Tag Archives: Anna Maria Island

Rotten Ralph’s Not All That Bad

6 Mar

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I have lived in the Sarasota area for nearly two years now and I just found out about Rotten Ralph’s via a piece in Sarasota magazine. How in the heck could this happen? I mean, seafood dives are kinda my thing, ya know?

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It’s a funky little place located at the Anna Maria Yacht Basin. But don’t let that lead you to believe that this is a high brow dining experience. Well, I guess you sort of figured that out by the name … sorry!

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My table offered a nice bay view — the place is just surrounded by million dollar boats. That might explain the pricing, which leans a bit towards the pricey side. For example, the seafood platter at lunchtime is $24. Now, I don’t know about you, but I rarely – check that – never drop 25 bills on lunch. Expense account or no expense account, that’s just nuts.

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I did find one value choice – the all-you-can-eat Fish n’ Chips for $9.99. The fish arrived at my table hot and crispy. The french fries buried underneath were also piping hot. That’s the good news. As for the bad, the slaw was roughly chopped, dry, and flavorless. I might also add that I don’t think the fish is locally caught. It tasted like frozen Atlantic haddock to me. Guess that’s why it’s $9.99 and the grouper sandwich is $12.99. My platter required a good deal of salt and several splashes of malt vinegar to get the fish’s flavor fully “up on its fins.” I saved room for Mama D’s homemade Peanut Butter Pie until I learned it was $5.29 per slice. Pass!

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I was duly impressed with the “Rube Goldberg” contraption shown above. A roll of paper towels dangled from a plastic clothes hanger (attached to the ceiling with rope) above each table. Pretty nifty idea, Ralph. It keeps the wipes handy but off the table for extra elbow room. They scored points for this one. Their choice in music left something to be desired. Never thought that the “island spirit” they promote on the sign out front includes Toto, Bon Jovi, etc. A little reggae, some cool jazz, and a couple of breezy Buffett tunes might be more fitting, folks!

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You can pull up your yacht (whichever one you choose to take out that day), grab a bite to eat, fill up your massive tank with gas, and motor back out to the Gulf to continue your day of fishing or recreation. “That’ll be $4,000, sir!”

Visit their web site and find out how Ralph earned his dubious nickname at: www.rottenralphs.com . Give ’em a try if you’re in the neighborhood, but please don’t go out of your way to find this out of the way diner. We still maintain that there are better options for fresh local seafood, great waterfront scenery, and reasonable prices. For starters, check out the Starfish in Cortez Village or the Rod n Reel Pier on Anna Maria Island.

Here’s the Skinny on “Skinny’s Place”

19 Feb

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I made my first trip to Skinny’s Place today for a quick bite at lunch time. It is a cool little blast from the past burger joint located on scenic Anna Maria Island. Skinny’s (named for founder Carl “Skinny” Freeman) has been in business since 1952 (originally named the Mid-Island Drive In) and they have developed quite a loyal following over the decades.

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As you can see, it looks like someone might actually live above the rickety Old Florida restaurant. Skinny’s is beachy and breezy on the inside — and pretty darn cozy too. Space is at a premium but there is a boatload of good Margaritaville vibe & canned music. The laid back, rustic atmosphere, I must say, is obviously the best part about this coastal dive bar.

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The burgers at Skinny’s (they are actually called “Skinny Burgers”) have been voted the best on Anna Maria Island for many years now, but I have to add that these accolades may simply be by default. Not that it’s a bad burger — it tasted just fine, thank you very much. However, there is really nothing terribly special about it either. A 1/4 pound slab of ground beef with a slice of rather flavorless American cheese on top … toss in a few pickle slices, some fresh tomato, and a leaf or two of iceburg lettuce. Sound familiar? Better than McDonalds? Why, of course. Better than Five Guys or Ruby Tuesdays? Probably not. The buns are grilled on the inside (top and bottom) and that shows some extra effort. But the cheeseburger is not exactly a flaming bargain at $5 a pop.

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The open air bar/dining room is very small yet comfortable. I especially like the hardwood ceiling and the wire cage that encloses the wooden picnic tables from the outer parking lot and Gulf Drive (which runs along the front of the restaurant). You place your food order at the bar and I found the service this day to be fairly prompt and upbeat.   

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This (see photo above) is what I meant by the caging that encloses the inside dining area. There was a nice shore breeze going today and I was quite comfortable even though I was wearing long pants and a button down, long-sleeved shirt.

All in all, Skinny’s is a fine place to grab a cold one and hang out with a few friends. I get a sense that there is probably nothing truly special about any of the grub served here. It’s all about slowing down, getting in that beachy state of mind, and filling your belly with something to soak up the alcohol. And as far as the aforementioned “Best Burger” award, all I will say is that I should seriously consider quitting my day job and open my own classic burger joint. Look out world … “Gary’s Beach Burger” may be in your future. I honestly think I could really show these dudes a thing or two!

Lunch at Ginny’s and Jane E’s

17 Feb

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I enjoyed a pleasant lunch today at Ginny’s and Jane E’s on Anna Maria Island. This is not your typical resort area diner — that’s for sure. This is a very eclectic place that once housed the island’s IGA grocery store.

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The day’s special was written on the chalk board out front — and it sounded pretty good to me. And with weather conditions of 77 and sunny, how could you not grin a bit?

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Ginny’s and Jane E’s doubles as the island coffee shop in the morning hours, although they continue to serve a variety of fine coffees all day long.

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Whimsical? Eclectic? Colorful? Artsy? All these adjectives apply.

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My chicken salad (served with crisp lettuce and tomato on a fresh baked baguette) was nicely done, although I wished that the portion size was just a touch larger. The salad featured sliced grapes and almond slivers … the latter giving the dish some added texture. The highlight for me was the homemade Roasted Red Pepper soup — a fresh and fabulous puree of flavor straight from the garden. If this is any indication of their soup quality here, I can’t wait to try the Carrot Ginger variety! 

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The Carrot Cake I ordered for dessert was good, but the cake portion was pretty dry. Maybe that was because I got stuck with a corner piece — they always tend to be lacking in moisture. Thankfully, the cream cheese frosting was really light and fluffy due to some extra whipping. Nice touch, ladies! 

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All in all, this is a very cool place that we can confidently recommend. Their frittatas looked amazing and we’re told the Creme Brulee french toast is to die for. You can even build your own Chicago style hot dog complete with that funky neon green relish. But that will have to wait for another day. Stop by and visit our new friends Ginny and Jane E — just follow the footprints on the outside wall!

Rod & Reel Pier on Anna Maria Island

9 Nov

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Saturday found us on the road again. This time it was a short day trip to Anna Maria Island, which is due west of Bradenton, FL. Really nice place — and a pretty well kept secret. The island is a little oasis from the hustle and bustle (if you can call it that) of the mainland. The north end of the island, just a short ride from Bradenton Beach and Coquina Beach, offers the most laid back, tucked-away vibe.

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Along North Shore Road you can find the Rod and Reel Pier (and restaurant). What a cool joint — right down our proverbial alley. Or should I say pier? Anyhow, the Rod and Reel Pier was not recommended to us … we just kind of stumbled across it while exploring this part of the world. Built in 1947, the Rod and Reel is sort of a combo diner, bar, bait shop, seafood market, motel. How’s that for multi-tasking?

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As you stroll down the long pier towards the main building, you can’t help but notice all the names and messages etched in the pier’s wooden planks. These planks have recently received a face lift. How do I know? Well, the first time I visited I was not quite sure whether I would get to my lunch before cracking a weathered plank and plunging to the Gulf waters below.  

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 The bar and bait shop are downstairs, the grill is upstairs. Great views!

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The day’s special was the Wahoo sandwich with fries and slaw for just $7.95. How could you possibly go wrong with that? It’s a good thing I acted quickly because they promptly erased the marker board and replaced Wahoo with Swordfish. Not that swordfish is a bad thing, but the Wahoo was very fresh without a hint of that kind of fishiness that most diners fear. Really good slaw, fries splashed with Crystal hot sauce, housemade tartar sauce, freshly caught fish on a Kaiser roll — what, I ask, is not to like?  

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We ate outside on the deck looking back towards shore. The kids noticed that the deck was leaning a touch, which we guessed allowed for some drainage after a heavy rain. Or maybe the place is just really old and we’re all about to join the manatees for a swim?  

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This mural of FL palms was seen right above the table where we dined  

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Our vista as we stuffed our faces with Neptune’s bounty 

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Inboards & Outboards? Funny! The kids were left scratching their heads 

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The one story bungalow with Carolina blue shutters is the original fishing resort. Hey, it’s not exactly the Ritz but it gets the job done. A hearty Rod and Reel breakfast in the morning, a couple hours angling on the pier, a fresh catch for lunch, an afternoon out on the water, a few cold ones at the Tiki Bar later that evening, and a beautiful Gulf of Mexico sunset. Top that!  

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We’re so lucky to live on the FL coast. Natural beauty simply can’t be avoided.