The Place: Blue Dolphin Cafe,
470 John Ringling Blvd., St. Armands; (941) 388-3566.
The Fare: Breakfast and lunch daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Drill: Pick a cozy booth or, my favorite, a seat at the counter, where watching the pros at work is an education and a pleasure.
The Bottom Line: Breakfast at the original Blue Dolphin (there’s a second on Longboat Key) is one of those local traditions that wears extremely well. Service is fast and friendly (“What are we drinking, girls?”), the setting classic diner and the food hearty and well prepared. At breakfast, short stacks of fluffy pancakes big enough to cover a plate, overstuffed omelets, homemade corned beef hash and chunky French toast fly out of the kitchen like edible magic carpets. The coffee mugs are huge. Everything on the breakfast menu is a good deal, but I go all the way with two eggs (from Sutter Egg Farm in Sarasota) over easy, creamy white grits (or home fries, if you like), whole wheat toast and four generous strips of crisp lean bacon, all for $6.95. What a great way to start a day!