There are many reasons to visit Sarasota's Fresh Start Cafe, but for my wife it all comes down to one thing: burekas "the Israeli way."
The website of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes a burekas as a Jewish Sephardic pastry crafted out of flour, water, salt and margarine, stuffed with cheese, spinach and egg yolks and then served on festive occasions or sold on street corners. That's not quite how Fresh Start does it, though. They serve burekas straight up, stuffed with salted cheese, or they do it Israeli style, which means cutting open the delicate pastry and filling it with sliced hard-boiled eggs, fresh tomato slices and a hearty dose of black pepper. On the side comes a ramekin of tahini, sesame seed paste mixed with garlic and parsley and enough water to make it saucy.
Not what I typically order for breakfast—think giant, cake-like muffins stuffed with chocolate chips—but a delight nevertheless! The triangular pocket of pastry is wonderfully flaky and cheesy, while the bright red tomato offsets the hearty protein of the precisely cooked eggs. Fresh Start's tahini is subtle, too, coating the inside and offering some moisture while not obscuring any of the competing flavors.
It's great for a bunch of reasons, but I'd like to praise its size. Neither so small that you eat one then need to order something else, nor so big you have to waddle away from the table, the burekas makes for an excellent day-starter, or even a tidy lunch, and the price is just right: $5.50. I wish more restaurants offered similarly sized items, realizing that, while hungry, people aren't necessarily looking for a 2,000-calorie lunch extravaganza.
"It's simple and really satisfying," says my wife, Rachel. The dough alone is fantastic, but she highly recommends going the Israeli way. The restaurant might as well just start cooking one up when they see Rachel coming.
Fresh Start offers one other Israeli specialty, the shakshuka ($8.75), which features eggs poached in tomato sauce, but for the most part its menu covers your American basics. There are frittate, bagels with lox, salads and sandwiches. Its properly dubbed "no fuss breakfast" ($7.95) is built around hearty pancakes: chewy in the middle, crisp on the outside and dotted with cinnamon. Crossed with crunchy bacon and set beside two eggs sautéed right to the exact moment the yolk goes from liquid to gelatin, the pancakes are, like the burekas, perfectly sized. Big enough to fill you up for a day's work (if you call writing about your breakfast work), but light enough that you're not lumbering and gassy.
But enough about the food. Another major reason to visit Fresh Start is that it seems to exist in some sort of weird breeze vortex. The restaurant sits on the corner of Orange and Alderman, just south of Burns Court proper, with a consistent if never annoying flow of traffic rumbling by. It doesn't matter if it's hot, less-hot or slightly less-hot, the restaurant's shaded patio is always pleasant, with tufts of air shaking the leaves of the oak trees overhead and whistling through the bioswale to the south. Somehow, some way, it's always nice out at Fresh Start.
Fresh Start Cafe
630 S. Orange Ave., Sarasota
373-1242 or freshstartcafesrq.com
This is the umpteenth entry in a weekly column dedicated to eats that are cheap. If you have an idea for a place to feature in Cheap Eats, comment below, email me at email@example.com hit me up on Twitter:@LeveyBaker.