It was a seafood lover’s delight Saturday and Sunday at the
27th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, which set
records for attendance at 24,000 and gross proceeds at
$227,000. SUN PHOTO/MAGGIE FIELD
Although they stumbled onto Anna Maria Island by chance and turned north (by sheer luck) after crossing Cortez Bridge, Sally Woodward and Julie Quinlivan accomplished within a couple hours what would take anyone else at least a month to get done. By the afternoon they had a contract to buy a house and as the sun was setting, barefoot at the Sand Bar, they started planning a restaurant of their own.
Then, Sally and Julie took their time.
They said they spent the next 13 months "riding our bikes, walking the beaches, going into every restaurant and each business. We entered a scavenger hunt, road the trolley, went to every concert, art festival and really got to know the people."
In December, they opened Rudy’s.
"Taking our time before opening Rudy’s was the best thing we could do.,” Julie said. “Now we feel like the north end chamber of commerce. Tourists are always stopping in to get advice and directions."
Although real restaurant pros with resumes to prove it, neither is a smooth-talking, crisp white chef jacket-draped operator. On the contrary, these pretty, no-nonsense, but terribly funny gals, spend over 10 hours a day working together in their restaurant.
"Between us we have almost 70 years in the restaurant business,” Julie explained. “We sold our restaurant in Denver, Colo., and waited for a break in the snow. We packed up the motor home with our two dogs and took off for the west coast of Florida. We didn’t know where we’d end up.
“Once on Gulf Drive but before we hit Holmes Beach, we knew that Anna Maria was our sleepy little beach town. We needed it and it needed us. A perfect place to open up a perfect little breakfast and lunch joint.
“We fell in love with the Island,” added Sally.
Theres plenty to love at Rudy’s also. Service is sweet, caring and attentive, and the food is right on target.
The restaurant, like the name, has quirkiness to it. Rudy’s is named after Julie’s terrier-chihuahua mutt because Sally’s dog had a name that just didn’t sound like a restaurant – Gus.
The look is of a true beach eatery, thanks to tabletops of turquoise Formica, palm tree fabric covered stools, bright colored walls and beach murals. It’s charming without being fussy. Shelves by the window display bobble heads.
"These are the only things we brought from our last restaurant and locals keep adding to them,” Julie said. “Strawberry Shortcake was bought at a garage sale for us, a little boy donated this UPS driver bobble and this one, Corky Chisholm, invented chicken fried steak. There’s a lot to learn from bobble heads."
And there’s a lot to enjoy eating at Rudy’s.
Mmmmmmmuffins! One of the fastest ways to banish morning ennui is a strong cup of coffee and a warm coffee cake or apple, strawberry or blueberry muffin. These are nothing like the industrially-produced, cellophane-wrapped things served elsewhere with the same name. Zaftig, robust and substantial, these muffins give new meaning to breakfast food.
This week brings strawberry muffins baked with sour cream and fresh Plant City strawberries. Sally or Julie will also toast and butter it.
Or beat you a couple eggs and serve them up with a sausage patty or bacon. How about a toasted sub roll stuffed with steak, eggs, mushrooms, onions, cheese and peppers? Perhaps have it done veggie, if that’s more your style. And that’s just breakfast.
At lunchtime, the subs are the main attraction and demonstrate Sally and Julie’s understanding of the American sandwich. The tempting Philly cheese steak, a classic, or a French dip – think of it as an American take on the Gallic version with more chutzpah. The Italian sub, well really more of a fresh sliced deli sandwich, is simple, delicious and satisfying. Tuna salad, meatball, club, chicken salad and roast beef and cheddar round out the menu.
9906 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria
Monday through Saturday
Breakfast: 8 a.m. to noon
Lunch: 11 a.m. till 4 p.m.
Rudy’s Strawberry Muffins
• 4 c. all-purpose flour
• 2 c. sugar
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1 c. oil
• 2 c. sour cream
• 4 large eggs
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 3 c. Plant City strawberries
Preheat oven to 400°F. and butter muffin cups. In a bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Add sliced strawberries and gently mix. Combine oil in another bowl with sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Stir liquid mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes