Anna Maria ($9.50)
Michelle’s Brown Bag Café
32 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota
I walked over to Michelle’s Brown Bag Café at lunchtime, hungry for a tuna sandwich just like Mom used to make, but, you know, a little fancier. But when I got to Michelle’s and looked up at the chalkboard menu my eyes skipped right by the “Bayfront Tuna.” I just couldn’t look away from the “Anna Maria.” It promised “locally smoked salmon, baby greens, sweet pickled red onion, sprouts and herbed goat cheese.” The man at the register suggested pumpernickel rye would be the best bread to complement my sandwich named after the northern most city on Anna Maria Island.
Despite the place being pretty packed for the lunch hour rush, I heard my name within a few minutes and grabbed what would soon be a dining delight. The salmon was an appetizing shade of pink and had the moist tenderness of barely seared tuna. The fish was expertly cured with just the right amount of smokiness.
The fluffy, flavorful pumpernickel rye compressed readily around each bite bursting with the clever combination of sour and sweet accentuated by the pickled onions and goat cheese. The greens, sprouts and cucumbers (not mentioned on the menu but a welcome surprise) and sprouts added tasty texture.
After cleaning my plate, I approached Michelle Connor. She’s the woman who opened the downtown Sarasota restaurant in 2010 and made my splendid sandwich. She explained that the “locally smoked salmon” mentioned on the menu refers to her old home in New England. Connor said she gets the succulent seafood directly from Ducktrap River of Maine – it has been producing naturally smoked seafood since 1978 – but that I could find the smoked salmon at Whole Foods, which I plan to do. I also plan to return to Michelle’s and try that Bayfront Tuna.