When it comes to fine dining, our tastes are really simple. A beer and a burger works every time. Pizza, too. Or pasta. And good company makes them taste even better. We know where to find all of that in our community:
Boiler Room Bar & Grill, 5600 Manatee Ave. W. A great post-game stop during high school football season. On some Friday nights it's not unusual for fans, coaches and the officiating crew from the same game to be wolfing down wings and burgers at neighboring tables. And who thought a guy like Bradenton-born owner Matt LaVallee and his team could make a cheesesteak sandwich as delicious as the real deal back in Philadelphia? Council's Recreation Parlor, 536 12th St. W. A must stop for folks who want a quick glimpse at what makes our town tick. Along with one of the best burgers around, you will receive a running commentary from proprietor and head chef Lawton Smith on City Hall, county government, an over-hyped court case going on at the courthouse across the street, the way things used to be in Bradenton, the way things ought to be in Bradenton, and when is Manatee High football coach Joe Kinnan going to wise up and junk the option play. Don't forget to ask for fries. Demetrios' Pizza House, 1720 Cortez Road W. Everybody has their favorite places when it comes to pizza and this is one of ours. Judging by the weeknight crowds, we aren't the only ones. Owners Gus and Lisa Sokos' friendly presence radiates through the staff, making it a place to linger and luxuriate after the last slice is gone. Or in the to-go box. Ferraro's Pizza and Restaurant, 817B 14th St. W. No longer one of the town's best kept secrets. Linguini and clam sauce just the way we crave them. And owner Frank Ferraro is a fellow Jersey boy. Johnny D's Chicago Style Eatery, 4304 14th St. W. There's something familiar about enjoying pizza and beer or wine with a big screen nearby showing a game. Why, it feels just like your living room! Mexicali Border Cafe, 5502 Cortez Road W. Best margaritas in town. Shake Pit, 3801 Manatee Ave. W. An appropriate message for the Pit's marquee would be this one from the sainted Irish poet, William Butler Yeats: "There Are No Strangers Here; Only Friends You Haven't Yet Met." It's probably a few words too many for proprietor Debbie Crowe to put up, but it fits the welcoming atmosphere she and husband Bob have maintained at the Bradenton institution founded in 1959. And anyone who has been able to finish one of the Pit's humongous banana splits in one sitting, please raise your hand. Smitty's Pub & Grille, 3812 Manatee Ave. W. Another good post-game stop on fall Friday nights. Or any night of the week, actually. And the Shake Pit is right across the street for dessert. Starbucks, 4404 14th St. W. The only place we know where, instead of hurrying out the door with our first cup of coffee, we have to stop and sit down, enraptured by Aretha Franklin's arresting "Ain't No Way." Or we're bopping to James Brown's forever funky "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag." A great way to start the work day.