery obtains provisions from Sarasota’s Sutter Egg Farm to craft three-egg omelets and eggs benedict, and fruit-sprinkled pancakes are topped with Vermont maple syrup or folded neatly into the lab-coat pockets of on-the-go surgeons. Patrons can top salads with their choice of chicken, shrimp, or tilapia, pairing them with burgers, wraps, sandwiches, and fried eats prepared in trans-fat-free oil. A kids’ menu accommodates youthful palates, and Friday-night dinners served November–April brighten the colder months.
Rather than show off his culinary skills with a massive menu, Chef Karl Deneubourg prefers concentrating on more succinct, European-inspired offerings. But don't confuse the slim length of Antoine’s Restaurant's menu for a slim amount of flavor. For instance, Chef Karl whips up four variations of P.E.I. mussels, which he gets flown in daily, including one where he chardonnay-steams them and another where he coats them in garlic and cream.
That only skims the surface of his seafood options, which range from 1.25-pound Maine lobster served atop asparagus risotto to handmade tagliatelle tossed with squid and clams. Karl is equally talented with land-sourced ingredients, including raw certified Angus beef he seasons with capers and yolks magically extracted from impenetrable eggs. Wine and beer from around the globe complement each upscale feast, which unfold amidst wood-paneled walls and sparkling chandelier balls.