A taste of Paradise
SUN PHOTO/LOUISE BOLGER
Jackie Estes owns
Paradise Cafe with her daughter, Cindy Thompson.
It’s really hard to define paradise when you live there. The existence of a positive and harmonious environment that is timeless are words frequently associated with paradise. And although this definition may seem a little over indulgent for a modest Island café, they are nevertheless spot on.
Jackie Estes and her daughter, Cindy Thompson, are the perfect examples of what small business entrepreneurs can do in this country. Paradise Café & Catering, the business they established together is starting its 15th year this week, and although Thompson has moved on to other businesses, Estes is still continually tweaking and enhancing her vision of what an island café should be.
Starting out with breakfast and lunch, Estes’ unending energy and innovation has turned Paradise Café into one of the most popular evening dining restaurants on the Island for the past 10 years.
Her breakfast and lunch menu includes fresh baked bagels and muffins, build your own omelets and the Eggel breakfast sandwich.
If you love pancakes you have a lot to choose from, banana, chocolate chip, cranberry walnut, blueberry or buttermilk. Soup, salads a variety of sandwiches and bagels-n-lox are just some of the other menu items.
But it’s in October, when Estes starts to serve dinner three nights a week, that gets mouths watering. Her signature dishes are legendary on Anna Maria starting with colossal tempura prawns, so much in demand they became a permanent menu item.
Prime rib, herb crusted salmon and lemon chicken are also on the menu and weekly there are two specials, one a fish entrée and one either a pasta or lamb entree. Every dinner comes with potato or rice and Paradise Café’s famous roasted acorn squash with sweet maple butter. Wine and beer are complimentary.
The food is only one of the ingredients that makes Paradise Café so special. At night the café is converted from casual down home dining into an elegant wonderland of sparkling lights, candles, linen, crystal and soft jazz, including a couple of alfresco dining tables. Starting in November reservations are an absolute must.
On Oct. 15, Paradise Café will be celebrating its anniversary with balloons, party decorations and free Eggels till 10 a.m., and around Thanksgiving Estes puts up her legendary Christmas tree.
For the last 10 years, in conjunction with the Anna Maria Elementary School, the 10-foot Christmas tree at Paradise Café is decorated with tickets representing boys and girls who are in need of a little Christmas cheer. Diners pick a ticket and then return an appropriately wrapped gift to Paradise Café to be distributed to students at school before Christmas.
It’s an Island tradition, which has grown right along with Paradise Café’s popularity down through the years.
Paradise Café also offers a catering service and has been written up in Good Housekeeping, the Bradenton Herald and has consistently been a Sun Reader’s Choice winner through the years.
Estes credits her staff of 5, who have all been with her for 10 years, for the restaurant’s success, and thanks them for treating her business like it was their own.
When people ask Estes when she plans on retiring, her response is never and why should she. When you live and work in paradise you’re timeless, just like Paradise Café.
Paradise Café & Catering
3210 East Bay Drive
Monday through Saturday,
7 a.m. to 2 p.m
Sunday, 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Dinner served starting in October
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Visa, MasterCard & Discover credit and debit cards accepted