I told you I would strap on the old hip boots and wade through the white-bread-and-Velveeta mediocrity of tourist-trap beach food on Anna Maria Island until I found some truly noteworthy cuisine...and now, with a "hat trick" of fine experiences under my belt covering the past three nights (more to come on the other two), I consider my mission a fait accompli.
UD and I were seated on the charming third-story balcony of Bridge Street Bistro, a mere stumble from our beach cottage, which provided a very pleasant alfresco experience with cool breezes and a stunning sunset view over the Gulf of Mexico.
We perused the menu over a beautiful basket of warm, crusty ciabatta bread and eventually settled on a couple of fine starters. We both love lobster bisque, and Bridge Street Bistro's was as good as any I've had. It was creamy without being too thick, loaded with crustacean flavor (along with a liberal infusion of lobster bits) and redolent with sherry. Gorgeous!
As tasty as the bisque was, I think I enjoyed the Piquillo Peppers stuffed with sweet lump crab meat and drizzled with grainy mustard sauce even more. Dearest GAWD. There was also a little frisee on the side, but who cares? Screw the lettuce...I made a nose dive for these fat little pockets of crabby goodness.
As it happened, an Oktoberfest menu was available...which I never would've given a second glance, but I'm glad UD did because his Kassler Ripchen (incredibly tender boneless pork loin with gravy, perfectly caramelized on the outside/tender on the inside potato pancakes and a sweetly spicy red cabbage dish that totally surprised me with its deliciousness) proved to be a very well executed nod to German cuisine.
I ordered one of the specials, which I usually don't think is the best idea when dining out, but this one served me very well. A generous portion of moist, perfectly cooked and most evidently fresh grouper was presented atop a bed of mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach with grilled asparagus and four large shrimp on the side...and everything was swimming in butter sauce, which was the only factor reminding me that this did not exactly qualify as "healthful eating". Well, that and my tight pants. Did I mention I'm on vacation? That gives me carte blanche to remain firmly in denial until Monday...at which time my scale (which has always been a lying POS) will probably be solidly and swiftly kicked into the pool.
My dessert was quite simply batcrapcrazy good. I freaking LOVED this...both taste and presentation. A thin almond brittle was shaped into a delectable basket which cradled a creamy/dreamy Grand Marnier (which is one of the most exquisite libations on the planet) sabayon studded with fresh berries and topped with whipped cream. This was an orgasmic dessert displaying amazing execution and creativity for a restaurant of Bridge Street Bistro's price point.
Sticking with the Oktoberfest offerings, my better half enjoyed one of his all time faves...German Chocolate Cake. This probably impressed the least of anything we had tonight. Think "Publix Bakery". Fine...neither bad nor noteworthy.
Bridge Street Bistro far and away eclipses most of its neighbors (who tend to rest on the laurels of their primo location and steady influx of hungry, indiscriminate/uninformed vacationers, I'm guessing) and delivers a quality punch...especially considering the reasonable price structure of its menu. We got very nice service, a beautiful sunset, thoughtful food that was well above average in freshness, presentation and preparation plus three glasses of wine apiece for right around $120. It's all good.