Enjoying breakfast, lunch and dinner in Sarasota’s historic black community
Most restaurants in Sarasota’s Newtown neighborhood aren’t on Yelp or in tourist brochures.
They don’t need to be.
Newtown restaurateurs cater largely to the historic black community in which they’re located, where neighborhood folk call out the owner by name, and come by to eat or just to say, “Hi.”
Still, you don’t have to live in Newtown to feel welcome.
I learned this while dining my way through the neighborhood ahead of its event Saturday, the second annual Big Mama’s Collard Green Fest, which should attract some more people to Newtown from others parts of Sarasota-Bradenton.
Breakfast at Townhall
1970 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way; 941-955-3133
Townhall is in the heart of Newtown, and has been serving up cheap, good eats for decades.
It’s traditional American fare, with all the usual suspects such as grits, eggs, toast, sausage links and bacon.
The makeshift menu is taped to the wall next to the order window, where it’s cash-only. “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” is playing on the TV, offering a welcome distraction from the latest news broadcasts.
The outdoor patio opens up to the main drag, where plenty of people walk to their next destination.
The decor is largely makeshift, but I’m not here for interior design ideas.
I’m here for scrambled eggs, grits, toast, and Uncle John’s Pride sausage links on Styrofoam plates. And a coffee, all for $6.
Lunch at BNB & Mom Bar-B-Q
2512 N. Washington Blvd.; 941-302-1457
Squeezed between a Sunoco gas station and a barbershop, BNB & Mom’s small storefront is easy to miss. Near the bustling corner of MLK and Washington Boulevard, the sign over the door still reads “Beer — Beverage, wine, cigarettes, deli and things.”
But inside it’s sweet mango or pineapple tea, not beer, and a paper menu reads, “Mom’s recipes, deliciously homemade.”
Photos of friends and family are tacked to the wall. Next to them, a little girl’s first scrawls are on display: “Aliya” in blue, purple and red. Through the order window, two women are busy in the kitchen.
Prices range from a $4 hamburger to a full rib slab for $25 that can feed two, maybe three.
Menu choices run the spectrum of traditional Southern fare: Barbecue chicken, ribs and fried fish; sweet yams, potato salad and collard greens.
It’s all served takeout style but a plastic table and some chairs offer a spot to sit and eat inside.
The ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender and the sauce is a balanced combination of sweet, tangy and acidic. The sweet yams taste like a cinnamon treat and a piece of cornbread is included without asking.
Recommended: Call before going. When the food sells out, BNB & Mom’s closes.
Dinner at Jamerican
2025 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way; 941-260-5723
This Jamaican/soul food restaurant is a recent Bradenton transplant to Newtown. The bright yellow, green and red building is hard to miss.
Owner and chef Gloria and her partner prepare traditional Caribbean recipes like curry goat and jerk chicken, flanked by soul food options such as oxtail, mac-n-cheese and collard greens.
The curry is mild and the brown oxtail sauce is warm and rich.
Prices range from $6 to $15.
With the transition still in flux, the interior has yet to be filled out but that doesn’t get in the way of Gloria’s warm smile and service.
Recommended: Call before going. When the food sells out, Jamerican closes.
Soul food hideouts
I got it from a Newtown resident that some of the best dishes are home-cooked in every sense of the word.
Pushed out by updated food code regulations many couldn’t afford to comply with, community cooks who once sold barbecue on the road side closed shop.
Those in the know can call them to place an order for pickup.
Also, some barbecue stands crop up along MLK on Friday and Saturday nights, but there are no phone numbers or business signs. Just good, weekend street food that demands a stroll down the center of Newtown.