Blue Marlin, Livin' the Dream
Long before the Blue Marlin was a restaurant, it was a dream. Every weekend, Adam and Marianne Ellis hosted casual gatherings in their home revolving around food, family, and friendship.
Adam (who has spent 20 years in the restaurant industry working at prestigious local restaurants the Beach Bistro and Sign of the Mermaid) would prepare fresh seafood caught by his fishermen friends. Then he would join in as everyone whiled away the evenings talking and laughing and playing music.
And, as every weekend wound down, Adam and Marianne would look at each other and say, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could open a restaurant and have it be just like this?”
Then, in 2011, an opportunity came up that they couldn’t ignore. Marianne’s family had owned a building on historic Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach for years. They had rented it out to an eclectic assortment of tenants including a tattoo parlor, a welding shop, and a hair salon. Suddenly, the historic 1920s cottage was available and Adam and Marianne hoped that, with some serious work, they could make their restaurant dream a reality.
The couple tackled the task of refinishing the cottage sustainably. They retained the original wooden floors and wainscoting, and built tables and benches from recycled dock wood as well as out of the very walls they took down to open up the dining area. The brilliant blue walls that remain hold artwork for sale by local artists, and decorative nautical touches like sailing flags, antiques, and black-and-white photos of their fishermen friends and family are everywhere you turn. The effect is a space that is airy and chic but as comfortable as stepping into someone’s living room.
Family and friends are a key ingredient in this restaurant’s success. Adam’s sister works at the restaurant, and Marianne’s nephew Morgan Greig buses tables part-time and plays music out back in The Trap Yard on the weekends with family friends like Trevor Bystrom. In fact, Morgan and Trevor have recorded an album together and the Blue Marlin will host their CD release party in July.
The owners’ teenaged son also ferries diners from the restaurant to farther-away parking areas in a courtesy golf cart. His name is Marlin, by the way, and the restaurant’s moniker is largely a tribute to him.
Three years in, Adam continues to support his local fishing buddies. He buys fresh fish daily from the local Cortez fishing fleet and pairs his super-fresh seafood with seasonally appropriate produce. Because he works with such high-quality ingredients he prepares them simply to really let the flavors shine through. Adam’s shrimp and grits is incredibly popular for good reason: He makes, quite simply, the best grits I’ve ever had (and I am from the South, so I have had all of the grits). I also tried a pecan-crusted grouper from the specials menu and I don’t think I’ve ever had a more perfectly cooked piece of fish.
Since it opened, the Blue Marlin has continued to build an increasingly devoted following. This is due not just to the impeccably prepared food but to the welcoming atmosphere this family has created. Even if you’re a stranger when you walk into the Blue Marlin, you’ll be treated like a friend. After all, you’re living the dream right along with them.