Inside The Manatee Cafe kitchen, cascades of fresh-cut color ignite as vegetables turn inside the flames of cast-iron skillets.
For 23 years, executive chef and co-owner Cheryl Crosley has led the restaurant, carefully selecting produce, protein and spices to create a flavorful, made-from-scratch menu of organic vegetarian, vegan and meat-based meals, as well as a variety of juices and smoothies.
With images of its namesake marine herbivore adorning its walls, the intimate, 32-seat restaurant serves up healthy breakfast and lunch options in a laid-back setting.
Catering to a clientele of long-time regulars and new guests alike, the restaurant strives to be an accommodating space where families can share meals together, regardless of dietary restrictions or preferences.
Breakfast is served all day, and there is something for everyone, Crosley said, with menu items ranging from breakfast burritos, omelets and pancakes, to a tofu Reuben and veggie burger.
The restaurant is located north of downtown, where it is nestled into the Westgate Plaza on State Road 16.
Q&A with Cheryl Crosley
How would you describe the restaurant’s atmosphere?
Casual. It’s like “Cheers.” … We know most of our customers, and people just sit down next to each other sometimes and start real conversations.
What is your food philosophy?
I like for people to have a crave, like a dressing they crave. People always stop me and say ‘Hey, I really love that breakfast burrito tofu,’ or something like that. It’s about remembrance, when someone knows that food.
What type of cuisine do you specialize in?
Mostly vegetarian. We have organic, vegan and gluten allergy tolerant foods. We have chicken, eggs and tuna. You have to have something for everybody. A person can have a family with someone who’s gluten-free, someone who’s vegan and someone who likes chicken, and they can all come in, and they can enjoy it.
What is your signature dish?
It’s so hard because they’re all just across the board. I would definitely say the breakfast burrito tofu and hash browns for the breakfast. I’ve got a tofu Reuben. I’ve got tofu and vegetables. I’ve got all kinds of stuff.
What would you recommend for a first timer?
That would be based on if they’re a vegan or not. If someone comes it and says ‘I’m really hungry,’ I would say do a stir-fry or a pizza. Those are the biggest things that I sell, and they can be vegetarian. It also depends on if they want breakfast or lunch. I would (for breakfast) say try a No. 1, burrito. It’s everything that I have. It’s hummus, cheese and all the stuff, and its flavorful.
Price Range: $
Location: 525 State Road 16 Suite 106, Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday–Friday | 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday