The Sun Garden Cafe, Siesta Key in Sarasota FL is one of my new favorite breakfast restaurants in the area. The ingredients are fresh and many of them are local and the menu itself is inspired, varied and healthy! I love this place!
This review is part of a series of restaurant reviews that follows The Watering Mouth’s restaurant review guidelines.
Background Info on the Review
A dear friend of mine tipped me off to this unassuming breakfast and lunch spot called the Sun Garden Cafe located just off the strip in the Village of Siesta Key. I think her exact words were something to the effect of, “If you don’t eat here, you’ll just die,” or something like that, so I figured, for my own good, I might as well make the trip. The Sun Garden Cafe is on Avenida Madera in the very northern part of the Village, a street I’ve driven by literally hundreds of times and I have never noticed this restaurant. It’s a shame, really, because now it has easily become among the best on my must-not-miss list for Siesta Key.
The Sun Garden Cafe has a cute little outdoor seating patio in the front, which is framed with these privacy-like palms; when I first walked in the place I thought to myself, “Oh. How dumb am I for never knowing about this place before?” I figured just on the first impression that I was probably going to like it, and my hunch turned out to be right. I sat down to speak with Rick Monroe, the owner, and learned a lot of great things about him and the sourcing of his food. A lot of it comes locally or as close to local as possible and to me, this is a big plus. One look at the menu, and you’ll be immediately intrigued to make your way down the list, giving each one a shot because all the items have these original names and in some cases, original ingredient combinations that you don’t find elsewhere. Keep your eye out for the bikini bagel or the Walt’s Way waffle in my description to see a little bit of what I mean. Here you can even get a Mona Vie energy drink or steel cut oatmeal instead of regular; I love that attention to detail.
Just getting excited over the wording and options of the menu is a positive right off the bat for me. And that was only the beginning….
Cheri’s Food Review
You have to know something about me; I make a lousy American breakfast eater. I am really not a fan of traditional American pancakes – the kind of pancakes you’ll find me eating are the French-style crepes – those paper-thin delights. With American pancakes, I tend to take a few bites and then just feel overwhelmed by the heaviness and end up leaving them in a big pile of buttery, syrupy, fluffy loneliness; I don’t really get into them. So keep that in mind when I tell you I had a hard time controlling myself with the Sun Garden Sweet Potato pancakes ($6.95). I do happen to be a sweet potato fanatic, so somehow the combination of sweet potato in the pancake seemed to add a depth of flavor and lightness that I hadn’t had in a pancake before. And I’m sure the vanilla cinnamon batter that they are dipped in doesn’t hurt anything either. I loved the sweetness and texture and think that even the most traditional of pancake lovers will be pleasantly satisfied. I’m actually writing this at 7:05 in the morning and wish I wasn’t, because now I’m craving these. Great.
The Gnarly Marley ($9.95) is a turkey pastrami sandwich on grilled rye with jerk island dressing, arugula, swiss and onions. It is served warm with a set of complex flavors that really work to complement each other perfectly. The bread is buttered and toasted with slices of real, tender and juicy sliced turkey. You can tell this is the real deal turkey, and not just some deli slices and alongside the bacon, well, you see where this is going. I loved the warm grilled onions and the peppery contrast of the fresh arugula on this thick, satisfying sandwich. Any sandwich lover will be sated with this Gnarly Marley!
My friend who suggested this restaurant to me was mostly raving about the fish tacos when she came. In fact, I could barely get her to shut up about them. Ha! Sorry, MB. And when I tried them for myself, I myself understood her enthusiasm. Though the fish used wasn’t my favorite, I believe they used Mahi Mahi which tends to be a bit firmer than say Tilapia, it still stood its ground with the best of them, warm and tender and juicy. If you’re a Mahi Mahi fan, the Yucatan tacos ($13.95) would be a great choice for you – a charred lime scented fish with pico de gallo and lettuce in a flour tortilla served with a side of guacamole. First of all, you can’t deny the gorgeous color of this dish, and let me just warn you a bit about the spice in here – it does have a bit of a kick which probably comes from the pico de gallo, so be warned of that if you have a delicate little palette! But the warmth of the fish with the coolness of the guacamole and pico creates that fish taco bliss that I do so enjoy.
There was a choice from the “good life omelets and scrambles” section of the menu that I got to try as well – the flower child ($9.95). An egg-white omelete with Sonoma goat cheese, Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, fresh herbs and guacamole – this omelet just looks incredible, doesn’t it? I love it when a breakfast place can take something that is usually so boring and ordinary and turn into something so fancy that you would never expect. The combination of the tangy goat cheese and smooth, rich portobello mushrooms is one of my all-time favorites. The toast served with was a heavy, nutty bread which complemented the whole dish very well. Great healthy choice for breakfast done well.
I’m sorry in advance for rambling about this one, but it was my absolute favorite. I was told that the next offering was actually a customer favorite and I’m always excited to try these to see how my tastes compare to other average patrons like myself. The bikini bagel ($6.95) not only looks like a piled-high work of art, but it’s just chock full of healthy, delicious ingredients. Turkey sausage, tomato, avocado and sprouts form the delicious mound of goodness that sits atop a thick, satisfying multi grain bagel, all finished off with a sweet accompanying fig and basil pesto. I usually choose a turkey burger when given a choice because I always enjoy the taste in comparison with regular beef and I totally loved this patty. The super fresh avocado and light sweetness from the fig creates a smashing combination of flavors, which really set off this bagel sandwich. One warning though – the pesto leaves some oil on the plate so expect to get your hands a little messy!
The SG house salad ($10.95) was really everything you could want from a salad meal and more. Made from fresh, local ingredients – there are fresh strawberries, walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, dried cranberries, red onion, granola, fresh greens and a housemade raspberry vinaigrette, which was a little on the acidic side but I rather liked that. The ingredients all work together to create a satisfying, healthy meal that has an excellent mix of textures and colors to satisfy your tastebuds.
Cloaked Restaurant Review
This is the part where I have an anonymous review done to critique the entire restaurant experience in a undercover way so that you can get a good idea of what it’s like for the typical restaurant-goer like yourself! It keeps us all honest!! Here’s what they said:
Although it’s just out of sight form the main drag, Siesta’s Sun Garden Cafe was worth the drive from out of town. In fact, our neighboring table had a couple from Mt. Dora who had been coming to the restaurant for three years. There was a short wait for an inside table, which was understandable on a busy Saturday morning. The outside looked comfortable with its wicker chairs and love-seats, but it was too hot for us to appreciate. Inside was just as good, and much cooler, with a dining room covered with magazine covers from the 1950s that was enjoyable without being kitschy. The hostess and servers were pleasant and attentive, and our server was very pleasant. Oddly, there was one server that seemed a little gruff and crass, but we thankfully got someone who was pleasant and helpful.
There was so much on the menu that looked delicious that we forced ourselves to enjoy a small appetizer before our brunch. The Walt’s Way Waffle, a large waffle with chopped pecans and bacon in it, was not to be missed. While one would expect that such a creation would be heavy and obtuse, the flavor was actually somewhat light, and not at all overpowered by the bacon (the pecan was actually more upfront). We also got the Grandma Helens Biscuits and turkey sausage gravy, which was a pleasant surprise. Often in other restaurants, the gravy is bland and obviously from a can or mix; this gravy was rich with a poultry flavor that brought to mind “Thanksgiving” instead of “diner”, and was not at all stingy with sausage. Those would have probably been enough for a small meal in themselves, but we pressed onto a true meal. My significant other got the Eggs Benedict Florentine, a dish that she normally won’t order in restaurants because she enjoys them well-done, and it never comes prepared to her satisfaction. This time, she took a chance, and it paid off. The breakfast didn’t simply hold up its own in flavor and presentation, the preparation was also perfect. My own early lunch, the High Road Ham sandwich, which was a ham steak with arugula, provolone, goat cheese, tomato and sun-dried tomato pesto, was absolutely delicious. With so many offerings on the menu that are every bit as appealing, we’ll definitely be returning.
The restaurant itself was comfortable and right at home in the center of the Key, and serves food that makes bridge raisings and endless streams of pedestrians worth it. With in-house creations like sweet potato pancakes and the pecan/bacon waffle, you’ll keep wanting to come back simply to try new offerings and enjoy the meals that will become your new favorites.
Cloaked Review Ratings
|Food Quality & Menu|
Go to my Flickr account to check out my Sun Garden Cafe, Siesta Key, Sarasota, FL, Restaurant Review images set to see the full set of pics.