Cravings Blog

Bradenton dining scene featured in new exhibit at Downtown Central Library

Take a tasty trip through time at the Manatee County Downtown Central Library through the Bradenton Eateries exhibit.

The Bradenton Eateries: Then and Now, which opened Wednesday and officially kicks off Thursday with a food-filled reception at 11 a.m., highlights the historical trail of Manatee County restaurants. The exhibit largely focuses on Cortez and downtown Bradenton, where some of Manatee County’s eateries have history dating to the 1920s.

“I think people don’t realize what a rich history there is,” said Ericka Dow, supervisor of information services for the library.

The exhibit, hosted in the library’s Eaton Room, is the brainchild of Central Library librarian David Breakfield. He initially wanted to focus on the history of theaters, drive-ins and restaurants in Bradenton, but was quickly overwhelmed. Breakfield and Dow decided to narrow it to food to make it more manageable.

With a food exhibit, there’s the added benefit of easily generating interest.

“It’s such a variety in terms of the cuisine and the things different places offer, so I thought it would be good to showcase that,” Breakfield said.

The biggest challenge in assembling the exhibit, which includes old menus, advertisements and historical information about Manatee County restaurants, was getting in touch with current restaurant owners. Dow and Breakfield “tried and tried” to get in touch with restaurateurs to collect artifacts but were unsuccessful because most were busy wrapping up season traffic.

Pier 22, a restaurant housed in a building that was constructed almost 100 years ago, provided the library with a menu from the 1970s. Though it wasn’t under the Pier 22 name at that time, director of marketing Tabatha Davis said working with the library on the exhibit is important to the restaurant’s mission.

“We feel really lucky to be a part of this community where we have this Southern charm that you don’t get anywhere else,” Davis said. “And being right on Main Street, we want to live up to that expectation.”

The Thursday morning reception will feature doughnuts from Turner Donut Shop, pizza from Fav’s Italian Cucina, sushi from Pier 22 and shake and malt samples from Shake Pit. The reception will be held at the Central Library, 1301 Barcarrota Blvd. W., beginning at 11 a.m.

The exhibit runs through July.

For more information, call the library at 941-748-5555.

Janelle O’Dea: 941-745-7095, @jayohday