The Bradenton Area is home to countless natural resources, including a bounty of fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. Many local industries, including restaurants, share these resources and implement sustainability practices into their business. Choosing conscious cuisine means enjoying food that is harvested and prepared with an eye toward the future, and you’ll find plenty of places to enjoy this forward-thinking cooking on your next visit.
Easily one of the best ways to find (and enjoy!) farm-fresh produce, the Bradenton Area is home to many farmers markets. From Anna Maria Island to downtown Bradenton, and then to Lakewood Ranch, each market is home to many unique vendors, artisans and farmers. You’ll find produce that’s locally-grown with the seasons, seafood that sustainability harvested from the Gulf, honey from local apiaries and more. Besides the typical market staples, there are always an array of musicians, artists and other mom-and-pop businesses. You can always strike up a conversation with the vendors to learn more about their practices—or just to make a new friend. Be sure to bring multiple reusable bags, because they will be full in no time!
If you’re an angler looking to enjoy the abundance from the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll be delighted to learn that many local restaurants offer hook-and-cook service, like the Seafood Shack. Simply bring in your catch and the chefs will prepare your meal just as you like it, complete with all the accoutrements. The local charter captains know where the fish are biting and which ones are ‘in season,’ so you’re destined to have an enjoyable time fishing and dining responsibly. Many restaurants procure their fish from the docks of the histroic fishing village of Cortez, so even if you’re not the best angler, you’ll still have the chance to enjoy sustainably-harvested seafood.
A Collaborative Effort
Even before the trend became popular, many Bradenton Area restaurants were already practicing sustainability. From serving food that is ‘in season’ to composting and even recycling oyster shells, local restaurants have honed their eco-skills, becoming even more mindful of the environment.
Mattison’s Riverwalk Grille is a popular restaurant for locals and visitors alike. The discerning diner will find a menu focused on all-natural, antibiotic and hormone-free ingredients from sustainable sources, including wild boar. This invasive swine is detrimental to the local ecology, so the chefs create decadent (and delicious!) meals of wild boar harvested from local forests.
The Beach House Restaurant ardently adheres to the principals of sustainability and eco-consciousness. Customers come to experience the field-to-fork, Gulf to grill, and pasture-to-plate cuisine. The Beach House is part of the Chiles Group, a family-owned and operated enterprise that also operates two other restaurants, and the Gamble Creek Farm. This USDA Certified Organic farm yields seasonal produce for the three restaurants, and even uses food scraps for their composting, which is then used for fertilizer.
Anna Maria Oyster Bar is known for their delicious seafood, but they are also known for what they put back into the local water—empty oyster shells. Instead of simply tossing these spent shells into the wastebin, AMOB and other area restaurants teamed up with WastePro and Solutions To Avoid A Red Tide to develop an oyster-shell recycling program. These recycled shells are processed and then sent to a local preserve where they are strategically placed in a reef to help grow new oysters, which naturally filter the water.
One of the few remaining dairy farms in Florida, Dakin Dairy is a family-owned farm that produces farm-fresh dairy products using environmentally-conscious practices. For nearly fifty years, the farmers have ensured that these cows are happy and healthy—and have access to fresh grass every day of the year. In order to keep the cows and earth happy, the Dakin farmers implement many sustainable practices to their operations, like fertilizing the 250-plus acres of fields with farm compost, irrigating the grass with nutrient-rich water recycled from the barn, and using solar power to sanitize and re-use the cows’ bedding. This working farm offers tours, a café, and a Farm Market to purchase a variety of freshly-prepared dairy products. Come for a tour, enjoy some house-made ice cream, and then take a gallon of Dakin milk home from the market!