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Breakfast isn’t what it used to be. Once the simplest and most predictable meal of the day, it’s becoming more eclectic and adventurous all the time. Sometimes a little too eclectic and adventurous—I’m thinking of my 8-year-old grandson, Alan. I drive Alan to school every morning, and I never know what he’ll be eating when I arrive. Some days it’s eggs he scrambled himself, garnished with basil he’s just picked from the Earthbox in his side yard; occasionally it’s a peanut-butter sandwich or oatmeal.

One recent morning I found him seated at the dining room table playing Minecraft on his phone while devouring Trader Joe’s Tom Yam soup, leftover lamb vindaloo and a big piece of German chocolate cake that he’d baked with his other grandmother, Kim, the day before. (Before Alan came along, Kim had never really cooked. But one night after children’s services at their temple, he asked her to buy him a Jewish cookbook for kids from the gift shop. Now the twohave together mastered most of the recipes, from matzo ball soup—“easy-peasy,” he told me dismissively—to hand-braided challah bread. Kim’s daughters, who grew up on take-out, joke that only now, years after they left home, did Alan finally turn their mother into an accomplished Jewish cook.) 

“You’re probably the only person in Sarasota eating this exact breakfast,” I told him, stealing a bite of his chocolate cake. “How do you know?” he replied. He asks me that a lot, and I usually don’t have a good answer. But this time I did.

After all, our editors had just spent weeks visiting diners, restaurants, coffee shops, doughnut stands—even gas stations—all over Sarasota and Manatee to seek out the best breakfasts in town. We’d found a wide world of offerings, from classic omelets and hash browns to Low Country shrimp and grits, bacon-and-maple doughnuts, red velvet pancakes, kale-infused smoothies, Hungarian breakfast sandwiches and salsa-topped breakfast tacos—but nothing (thank goodness!) resembling the trio of dishes on Alan’s early-morning plate. 

You’ll read about our delicious discoveries in “Rise and Shine,” beginning on page 65. Along with our guide to the region’s 22 top breakfast spots, we tell you where to find the best grab-and-go breakfast grub and, with the help of a Ritz-Carlton chef, we deconstruct the perfect eggs Benedict. You’ll learn how some local notables, from politicians to a ballet dancer, break their fast, and you may just forget all the recent health warnings when you read novelist Adam Davies’ defiant ode to bacon. And after getting up early to sample yet another breakfast spot, the indefatigable Cooper Levey-Baker, working with photographer Everett Dennison, stayed up way past midnight to savor the iconic waffles and Edward Hopper-like atmosphere of Sarasota’s last remaining Waffle House.

You’ll find more tasty treats in this issue, from Mr. Chatterbox’s look at how the presidential candidates’ autobiographies reveal their inner souls (“assuming they have inner souls,” he notes) to Ilene Denton’s affectionate “Reasons to Love Lakewood Ranch,” as that master-planned community out east celebrates its 20th birthday. And you can travel back in time to take a wild ride on the legendary Ringling Bros. circus train, in a rollicking story by the late Loomis Dean, who started his career as a Ringling press agent on that train but went on to become one of Life magazine’s star photographers.

We hope you’ll find this issue, as Jack Kerouac used to say about a satisfying meal on the road, both “nutritious and delicious.” Dive in.

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