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Vol 5 No. 17 - January 12, 2005

For a family feast, try the Anna Maria Oyster Bar

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

The Anna Maria Oyster Bar is the perfect place to take family and friends for a reasonable, delicious meal in a relaxed, tropical setting.

"We are very family oriented," owner John Horne said. "We pride ourselves on value for your dollar. Some of my customers come in four or five times a week."

Horne, who worked for Fast Eddie for many years, opened his first Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Anna Maria City Pier in the 1990s. In 1997, he opened the first mainland restaurant on U.S, 41, called Landside to distinguish it from the pier location.

John Horne at the Cortez restaurant.

When the pier lease expired in 1999, Horne chose not to bid on it again and concentrated on Landside. In 2002, he opened the Cortez location, and in 2003, he opened the Ellenton location.

"One of the reasons I keep my value for the dollar is that I go into second or third generation restaurants where the owner has retired," he said. "It keeps the overhead down. That’s a big key to it."

The lunch menu includes a wide variety of soups, appetizers, salads, sandwiches, seafood specialties and daily business lunch specialties. The dinner menu includes soups, appetizers and salads; shellfish, fish and surf specialties; steamer pots and pasta skillets; sandwiches and early bird specials.

Of course, seafood is king here with a choice of mussels, clams, shrimp, crab, calamari, oysters, scallops, lobster, grouper, salmon, catfish, tuna and orange roughy served a host of ways.

"The menu is the same in all three restaurants, but the decor, while tropical, is a little different in each restaurant," Horne explained. "The clientele is very similar in all three. We do a great lunch and a great dinner but not much late night."

Horne said Landside is one of the most popular restaurants for customers from Bradenton and Sarasota to meet because it’s equidistant from both. In addition, it’s easily accessible from downtown Bradenton.

Another point of pride, Horne said, is the fact that he’s been able to keep the staff intact over the years.

"People get comfortable with a bartender or server," he said. "It’s nice to have a consistent face. We get the right people in the right job."

Horne is also known for his generosity and his charity of choice is the Anna Maria Island Community Center, where he has been a board member for many years.

"I started umpiring at the Center in the early 1990s," he recalled. "I had a blast; I loved it. While I was still umpiring, I became a board member. The Center is my main focus for charitable activities. The money is going to a good place."

In 2000, Horne started his annual golf tournament to benefit the Center. The first year, it raised $12,000; this year’s tournament raised $50,000.

"Every year, I offer it to the people that played the last year, and it sells out every time," he said. "I get a lot of help from my vendors. They supply us with food and prizes. It’s obviously for a good cause and people appreciate that. We try to give them a good time."

At Christmas, the employees collect gifts and toys for less fortunate families, working through a local church.

"This year, we wanted to do something for the hurricane victims, he said. "We collected toys, food, beds, blankets and clothes for people in central Florida."

Horne said Sean Murphy, of the Beach Bistro and Mangrove Grill, got him involved in the annual teacher appreciation dinners that Murphy initiated several years ago. This year the restaurant treated the teachers and support staff from Seabreeze and Virgil Mills elementary schools to appetizers, a buffet dinner and door prizes.

"They had a blast," he said. "This is our second year doing it, and we plan to continue."

In addition, Horne donates the bar for the Center’s annual auction, Affaire to Remember. He also participates in the local blood bank’s twice yearly blood drives. Blood donors get a free T-shirt and lunch at one of the restaurants.

Name: Anna Maria Oyster Bar
Owner: John Horne
Address: 6696 Cortez Road and 6906 U.S. 41 in Bradenton and 1525 51st Ave. E. in Ellenton
Phone: 792-0077 (Cortez), 758-7880 (U.S. 41) and 721-7773 (Ellenton)


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