At nearly opposite ends of town are two chefs who, purely by coincidence, once worked in Netherlands kitchens. Both of them also opened a new Punta Gorda cafe this month.
Zoet Snack Bar
Some bakeries take their sweet time before going full-on cafe.
It’s been three years since Zoet (pronounced like “soot” with a z) Sweet Boutique started serving homemade ice cream, baked goods and a few savory options in the Bermont Road Winn-Dixie plaza.
But the unit next door, which had housed Curry and Kabab Indian restaurant before its move to Port Charlotte, eventually proved irresistible to Zoet’s Dutch owners, Jordy Beumer and Sharon Hooijkaas.
In January, the couple opened Zoet Snack Bar there, basically doubling their seating, their variety of savory offerings and their kitchen space, which gained a much-needed walk-in fridge and freezer.
The new snack bar menu offers two burgers; two hot dogs; deep-fried croquets; Dutch, Belgian and American fries specials, each with a rich topping like the Belgian’s beer beef stew; and new sandwich favorites like the Chicken Saté Sandwich—Indonesian/Dutch-style grilled chicken with peanut sauce and pickled cucumber. You can top just about anything on the menu with extras like crispy onions, aioli, peanut sauce, even homemade southern-style chili.
Zoet Sweet Boutique and Zoet Snack Bar ($), 941-769-1746, 27670 Bermont Road, are open Tuesday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
One way or the other, Punta Gorda Beef ‘O’ Brady’s super-entrepreneur Chris Lansdale never stops moving.
After tripling sales and square footage for a once-failing Beef’s, making it the chain’s largest and highest-volume venue, he recently set his sights on a catering venture with a local chef whom he knew and admired.
Well-spoken Barbadian Chef Sugar Cane, schooled in Brooklyn and a Johnson & Wales culinary graduate, has experience spanning New York City’s Gotham Bar and Grill; Het Prentenkabinet in Leiden, Netherlands; and Max’s Grille in Boca Raton. But he also learned from watching early TV chefs like Graham Kerr (The Galloping Gourmet), Julia Child and Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet).
“I’m not an old man, but I’m not a young man either,” he chuckled.
He’s known locally for his own catering company, Lion Heart Culinary, not to mention his work at River City Grill, where he was night and daytime sous-chef for the last three years. Due in part to his and his staff’s efforts on the day shift, River City won Harbor Style’s Hottest Best Place for Lunch for the first time in 2016 and again in 2018.
“I like catering, I really do,” said the chef. But then an unexpected alternative opportunity arose, just down Taylor Road from Beef ‘O’ Brady’s.
The commander of American Legion Post 103 approached Lansdale and the chef about creating a menu, which led to something entirely different. On Jan. 21, the pair and Chris’s stepmom, Valerie Patten Lansdale, opened Stacks homemade kitchen to the public, inside the Punta Gorda post.
There’s a separate entrance, where customers who aren’t Legion members may walk right into a vast dining hall that seats over 100.
Chris explained, “The public is welcome any time, but you must be with a member or be a member yourself to purchase alcohol.”
Chef Sugar Cane added, “At Stacks we’re hoping to bring palate-pleasing food, quality and happiness to people at the Legion and the community. We have an all-scratch kitchen, where everything is made fresh, without preservatives, with a lot of love and care.”
This humble gentleman even makes his own doughnuts, funnel cake and granola—all with love.
“I feel like you can taste love,” he said simply.
And his restaurant is built on the concept of “stacks.”
“We were talking about building up and stacking extras on top of, say, our corned beef hash. Then we started having fun with it. Here, people have an active role in their dining experience, designing their own dish and topping it with ‘stacks’ like fresh tomato, cheese, sausage gravy.
“So we called it Stacks, because it’s a place where you can build your own stacks.”
Chef Sugar Cane’s tongue-in-cheek humor also manifests in clever menu options like Cinful Waffle (cinnamon roll waffle with maple cream cheese drizzle), Commander Pie (“our twist on the classic shepherd’s pie,” with corned beef hash, cheese, bacon, pepper and onions), Killer Grilled Cheese (“2 die 4”—with cheese, pesto, tomato and fried egg), Tough Guy Salad (topped with two-alarm chili, cheddar, and cornbread croutons) and The Rich Boy (shrimp po-boy on croissant).
Stacks ($), 2101 Taylor Road, inside American Legion Post 103, is open daily 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., serving breakfast until 11 a.m. Monday to Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday. Dinner might be served in the future.