SOUTH VENICE — The minute people move to Southwest Florida, they’re seized with an insatiable desire for whatever they ate back home but can’t find the likes of here.
“It’s just not the same here,” they lament.
Québécois crave poutine, Wisconsinites yearn for squeaky cheese curds, Buffalonians hanker after beef on ‘weck, midwesterners pine for Kansas-style pulled pork.
The Bloomquists understand. Natives of the northern Virginia/D.C. area, Bryan, Justin and Justin’s wife, Ashley, Bloomquist missed Maryland-style crab cakes and know the difference.
While serving “great food fast” at their concessions—The Pilot House at Venice Beach and Shark Tooth Beach at Nokomis Beach—they were bombarded with visiting northerners’ pleas. They sympathized with every “Where can I get a good cheesesteak?” and each “Where’s the best crab cake?” and figured it was time to do something about it.
Their concession menus were already peppered with hometown favorites made with authentic ingredients, like Philly cheesesteaks, Texas state fair corn dogs, and brats on New York hinged rolls. And they quickly became noted for quality beyond the usual concession fare.
“We were snowbirds ourselves at one point, coming down here to visit my dad,” said Justin. “We’re all in the restaurant industry and always thought it would be cool to open a little bar and grill catering to snowbirds.”
Sure, some eateries in the area specialize in foods from back home—New England seafood, Philly cheesesteaks. But multiple state favorites under one roof? It’s a wonder no one’s done it before.
Even year-rounders and native Floridians are applauding the menu at Venice’s new 58-seat, fast-casual café, Snowbirds Grille. There’s something — including home-city photos lining the walls — for everyone.
It doesn’t hurt that the Bloomquists’ dad, Mark, is vice president of marketing for US Foods and can help his sons source authentic, high-quality ingredients from all over the country.
Justin recalled, “One lady came up to me in the dining room, hugged me, kissed me on the cheek and said, ‘Thank you! I’m from Maryland, I’ve been here for 18 years and haven’t been able to find a crab cake like this until now.’”
Since opening, Bryan said, they’ve expanded their dinner offerings to include platters of beer-battered cod, jumbo New England clam strips, and crab cakes, with two sides. They’ve also added organic rice-and-quinoa bowls and plan a rotating menu of specials to accommodate customers who pipe up, “This is great, but you know what you really oughta have?”
Snowbirds Grille ($$), 941-492-5798, 4167 S. Tamiami Trail (Venice Village Shoppes, near Publix), is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday and to 4 p.m. Sunday. Rotating regional wine and beer specials.