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Bar Tab: Ezra Café

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Limoncello Amy Dirty

Mixologist Amy Thomas' Limoncello Tini (left) and Dirty-Dirty Martini, part of the $5 happy hour menu at Ezra Cafe in Bradenton. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

You get off work wanting nothing more than to spend your hard-earned money, but not too much of it, at a place that offers a happening happy hour. Unfortunately, these places often elude us. I got lucky the other day, real lucky. Let me tell you about it.

My dirty martini, made with Bombay gin, contained three plump olives hand-stuffed with big, beautiful chunks of blue cheese. It’s a classic cocktail done right and costs a measly five bucks. For this reason alone you should make Ezra Café a post-work destination spot.
But it gets better, much better.

Cosmo and Lolita Margarita

Mixologist Amy Thomas' Cosmopolitan (left) and Lolita Margarita, part of the $5 happy hour menu at Ezra Cafe in Bradenton. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

For starters, all the cocktails are five bucks during happy hour, which runs weekdays 4:30-6:30 p.m. Just like my Dirty-Dirty Martini, each features quality liquor and is smartly mixed, on a recent visit, by the affable Amy Thomas. In addition to $5 house wines, there’s also the Limoncello Tini, Lolita Margarita, that “Sex and the City” star the Cosmopolitan and this winning option: “Any house cocktail, any way you like it.”

I didn’t put Amy to the test. But judging by what she did with the Dirty-Dirty Martini, Limoncello Tini, Lolita Margarita and the Cosmopolitan – that’s right, I sampled all four, even the girly Cosmo – I’m sure she would have excelled at “any house cocktail, any way you like it.” I have some ideas for what to order next visit.

But as much as I like to plop down at the bar and sip on some booze, and, yes, I do, it’s not a truly great bar experience unless the establishment offers first-rate food to complement the cocktails. Joined by my amazing wife Kristin and her super cool, Cosmo-sipping mom Kim, we ordered four “small plates” (also $5). We raved about each.

Portabella Fries

Portabella Fries, part of the $5 happy hour menu at Ezra Cafe in Bradenton. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

Kristin doesn’t even really like mushrooms but loved the portabella fries with ponzu dipping sauce. The burger, which came out a perfect medium-well just as ordered, was a full-sized serving of hunger-busting sirloin. The calamari ranked as crispy as advertised with a chili aioli that paired perfectly with the squid or, well, straight-up in a spoon or on your favorite finger if no one is looking.

The Baked Wisconsin Goat Cheese, served with tomato salata and toasted bruschetta, could have been spread across a piece of shoe leather and I would’ve still happily eaten every bit. Yeah, you will have a hard time finding better $5 plates of food anywhere, especially with fabulous $5 cocktails to wash ’em down.

Burger

Grilled Sirloin Burger, part of the $5 happy hour menu at Ezra Cafe in Bradenton. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

While Ezra Café remains best known as one of West Bradenton’s few fine-dining establishments, it also has a cozy bar with, in case I didn’t already clarify, one of the top happy hours in the 941. We ate dinner at Ezra before, several times, actually, but never took advantage of the happy hour – serious mistake, right?

I’m guessing Kristin and I will soon become regulars. As if we needed another incentive, Ezra is within walking distance from our house. My fun-loving in-laws live nearby, too. Perhaps Ezra Café will become the new place for us all to meet for happy hour on a regular basis. You should join us. We are a friendly bunch, especially when full of classy cocktails and tasty food. Just ask the bartender, Amy.

Ezra Café
5629 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton; 792-0990; ezrafinefoods.com

Ezra Café
5629 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton; 792-0990; ezrafinefoods.com

Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo created what would eventually be called Bar Tab while working as a correspondent for the Herald-Tribune in 2003. He would continue writing about bars for Maxim, Tampa Bay Times, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, OC (Calif.) Weekly and The Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune as a staff writer in 2013 and has happily returned to writing our weekly column Bar Tab. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: December 18, 2013
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