Sage Biscuit Cafe in Bradenton offers homemade dishes that are 'naughty and nice'

BRADENTON -- Sage Biscuit Cafe doesn't judge.

Sure, the new breakfast and lunch destination on Cortez Road offers scrumptious homemade dishes for the vegetarian set.

But there are also plenty of plates for the carnivores, too.

Those abstaining from meat can enjoy meals like the Tofu Scramble, Veggie Hash, a homemade Veggie Burger, Veggie Pita Pizza and a sandwich called the Very Veggie Delight.

Customers not bothered by counting calories or the fate of livestock, are advised to check out the Corned Beef Hash, the Sage Biscuit House Cured Pastrami sandwich, the Ultimate Cheese Steak or Prime Rib Skillet, which at $9.99 is the priciest thing on the menu.

Everybody should try the Samosa. It's a crispy pastry filled with curried spiced potatoes, onions and peas topped with chickpeas, roasted corn, cilantro and cucumber-lemon yogurt drizzle served with field green salad.

Oh, and let's not forget about the desserts.

Like the coconut cream pie and strawberry cheesecake homemade by Sage Biscuit Cafe co-owner and pastry chef Nicole Praessel.

"We call our menu naughty and nice," she said. "Because we offer a lot of vegetarian and vegan options as well as decadent dishes like our homemade sage biscuits and sausage gravy."

Praessel and her fiance, head chef Joe Moreta, opened Sage Biscuit Cafe on Dec. 14 in the Cortez Village shopping plaza.

Joe's dad, Jose Moreta, is also a co-owner and the general manager.

Praessel and Moreta are known to local foodies for running the Iron Skillet Cafe, which also served dinner, just a few blocks away on Cortez Road from 2004 to 2008.

In a 2005 review, the Herald praised the Iron Skillet for serving "many American favorites at very reasonable prices."

"The Iron Skillet is definitely worth another visit," reads a second review from 2008. "The food is top-notch and the ambience is wonderful."

So, what happened?

"Victim of the reces

sion," Praessel said.

Rather than quit the restaurant business, she and her fiance took two jobs each in the industry until the time was right to again pursue their shared culinary dream.

"We still made everything homemade at Iron Skillet, but here there are more vegetarian and vegan and gluten-free options," Praessel said.

"It's our passion," Moreta added. "We love food. We love to cook. We love the business."

People are noticing.

The chef/owner said 315 customers came through the door last Sunday.

Among the regulars are Shaun and Kat Fetzer, managers of downtown Bradenton's The Lost Kangaroo.

They have been fans since the days of the Iron Skillet.

Shaun Fetzer likes his pastrami and other meat dishes, while his wife sticks to vegetarian parts of the menu.

"They have done such a great job of incorporating both options," Kat Fetzer said. "Everything's made from scratch like you would make at home -- if you could cook that good!"

IF YOU GOWhat: Sage Biscuit CafeWhere: 6656 Cortez Road, BradentonWhen:7 a.m.- 3p.m. dailyInformation: 941-792-3970.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow