Worth The Drive

In Bradenton, Oscura Offers Something for Everyone

From inspired small plates to strong coffee and live music in the evenings, Oscura is worth a visit.

By Lauren Jackson February 24, 2023

Oscura's dining room often converts to a live music space after hours.

Oscura's dining room often converts to a live music space after hours.

Tucked away in historic downtown Bradenton is a special gem that's catering to the many hospitality needs of the community. Oscura is a coffee shop and café by day that turns into a live music and private event venue on many evenings. With a full liquor bar and small plates menu, the café deftly maneuvers from day to night no matter what evening festivities are in store.

“Our business model isn’t super linear because we’re filling gaps of what the city and neighborhood need,” says co-owner Keith Nasewicz. “Initially, we just wanted to be a bar, then we realized the neighborhood needed a coffee shop, so we decided to offer coffee during the day as a way to capitalize on having the space 24 hours a day. Then we realized we needed somewhere for live music, because growing up we had all these spots to see bands and do all these things on the weekends, and that didn’t exist either.”

Nasewicz draws inspiration from St. Petersburg, where he currently resides.

Disco balls and tropical plants create a cool and cozy vibe.

Disco balls and tropical plants create a cool and cozy vibe.

“St. Pete has exploded,” he says. “There’s no reason why that can’t happen here. We have a viable community to support that can support it, a lot of young people, and a lot of colleges. We’re equidistant to Lakewood Ranch, Anna Maria, Sarasota and St. Petersburg. So, there’s this perfect middle ground that makes it a great day trip.”

As one of the few live music venues in the area, Oscura focuses on rock, with bands that cater to an indie rock sound in addition to some punk influences.

“We focus on bands from Tampa down to Sarasota," Nasewicz says. "Some outliers come when they’re on tour and we try to partner them with local bands. While we mostly cover rock, we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves and would love to bring in some bluegrass and blues as well."

And if live music isn’t a huge draw for you, Nasewicz and his team are pumping out some seriously delicious food from Oscura’s small kitchen. Ricotta toast features ricotta cheese piped onto fresh-baked sourdough and topped with homemade jam and pistachio brittle that's flavored with orange zest and rosemary. Avocado toast gets an upgrade with scallion and Calabrian chili oil and is adorned with pickled radishes and microgreens.

“I love our chicken salad sandwich, too," Nasewicz says. "It’s a simple chicken salad with celery and dill. Then we add salsa macha, which is essentially a Mexican chili crisp made with fried chilies, nuts and sesame seeds crashed with some sherry vinegar. We add that to the top with crispy fried shallots and pickled cucumbers on brioche bread. It’s smoky, dilly, acidic. So good."

The bar at Oscura.

The bar at Oscura.

Nasewicz started working in the industry in 2005, and his know-how has set him up to work as a cook, bartender, doorman, talent booker and caterer for Oscura, which opened its original location in 2018 and moved to its current spot in 2022.

“My favorite thing about working in the industry is that it’s always different. There is an escapism of monotony. You’re always building new relationships, it’s front-facing and there are plenty of creative outlets. Every day gets to be a little different,” he says.

In addition to caring for his craft, Nasewicz prioritizes his team’s needs. As one of the few hospitality businesses that offer a higher flat wage, starting at $15 per hour plus tips, Oscura also covers its employees' healthcare and provides a 401k match.

“We’re here to take care of the community," he says. "And truthfully, I wish we could do more. We want everyone to grow and thrive.”

Oscura is open from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sundays at 816 Manatee Ave. E., Bradenton. For more information call (941) 201-4950 or click here.

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