Friday, November 23, 2012

Eat Here: Casual Gulf Coast Cuisine on Anna Maria

Over the past decade, Sean Murphy has opened a handful of restaurants, most recently a mini-chain of three restaurants simply labeled Eat Here, serving casual and whimsical comfort food that seems to have caught on with local diners, with the newest slated to open on Siesta Key in January. Serving an upscale-casual Gulf Coast menu and craft beers, Eat Here Restaurant & Bar is the latest brainchild of Murphy, owner of the celebrated Beach Bistro on Anna Maria Island, one of the best restaurants in Florida. However, Eat Here is not some watered down version of Beach Bistro, rather it has its own identity which is complementary to and independent from Beach Bistro.  

Sean Murphy at Anna Maria Island's Eat Here
Photo by Mark Wemple

Eat Here, Murphy says, offers smaller plates than Beach Bistro, and does it in a more relaxed atmosphere. The Eat Here menus, for example, are printed on regular paper, stapled together and given to customers on clipboards. The napkins are cotton kitchen towels. “It has a cool and hip feel,” says Murphy, “but it’s still casual and welcoming.” 

The outdoor patio in front of the Anna Maria Eat Here location

With a brightly coloured, whimsically decorated restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, a full bar, individual and community tables and an extensive menu, Eat Here is focused on providing a casual, comfortable, quick-turn dining experience with an emphasis on quality. Although Sean’s enjoyed the challenge of opening the three Eat Here locations, after the Siesta Key spot is done, he’s going to take a break. “To do one restaurant well is an accomplishment. To do two or three is easier than doing the first one, because you have a pool of trained staff to draw from,” says Murphy. “But we’re going to stop here for a while, sit back and decide if we want to do something else. There may be a bakery in my future. It would make good business sense, baking everything for all the other spots.”

The Plowman Platter, a chef-made duckling mousse paté with apple-smoked cheddar
mixed berries, apples and house pickled veggies 

One of the features defining the concept behind Eat Here is fast service, which means dishes are brought to the table when completed in the kitchen. Dishes are offered in a variety of small plates that are perfect for sharing and moderately priced for everyday dining. Menu selections include Port-Braised Pot Roast, Lobstercargot, Smoked Salmon & Crème Fraiche Pizza and New Orleans-style Seafood Stew. This evening we shared three appetizers including The Plowman Platter, a chef-made duckling mousse paté with apple-smoked cheddar, mixed berries, apples and house pickled veggies. 

Tempura’d beets lightly battered, with chevre and crème fraiche  

Downright delicious but generous enough to be considered an entrée. We also enjoyed Tempura’d Beets which were lightly battered and served with a chevre and crème fraiche sauce. Wonderfully warm on the inside with a lighter than air tempura batter made them completely addictive. We polished off those little critters, and nibbled on a bowl of Pan-Cooked Mussels kissed with a beurre blanc sauce and topped with frites. We were full already but remembered we had our entrées still to arrive. Note to self: next time just order appetizers.

Pan-cooked mussels kissed with a beurre blanc sauce and topped with frites 


Serendipity Salad with fresh greens, cheeses, croutons, tomato, 
garden veggies and anything “salady” that grabs us

St. Loius Cut Shortribs, crisped in the fryer, tossed with herbed garlic butter 
and bell pepper-papaya jam  

Each evening there is a selection of fresh fish including Domestic Maine Salmon crusted with horseradish cream and fire roasted or pan seared and finished with key lime butter and tropical fruit salsa, and Fresh Catch of the day which can be served with key lime dill butter and capers or tropical fruit salsa. Tonight the fresh catch was Mahi Mahi, with both entrées also accompanied by an Arugula Salad and baked ramekin of Corn Pudding. 

Fresh catch of the day, which tonight was Mahi Mahi with a choice 
of key lime dill butter and capers or tropical fruit salsa 

A restaurant’s success is defined not only by the quality of the food but by the quality of the concept and the team. Sean Murphy’s concept of casual Florida-style cuisine and quality produce coupled with a committed team is proving to be yet another of his winning recipes. Eat Here has a great vibe with a casual and friendly atmosphere with service that is fast, friendly, and very efficient, making for a delicious and fun night out with friends. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong playing in the background was the cherry on top of a great evening.

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