Sustainable Cuisine Means A Passion for Sourcing at the Waterfront Restaurant
This longstanding Anna Maria Island favorite was eco-friendly before eco-friendly was cool.
Over the past few years, Anna Maria Island has acquired a reputation as being one of the most eco-friendly vacation destinations in the world.
Developers have turned the once-quiet Pine Avenue into a must-see destination by building and restoring low-impact, environmentally friendly retail spaces that have attracted a wide array of small business owners. Thanks to developments like the Anna Maria Historic Green Village, Pine Avenue has earned the moniker “The Greenest Little Main Street in America.”
Right down the road, a beloved Island restaurant has been quietly embracing green initiatives for over a decade. The Waterfront Restaurant has been praised by locals and out-of-town visitors alike for its inspired New American style of cuisine and impeccably curated beer and wine list.
But it’s not until recently that fans of the restaurant have begun to see the Waterfront’s quietly sustainable side. As it turns out, this longstanding Island favorite was eco-friendly before eco-friendly was cool and this focus on being as low-impact and environmentally conscious as possible has played a big part in elevating its exquisitely adventurous fare.
Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant is probably accustomed to squeezing through cramped, narrow kitchens that have sacrificed square footage in order to create more space in the dining room for potential customers. But the kitchen at the Waterfront is spacious, an advantage that the culinary team uses to full advantage. Nearly every bit of product is prepared entirely on-site: The vast kitchen space is fully utilized so that the kitchen team can do their own butchering, make their own stocks, bake their own breads, and even smoke their own salmon.
This way they can ensure that every aspect of their cuisine lives up to their very high standards, while at the same time eliminating the possibility for accidental allergens like gluten (which can be hidden in pre-made ingredients) to end up in their meals.
The expansive kitchen also allows plenty of room to accommodate culinary creativity in a collaborative atmosphere. Local seafood vendors stop by to deliver their freshest catch, while produce vendors come by frequently with an array of fresh, seasonal produce. Not only does this sourcing system help support the local economy and ensure that customers are getting the freshest and tastiest foods available, it serves as an inspiration for the Waterfront’s kitchen team. As a result, the daily specials are often whimsical and creative in their interpretation of sustainable cuisine.
Further, because the Waterfront staffs a whole team of chefs rather than just one head chef, they are able to learn from and inspire one another, which results in great feats of culinary experimentation.
Because the ingredients often lead the way, the Waterfront’s menu is eclectic, yet well-rounded. You can find customary Florida seafood restaurant fare like Blackened Gulf Shrimp or a Fried Grouper Sandwich listed alongside sumptuous comfort food like decadent Truffled Gouda Mac and Cheese You can also discover the more global influences in dishes like Ahi Sliders and Carnitas Michoacán.
The restaurant is very friendly to vegetarians: It offers a variety of creative salads as well as tender and tangy Fried Green Tomatoes. It can also provide extensive options for people who require a gluten-free diet.
The eco-conscious endeavors aren’t confined to the kitchen. Owners Jason and Leah Suzor are constantly looking for other ways to reduce the restaurant’s environmental impact. To start with, their restaurant equipment is highly energy efficient and they use tankless water heaters. Plus, they recycle everything they can—from the paper on your table, to the bottle your wine was poured from, to the cooking oils in the kitchen. They even use biodegradable takeout packaging, so you really have no reason to feel guilty (at least not that reason) if you decide to take a piece of dessert home to eat later.
Even better, this eco-friendly ethos is being carried forward into the Waterfront’s new craft bar. After years of serving just beer and wine, in July the Waterfront was approved to receive a full liquor license. A few months of research later (plus a 10-day closure to revamp the bar area and train the bartending staff) the Waterfront debuted its new menu of specialty cocktails in late September. Each drink is handcrafted with the same care and attention to detail as the food. Whatever ingredients they can make from scratch they do, from homemade simple syrups to handmade sour mix. They also incorporate local ingredients whenever possible, whether it’s fresh mint to be muddled or local produce to garnish your glass.
There are dozens of casual fine-dining restaurants serving seafood all along Florida’s Gulf Coast. At first glance, the Waterfront restaurant might seem like just one in the crowd. But a closer look reveals a restaurant that values and respects its customers, the community it exists in, and the world at large. Its quiet commitment to green living and its consistent support of local vendors has a very real and positive impact on the fragile ecosystem around us. It also has a positive effect on their food. The passion for sourcing and creating only the finest ingredients comes across in every bite—and now in every sip.
The Waterfront Restaurant doesn’t just provide a great view and a warm community atmosphere; it also serves some of the finest sustainable cuisine that Florida has to offer.