Well before it opened, I was excited about Buttermilk Handcrafted Food, and I think you were, too. When I wrote up plans for the breakfast and lunch spot last month, the article quickly became one of the most-read stories on our website for the entire year. People apparently love news stories that involve biscuits and bacon. Me, too.
For those who don't know, Buttermilk is a new spot conceived by Jamie and Kathy Otto, a husband-and-wife team who worked with property owner Jonas Yoder to massively upgrade the structure on Palmer Boulevard in east Sarasota that used to house the divey P.T.'s Sports Bar. The building is a beaut, with farmhouse accoutrements, woodwork by Jamie and a bright, airy, cheery vibe.
OK, great, but would the food be good? That question went unanswered till this Saturday, when the restaurant formally opened to the public. Buttermilk's menu covers four distinct categories: biscuits, toast, grits and dessert, with details differing depending on what's available.
I'm here on Monday, the café's second day of operations. Enraptured by the promise of a high-quality biscuit, I opt for a sandwich cobbled together from a biscuit ($3.50), an egg ($1) and a helping of bacon ($1.50) crafted by the legendary Tennessee pork artiste Allan Benton. The result is gorgeous, tall but not daunting. The biscuit is exceptional–crispy and flaky on the outside, light and airy inside—and the bacon lives up to its billing, with a thick, meaty texture and a good dose of smoke and pepper. You can customize your biscuit with other products, too. The two guys in front of me added gravy to their egg and bacon sandwiches. I'm not quite on that level yet, but on Tuesday, when I return, a single plain biscuit and a small jar of well-seasoned gravy ($2.50) made with pork from Avon Park makes for an outstanding snack.
The $6 toast menu is already rotating, with different selections on Monday and Tuesday. Monday's dish is built on a thick cut of bread baked that morning, with a generous glob of goat cheese, plus greens, tomatoes and seasoned pecans. On Tuesday, the toast comes cut into large cubes and tossed with more cheese, tomatoes and greens and dotted with salt flakes. The portions are a bit small for $6, but the quality is there.
How are the grits ($5)? Dunno. As with most new ventures, things are a bit chaotic still, and Buttermilk has run out of corn by lunchtime on Tuesday.
The coffee ($3.50-$5), brewed in consultation with Perq, is as excellent as you'd expect—an ideal accompaniment to Buttermilk's well-stocked sweets case. A slice of oatmeal pie ($5) is a miracle. A dense but creamy oatmeal filling sits inside the shop's flaky dough; a crème brûlée-like caramel crust lies atop it. It's gone in 60 seconds. The cream pie isn't quite as mind-melting, but it's solid. A salted cookie studded with big chocolate chips makes for a great nibble. A "cork" made with cold-brewed coffee is a moist pick-me-up.
More than anything, Buttermilk fills a niche. It's not a spot where you're going to meet up for a full meal, but it is a wonderful hangout space in an area that needs one, with a good drip and excellent snacks. The servers are effervescent, and Jamie and Kathy are happy to chat or guide you through the menu. It's just a nice place to be. Earbudded reporters are filing stories on laptops. Old friends are saying hey. Mamas and papas are exposing two-week-olds to the world. Indeed, people love biscuits and bacon.
Buttermilk Handcrafted Food is located at 5520 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota, and is open 6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday. For more info, call (941) 487-8949 or follow the restaurant on Facebook.