Breakfast means different things to different people. For some, it’s a gulp of coffee and a quick hunk of fruit before they run out the door. For others, it’s a plate of eggs and potatoes that energize them for the day ahead, or a spread of pastries and jams, enjoyed while perusing Instagram, because they’ve got nowhere special to be.

Whatever breakfast means to you, our area is rich with options. From humble diners to culinary temples, local eateries serve a stunning variety of morning meals. Below, we’re giving you the local expert’s take on where to go when you wake up.

(Given the closures related to the Covid-19 pandemic, we recommend calling ahead to make sure the restaurants listed below are open.)

The “BEAT” (bacon, egg, avocado and fried green tomato) sandwich at Anita’s Restaurant.

Image: Jennifer Soos

Anita’s Restaurant

441 S. Tamiami Trail, Nokomis, (941) 485-3859

Anita Nikolov’s family diner seats dozens inside a roomy A-frame structure decorated with hot rod renderings and Route 66 memorabilia. The “BEAT” sandwich earns its acronym with bacon, egg, avocado and a fried green tomato. Doused in hot sauce, it’s an excellent treat, as are the well-caramelized hash browns that take up the rest of the plate. The flaky biscuits are worth the buck or two extra.

Another Broken Egg

6115 Exchange Way, Lakewood Ranch, (941) 388-6898; 140 Avenida Messina, Siesta Key, Sarasota, (941) 552-8320; anotherbrokenegg.com

The local Broken Egg chain divorced in 2013, separating into a one-off independent restaurant on Clark Road and two outposts of Another Broken Egg, a chain headquartered in Destin. Highlights at Another Broken Egg, located on Siesta Key and in Lakewood Ranch, can be found on the restaurant’s extensive healthy eats section. A bowl of house-made granola, fruit and Greek yogurt balances sweetness with whimsical hits of salt. The dish is centered around a mound of blueberry quinoa—bland on its own, but a nice counterpoint to the more powerful flavors arrayed around it.

Blú Island Bistro

625 Tamiami Trail S., Venice, (941) 485-8200, bluislandbistro.com

Tucked next to a small motel along a curve of U.S. 41 on Venice Island, the Blú Island Bistro is easy to miss but hard to forget. Blú Island does the expected uncommonly well. Its buttermilk pancakes, for example, follow a recipe chef-owner Alan Laskowski has been using for decades, producing succulent cakes that are crispy outside and moist inside, forming a flavorful union with butter and warm syrup dispensed from glass thimbles. What really separates Blú Island, however, is that Laskowski, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lets loose his creative impulses on a daily basis. Past specials have included “Wealthy Whisky Bacon,” which featured two thick slices “grilled with a nice little char and a side of Chef Alan’s whisky glaze.” Creative, yes, and satisfying, too.

Blue Dolphin Cafe's eggs Benedict.

Image: Chad Spencer

Blue Dolphin Cafe

470 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-3566; 5370 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Suite 101, Longboat Key, (941) 383-3787; bluedolphincafe.com

With one location on stylish St. Armands Circle and another on Longboat Key, the Blue Dolphin feels like a welcoming neighborhood joint. The menu runs the a.m. gamut from corned beef hash to huevos rancheros and Belgian waffles, with a very worthy eggs Benedict playing a starring role. The Dolphin is a perfect place for kicking back with coffee and the paper or your phone.

The Breakfast Cottage

2301 N. Tamiami Trail, Nokomis, (941) 313-9529, thebreakfastcottage.com

Vintage charm gets a tropical twist at The Breakfast Cottage, a lively yellow hotspot in Nokomis. It couldn’t be more inviting, with an eclectic mix of restored furniture and beachy accessories in hues of orange, yellow, pink and purple. The place to be is the front porch, shaded by a massive oak tree decked out in orchids and air plants. The menu is equally inviting: sumptuous, fluffy omelets; buttery biscuits swimming in sausage gravy; pancakes plain or topped with tropical fruit; and a lush assortment of eggs Benedicts, including a version featuring a crispy crab cake.

The Breakfast House

1817 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, 366-6860

We may be exaggerating—but not by much—by saying that The Breakfast House has revolutionized the art of the pancake. At too many restaurants, a pancake seems like an afterthought—a fat, spongy disc of dough with little discernible flavor and topped with caramel-colored corn syrup masquerading as maple. Breakfast House’s pancake, though, marries a lovely, tight griddled skin to a creamy interior pocked with air holes and bearing subtle toasted notes. The package is enlivened by butter and genuine maple syrup. The ’cakes taste even better when eaten as part of “Uncle Harry’s hearty breakfast,” a belly-busting sampler of most of what the house does best.

Brooklyn Bagels & Deli

6970 Beneva Road, Sarasota, (941) 993-1577, brooklynbagelsanddeli.webs.com

Whether you prefer poppy seed, sesame seed, garlic, onion or everything, you’ll find it here, at the small bagel shop and restaurant that serves what are far and away the closest approximation of New York City bagels you’ll find in the area. The exterior is dense, crunchy and chewy, while the insides are soft and puffy. Spread on some cream cheese or fill it with eggs, bacon and cheese and complain about the cramped conditions on the L train.

Burgundy Square Cafe

227 Miami Ave. W., Venice, (941) 451-8261, burgundysquarecafe.website

Always a favorite, downtown Venice’s Burgundy Square Cafe has a neighborly vibe, with tables of friends clustered together chatting about last night’s ballgame over egg platters and joe. The garden scramble mixes together eggs, spinach, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and cheese, with a pile of crispy-skinned home fries on the side. Other favorites include an eggs Benedict made with Maine lobster, scallops and Gulf shrimp and billowy, crispy-skinned pancakes. On pleasant mornings, snag a seat at one of the outdoor tables in the Burgundy Square arcade to watch tourists mosey up and down Miami Avenue.

An egg and biscuit sandwich from Buttermilk Handcrafted Food.

Buttermilk Handcrafted Food

5520 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 487-8948

Buttermilk smartly avoids the “restaurant” tag, because it’s not really a full-on sit-down establishment. Instead, it’s a charming gathering place with carefully thought-out biscuits, grits and toasts, pastries and pies that leave you shivering with delight and robust coffees that are a pleasure to linger over. Part Southern comfort, part heartland throwback, the baked goods at Buttermilk include layered, buttery biscuits slathered with salty gravy, cinnamon rolls the size of basketballs and dense, sweet oatmeal, pecan and sorghum pies. Order pie for breakfast? No judgment here.

Café Evergeeen

801 S. Tamiami Trail S., Nokomis, (941) 412-4334, cafeevergreen.net

Sometimes you just want a healthy bite to start the day. Enter Café Evergreen, which is located in a cheery, sunlight-filled, Mediterranean-style building on the South Trail, complete with colorful stained glass-esque window details and bright green signage and trim. The menu bills itself as “healthy food for a healthy life,” and breakfast options include smoothies, juices, wheat grass shots and blue algae shots, and a variety of egg-based dishes like omelets and Benedicts. Beverages include organic coffee, matcha tea and kefir kombucha on draught. If the weather permits, enjoy it and your meal outside in the Southwest Florida sunshine and get some extra Vitamin D. You’ll leave full and feeling good.

C’est La Vie!

1553 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 906-9575; 8527 Cooper Creek Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 355-2323; cestlaviesarasota.com

For more than two decades, C’est La Vie! has delivered a cup of joie de vivre to Main Street diners in the mood for crêpes, quiches, croissants, sandwiches and salads. The crêpes, made of eggy, stretchy dough, pack in savory stuff like bacon, cheese, mushrooms, potatoes and eggs, and just gazing at the pastry cases filled with fresh-baked French concoctions can bring on a sugar and butter rush. The downtown location eventually proved so popular that a pair of Parisian transplants, Jean and Myriam Dandonneau, last year struck a deal with the original owners, Christophe and Geraldine Coutelle, to open a second location out east.

Cortez Cafe

12108 Cortez Road W., Cortez, (941) 792-0030, cortezcafefl.com

Searching out ultra-affordable no-frills diner standards, regulars pile into this laid-back dive on Cortez Road, just east of the heart of the historic fishing village of Cortez and a hop, skip and a jump from the bridge that takes you out to Anna Maria Island. Pancakes so big they spill over the edge of your plate, chunky sausage gravy, hash browns with just the right amount of grease… what’s not to love? Cortez Cafe is a perfect pit stop before heading out to the island or out on the boat for the day.

Croissant & Co.

323 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 480-1700, croissantandcovenice.com

On downtown mornings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a seat at this downtown Venice boulangerie, patisserie and restaurant. Credit the mountain of pastries and sweets behind the counter up front, as well as a menu loaded with quiches, sandwiches and salads. The torsades are moist and delicious, the Danishes glisten and the cream toppings will have you licking your fingers. Every seat might be taken, but don’t lose heart: Grab a bagful of sugary treats and devour them on the pavement out front.

Der Dutchman Amish Kitchen Cooking

3713 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota, (941) 955-8007, dhgroup.com

The little Amish-Mennonite community of Pinecraft is beloved by locals and visitors for its restaurants serving hearty comfort food. There’s no better place to sample that than at Der Dutchman, which serves strips of crispy bacon, magnificent hash browns and big, doughy biscuits. You’ll see plenty of beards and bonnets here, of course, but along with Pinecraft neighbors, the eatery also attracts working-class guys filling up before a day spent repairing roofs and pouring concrete.

Eggs-Traordinary Café

2282 N. Tamiami Trail, Nokomis, (941) 966-6652; 3981 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota, (941) 346-6931; eggstraordinarycafe.com

This café's two locations offer crazy-affordable breakfast food from sunup until 3 p.m. every day of the week, cranking out primarily egg-heavy plates. Winners include the rich corned beef hash, topped with a couple eggs, and the “bacon Benny,” an eggs Benedict upgraded with applewood-smoked pork. The decor is old-school touristy Florida, with colorful images of the sun, the ocean, seagulls, shells, seahorses and lizards, and the service is equally cheery—and quick.

Pancakes at First Watch.

First Watch

1395 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 954-1395; the restaurant has many other area locations; firstwatch.com

First Watch has grown from a small Manatee County-based chain into the nation’s largest breakfast-lunch operation. It now has more than 365 restaurants in 29 states. It’s easy to see why. The company’s outposts serve fresh, affordable, straightforward breakfasts from kitchens that don’t use heat lamps or deep fryers, and the food is often delivered at breakneck speed. The formula attracts everyone from the dudded-up post-church crowd at six-tops to entrepreneurs working on laptops at the restaurant’s tall, communal, bar-style tables.

Fresh Start Cafe

630 S. Orange Ave., Sarasota, (941) 373-1242, freshstartcafesrq.com

The global touches on the menu of this downtown café truly set it apart. Israeli burekas—pastries stuffed with hard-boiled egg, tomato and pepper—are unlike any other breakfast in town. But even Italian dishes like Fresh Start’s frittatas are winners. The “el caliente” frittata isn’t very “caliente,” but the cilantro and jalapeños add depth to the eggs and a dollop of sour cream and salsa bring freshness. Opt for dining outside. The brick patio is alongside a well-traveled downtown road, but somehow the space always feels quiet and relaxed, and the breezes can’t be beat.

Green Zebra Cafe

476 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-2848; 1377 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 312-6707; greenzebracafe.com

This vegan-friendly breakfast and lunch spot is popular with the wellness crowd for its juices, raw dishes and wheatgrass shots, but even those adamantly opposed to exercise can find something to enjoy here. Try one of the Zebra's Benedicts, wraps or sandwiches, or the ever-popular avocado toast, dressed with honey and chili flakes.

Breakfast at the Gulf Drive Café.

Gulf Drive Café

900 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, (941) 778-1919, gulfdrivetiki.com

The Gulf Drive Café sits right on a gorgeous spread of Anna Maria Island beach. We like to eat outside, on a patio next to the sand or underneath the tiki roof. The menu includes classics like omelets, pancakes and waffles, but we’re suckers for the corned beef hash, served with three perfectly cooked eggs and a side of thick, sticky oatmeal swirled with brown sugar.

Harry’s Continental Kitchens

5600 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, (941) 383-0777, harryskitchen.com

Harry’s serves a mix of traditional and innovative breakfasts every morning of the week. Both presentation and flavors impress. A humble omelet comes out bursting with bright reds and greens, and even the potatoes on the side have been artfully arranged. If you’re seeking something substantial, try the shrimp and grits. Tender crustaceans circle a mound of rich, sticky, cheesy corn, and it’s all surrounded by a puddle of a powerful garlicky reduction. Enjoy it with a bloody Mary that comes with a slice of bacon. The tall red glass is layered with olives and pickled greens, too. This counts as a serving of vegetables, right?

Keke's Breakfast Cafe

5405 University Parkway, Unit 104, University Park, (941) 388-8953; 3456 Clark Road, Sarasota, (941) 444-9487; 11633 State Road 70 E., Bradenton, (941) 739-6555; 1121 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, (941) 345-4463; kekes.com

Keke's boasts multiple locations in the area, with a huge menu that includes omelets, waffles, panini, BLTs, clubs, salads, burgers and wraps. Don't sleep on the breakfast sandwich, one of the area's best. The egg yolk pops when you bite in, drenching the bread, and the crispy bacon provides a crunchy counterpoint to all the goo. Also great: the granola crunch pancakes, made from dough laced with crunchy granola and then topped with banana slices.

Le Petit Jardin Café's Delacroix crêpe.

Le Petit Jardin Café

1500 E. Venice Ave., Unit 401, Venice, (941) 244-3231, lepetitjardincafe.com

Le Petit Jardin Café is a cozy and intimate destination, the kind of place where you can sip coffee and plow through a novel well after the server has rung up your check and you won’t feel hurried in the slightest. The menu complements the restaurant’s immense Impressionist mural of a French street market scene, with a selection of Gallic morning stars like crêpes and croissants. On one morning, two women each ordered their favorite, the Delacroix crêpe, pumped up with ham, eggs, Swiss cheese and an addictive champagne mustard sauce. “Do you want more champagne mustard sauce?” the restaurant’s lone server asked. “I always want more,” one said, laughing. An extra serving appeared seconds later.

Lovely Square Restaurant

6559 Gateway Ave., Sarasota, (941) 724-2512, lovelysquareflorida.com

Open daily for breakfast and lunch, Lovely Square serves a big pick of Benedicts, croissant entrées, omelets, frittatas, crêpes, pancakes, French toasts and much, much more. Try the huevoes rancheros, which is prepared by placing two sunny-side-up eggs on black beans and a corn tortilla, with crumbles of goat cheese on top and wedges of avocado on the side.

Maple Street Biscuit Company

8491 Cooper Creek Blvd., No. 107, Sarasota, (941) 358-5200, maplestreetbiscuits.com

The first Maple Street opened in Jacksonville in 2012 and has since migrated to Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Texas, pulling in customers with a Southern-centric menu heavy on biscuit sandwiches and platters. A well-made biscuit is one of life’s great pleasures, and here they’re terrific: soft and flaky, with a bumpy, toasted exterior, and a sour-sweet flavor that is good on its own, but tastes even better when married to the shop’s ultra-crispy fried chicken. To sample what this place does best, order “The Sticky Maple,” which packs a hunk of that fried chicken and a pile of crunchy bacon into a biscuit that rests in a puddle of maple syrup.

The Oasis Café

3542 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, (941) 957-1214, theoasiscafe.net

A pastel-hued mainstay of mid-Sarasota, this small café is a go-to spot for neighbors and businesspeople putting their heads together for a working meal. One past special piled together a crispy black bean cake, slices of avocado, a poached egg and Hollandaise for a one-of-a-kind Benedict. Oasis displays its popular fresh-baked goods in a glass case and on some tabletops right inside the front windows. The selection includes everything from buttermilk biscuits to muffins laced with ingredients like oatmeal and brown sugar.

The Original Egg

4031 Clark Road, Sarasota, (941) 922-2868, theoriginalegg.com

Two years after the chain split up, the lone remaining independent Broken Egg restaurant underwent a rebrand, becoming The Original Egg. What hasn’t changed? The food. Owner Dawn Hair insisted the menu remain the same and the restaurant’s “colossal” pancakes and “eggseptional” platters still dominate the menu. We like “Kylee’s peachy waffle,” topped with peaches, pecans and cinnamon sugar. Or try the sheepherder skillet, a basic egg, potato and cheese concoction that tastes fantastic when doused in hot sauce.

Rendez-Vous

5336 Clark Road, Sarasota, (941) 924-1234; 2117 Siesta Drive, Sarasota, (941) 552-9240; rendezvoussarasota.com

Chef Joël Garcia opened Rendez-Vous in late 2015, baking up a mind-bending mix of savory loaves, morning-time sweets and after-dinner desserts. Garcia’s croissants are bigger and more thickly skinned than others, with a mahogany exterior wrapped around the pastry’s buttery inner layers. His baguette is a winner, too, with a skin that crepitates when you bite down and roughs up the roof of your mouth. Rendez-Vous also slaps together sandwiches with that bread.

Sage Biscuit Café

6656 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, (941) 792-3970; 1401 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, (941) 405-4744; sagebiscuitbradenton.com

The biscuits at this popular two-location Bradenton restaurant are scented with sage (of course) and they are exceptional, as are the restaurant’s handful of jazzed-up Benedicts. We consider the jalapeño bacon and fried green tomato version an instant classic.

The Serving Spoon

1825 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, (941) 388-7235, theservingspoonsarasota.com

Southside Village’s Serving Spoon has been dishing up hearty breakfast fare for decades. The interior includes a range of light-wood tables and booths, plus a long bar with seats that are perfect for individual diners. In addition to standards like pancakes, omelets and a very good Belgian waffle (crisp on the outside with a light and fluffy interior), you’ll also find hearty skillet combos, biscuits and gravy and fresh juices. Even if you’re a first-timer, the waitresses make you feel like you’ve been coming here since forever.

Simon’s Coffee House

5900 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 926-7151, simonstogo.com

Simon’s has earned a reputation for its healthy offerings, which undersells just how delicious the food is. You’ll find everyone here, from retirees and real estate mavens to tattooed hipsters with little kids. Breakfast options include a variety of egg platters, omelets and breakfast sandwiches, with an emphasis on vegetarian options. We’re typically guided by what’s new on the specials board, which leans toward culinary mashups with flavors that trot the globe, from the Caribbean to India, from Japan to Vietnam, from Scotland to Mexico.

Station 400

400 N. Lemon Ave., Sarasota, (941) 906-1400; 8215 Lakewood Main St., Suite P103, Lakewood Ranch, (941) 907-0648; 4832 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 927-0402; station400.com

A popular destination for breakfast, lunch and brunch, Station 400 serves fluffy pancakes, rich egg platters, huge salads and excellent sandwiches. No meal is complete with a plate of French fries tossed with truffle oil and parmigiano-reggiano.

The "gringo's burrito" at Sun Garden Café.

Image: Chad Spencer

Sun Garden Café

210 Avenida Madera, Siesta Key, Sarasota, (941) 346-7170, sungardencafe.com

This Siesta Key mainstay attracts both sun-blasted tourists and mainlanders making the trek out to the beach, offering a mix of egg-based standards, plus more unusual dishes like their iconic sweet potato pancakes—so smooth, so sweet, so fluffy that they can singlehandedly turn your week around. Waffles made with batter dotted with pecans and bacon are another fave. Outside, striped awnings protect customers from the sun on a wide stone patio bright with tropical flowers and an occasional visiting songbird. This may just be Siesta’s best place to wake up.

Suncoast Café

400 Airport Ave. W., Venice, (941) 484-0100, suncoastcafe.com

Airport dining gets a bum rap, but a visit to Suncoast Café may change your mind. Situated in a cozy corner of the Venice Municipal Airport, the café serves hearty breakfasts and lunches to regulars and the occasional tourist. Sit by the window and you can watch small planes and helicopters take off and land. Perch at the counter, and you observe chef Tony DuBoulay and his crew at work. DuBoulay, a native of Saint Lucia, has brought flavors of the Caribbean to menu items like a breakfast Cuban featuring slow-roasted pork and refried beans. Try a quesadilla with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese and salsa or maybe the “flight attendant’s” omelet, boasting fresh tomato, spinach, green peppers, mushrooms and onions. You might become a frequent flier.

Sunnyside Cafe

4900 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 359-9500, sunnysidecafesrq.com

This small café opened in 2014, taking over a previously cursed greasy spoon attached to both an apartment complex and a hotel. The new look features tall, wide windows that let in an ocean of light. While lunch and dinner run Hungarian, the breakfast menu features mostly American classics, with a pleasant upgrade here and there. The restaurant salts its own salmon, for example, and throws you a curveball with out-of-this-world savory chickpea pancakes. If you’re looking for the finest breakfast on the north side of town, look no farther.

The Toasted Mango Cafe

430 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 388-7728; 6621 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key, Sarasota, (941) 552-6485; toastedmangocafe.com

The Mango’s devoted following snaps up healthy items, including smoothies and more conventional breakfast items and sandwiches. Past favorites include cinnamon roll pancakes and a salmon hash.

Upper Crust Café & Bakery

213 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 244-0430, uppercrustvenice.com

Both refined enough to be lit with glass chandeliers and casual enough for a Spandexed cyclist, this downtown Venice restaurant caters to all comers. Longtime customers duck past the pastry and dessert case up front and snag tables in the small wood-floored dining room, asking for servers by name. The vibe is quiet and relaxed, with the rustle of newspaper pages, the murmur of conversation and the periodic whoosh of the espresso machine. The crab cake Benedict will kill any hunger pains you might have, with discs heavy on the crab meat and doused in a mild but tasty Cajun Hollandaise. On your way out, don’t forget something sweet.

Waffle House

5737 Clark Road, Sarasota, (941) 921-6599; 2400 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, (941) 357-6352; 603 67th St. Circle E., Bradenton, (941) 747-6634; 1515 51st Ave. E., Ellenton, (941) 723-1177; wafflehouse.com

People flock to the Waffle House for sustenance, companionship and a vanishing American experience. There’s no gluten-free option here, no fancy cheese or turkey bacon, just a collection of iconic diner items cooked in front of you and handed over immediately by solicitous servers. A highlight: hash browns, woven with ingredients like sautéed onions and jalapeños and seared on one of the restaurant’s big flattops. Another: the pecan waffle, a thin disc of griddled dough studded with little nobs of nuts. A third: an endless cup of coffee, poured as black as midnight on a moonless night.

Wee Blew Inn

590 U.S. 41 Bypass, Venice (941) 484-5616

This old-school diner pops out plates of eggs, corned beef hash and home fries in three minutes or less. The servers are as fast as the cooks, pouring coffee warmups before your brown mug is even half-empty and calling you “honey” when you walk in. The emphasis on speed means there are few frills on the menu. You’ll find eggy basics, plus French toast, short stacks and biscuits, at prices that start at just a few bucks. Sit at the bar that runs the length of the kitchen to watch the cooks cook and listen to the steady clack-clack of the spatula on the flattop and the hiss of sizzling potatoes.

Word of Mouth

6604 Gateway Ave., Sarasota, (941) 925-2400, originalwordofmouth.com

Word of Mouth opened in Gulf Gate in 1996, well before the neighborhood grew into a foodie destination. Through all the changes, the restaurant has remained dedicated to simple, high-quality dishes served in generous portions. We dig the homemade pastries, the omelets and—our personal favorite—the towering breakfast sandwich of egg, cheese and either bacon or a sausage patty, which comes on an English muffin, a croissant or a buttermilk biscuit. Pick the biscuit, a delicate hunk of dough blessed with a crackling golden crust.

Allison Forsyth, Kay Kipling, Megan McDonald, Pam Daniel and David Hackett contributed reporting to this story.

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