Local chef opens new East Bradenton restaurant

BRADENTON — The stove and the dishwasher arrived Thursday. A full kitchen staff is in place, and a menu is almost completed. All that’s left to do is hang a few pictures and David Shiplett’s new Bradenton restaurant, Soma, can open for business.

Beginning Wednesday, Shiplett, former executive chef of Bradenton’s popular ezra cafe, will serve affordable breakfast and lunch at his new 616 10th St. E. location. Then two weeks later, he’ll add dinner servings to the menu. He also plans to offer catering in the 6,000 square-foot space above Central Cafe, on the other side of the block.

Known for serving simple, affordable meals with a classy twist, Shiplett, 50, said Soma will be just that — where diner food meets upscale in a comfy setting.

People will walk in and everyone will know their name. Like “Cheers,” he said.

Soma stands for “South of Manatee.”

His menu will feature items such as short rib stroganoff; chicken and dumplings; and chicken-fried steak. Breakfast will include mouth-watering specialities like cinnamon raisin English muffins and French toast served with walnuts, caramelized Granny Smith apples and sour cream; flat iron steak and eggs; potato cakes; and a new creation Shiplett’s been playing with in his mind — old-fashioned biscuits with melted cheddar in the middle, served with sausage gravy.

“It sounds really good, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to work,” Shiplett said of the biscuit.

Breakfast and lunch will be served beginning 7 a.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner will be from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Outdoor dinning will be offered in the fall.

But the opening begs the question, why now? The economy has killed its share of area restaurants in Bradenton during the past year. Plus, two restaurants — Mark Anthony’s and the Fish Bar — have failed at the spot Shiplett has moved into.

Shiplett said the economy presents him with an opportunity to succeed.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve been through a lot of economic situations and I’ve always survived,” he said. “If I was in a kitchen and everybody got laid off, chances are, unless it closed, I was still there because I was that good. ... I think that if you’re really good and you work really hard, if you can survive now, you’re going to be just fine.”

Property owner Steve Parisian said having a place that serves breakfast will definitely bring more business to his block, especially after losing Cool Beans, a coffee nook that moved a block north of Manatee Avenue a few months ago.

“We’re very excited to have him,” Parisian said.

Shiplett’s culinary skills have taken him to California, Longboat Key and Sarasota, where he’s cooked a variety of cuisines. He returned to Bradenton six years ago to work at ezra with his then-wife, Donna Eason. The experience allowed him to connect with his Bradenton roots in a way he never thought of.

“When I opened up ezra, I really tapped into a lot of people that knew my parents and my grandparents,” he said. “Being a third-generation Manatee County resident really started to become very gratifying. I wasn’t used to serving people that went to school with my twin aunts. Each night that I would go to work would be something cool, something different than I was used to.”

For Shiplett, setting up shop in East Bradenton has been like coming back to his roots. His grandmother used to live five blocks away, he said.

Besides the youthful memories he’s had there, he loves the style and character that has remained in that area. It will only enhance his restaurant.

“Down here it’s kind of cool,” he said. “I love the bait shop on the corner and the hotel next to me that was built a 100 years ago. I like the feeling of all that.”

January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.

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