A celebration of renewal and rebirth, exchanging eggs predated the Christian holiday of Easter. Romans, Chinese, Persians and other cultures colored eggs, etched eggs, carved eggs, hid eggs and hunted eggs, all in the name of springtime's return. Us, we prefer ours on top of crispy English muffins with a lot of creamy hollandaise. Easter brunch is something of a tradition in these parts, and many of the heavy-hitters are fully booked a couple of weeks before the big day. We set out to uncover some of the area's lesser-known or unexpected Easter brunches, most offering some specials or prix fixe deals for the occasion.
260 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 502-5002; cafealma.com.
Easter brunch 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a la carte menu that includes omelets and Benedicts (Blackstone combines baguette, applewood-smoked bacon, tomatoes, poached eggs and hollandaise, $11), French Toast Tower with challah bread, bananas and blueberries, topped with vanilla mascarpone ($9); most brunch items $8 to $15, dinner items $15 to $30. Call to reserve.
Farmer's Kitchen Restaurant
3500 East Bay Drive, Largo. (727) 530-5181.
Open 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., with full breakfast menu and Easter dinner specials available at 11 a.m. Menu includes breakfast quesadillas ($6.95), stuffed French toast with bananas and peanut butter ($6.95), strawberry crepes ($6.45), Belgian waffles, country-fried steak ($7.45); Easter special (available at 11 a.m.) includes smoked, baked ham with fruit cocktail sauce. Only parties of 5 or larger need to reserve.
Harvey's Fourth Street Grill
3121 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 821-6516; harveys4thstreetgrill.com.
Brunch 9:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (champagne available after 11 a.m.), with diverse menu that includes eggs Sardou and Blackstone (each $6.95), ham and cheddar scramble ($5.95), blueberry buttermilk pancakes and pecan waffles (each $5.95), smoked fish spread ($6.25), tomato avocado ($4.50) and other salads. Only large parties need to reserve.
Hooker Tea Company
300 Beach Drive NE, Suite 124, St. Petersburg. (727) 894-4832; hookertea.com.
Individual quiches with side of fruit ($5.95); tea of the day with scone or oatmeal ($4.95); gourmet oatmeal infused with flavored teas like peach or chai with honey, dried fruit ($3.95). Open Easter 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
951 34th St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 323-3915.
Pancakes are popular here, from silver dollar ($3.29) to blueberry ($6.29). Menu also includes eggs, bacon, corned beef hash ($6.99), Belgian waffles ($4.29), plus entrees like Southern fried chicken ($8.99), fresh amberjack ($13.99) and fried green tomatoes ($2.99). Restaurant is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; reservations not needed.
La Maison Gourmet
471 Main St., Dunedin. (727) 736-3070; lamaisongourmet.com.
Open 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Easter with an a la carte brunch menu that includes crab cake Oscar ($10), brioche and eggnog French toast ($8), plus salads and pastas like lobster and cheese ($12), cheesecake with wine berry sauce ($6). Reservations recommended.
6661 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 381-1212; obistroonline.com.
Brunch 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a la carte items such as creme brulee French toast ($5.95), Florentine or bananas Foster crepes ($7.95-$6.95), omelets including Reuben ($7.95), wild mushroom and brie ($9.95), smoked salmon and Boursin ($9.95), plus breakfast eggs, sausage and more; dinner specials 1 to 8 p.m. Reservations recommended.
4125 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 821-3773; pepinrestaurant.net.
Pepin's new Sunday brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. adds traditional Easter items like ham at the carving station, plus omelets, dessert stations, breakfast fare, salads and soups, fruits and cheeses. $15.95 adults, $8.95 ages 2-12, under 2 free. Reservations accepted.
Time Out Restaurant
111 Boardwalk Place, John's Pass Village, Madeira Beach. (727) 289-7148; lifesaboutacooltimeout.com.
Open noon to 10 p.m. on Easter, with regular menu of handcrafted burgers and hand-cut steaks, fish, vegetarian options, signature smoked ribs ($16.99 for a full rack) and shepherd's pie ($9.99), plus separate menus for both younger and older kids. Reservations recommended.
3225 S MacDill Ave., Tampa. (813) 831-4694; brunchery.com.
Regular menu, with most items $5.39 to $7.79, including Benedicts (the Bayshore Benedict for $7.79 has scrambled eggs on a croissant with cheddar, asparagus, bacon, hollandaise), stuffed French toast ($7.79), crepes and quiches, plus sandwiches and other lunch fare. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
601 S Harbour Island Blvd., Tampa. (813) 277-0112; jacksonsbistro.com.
Brunch hours 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with sushi, pasta, omelet and carving (turkey, ham, roast beef) stations, salads, pastries and breakfast items; dessert station includes bananas Foster. $31.95 adults, $10.95 kids 10 and under, does not include tax, gratuity, alcohol, juice or soda. Reservations recommended.
14366 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 908-7023; jchristophers.com.
Blueberry "crunchcakes" and roasted turkey and avocado breakfast skillets are among a la carte breakfast items; or choose from lunch menu items including soups, quesadillas, salads like chicken Waldorf, sandwiches like turkey Dijon and burgers, shrimp and grits, plus some special items for Easter, most $5.99 to $10.99. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., reservations not required.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen
4115 S MacDill Ave., Tampa. (813) 832-3037; maddogs.com.
Brunch menu (starting at 10 a.m.) has both a sweet and savory side, from bananas Foster French toast and apple cinnamon pancakes (each $7) to bangers and eggs ($6) and crabcake Benedicts ($12) with wilted spinach and cilantro hollandaise; there's a chili and cumin-dusted cucumber salad, hummus and naan, lunch items like curry chicken wrap ($8), shepherd's pie ($12) and fish and chips ($11) starting at noon, plus special items for Easter. Reservations recommended.
4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa. (813) 313-3235; pelagiatrattoria.com.
Made-to-order omelets, plus waffles, French toast and smoked salmon, cold cuts, mozzarella roulade, salad station, quiche, breakfast pastries, eggs, sausage and bacon, carrot cake and tiramisu served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., $25 adults, $12 kids 10 and younger. Reservations required.
3203 W Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa. (813) 831-9339.
Open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Easter, with full menu (most items under $10) of frittatas (veggie $7.25, or Mexican with chorizo, $7.45), breakfast items, sandwiches, salads including Cobb ($7.95), plus specials that include Smokey and the Benedict ($9.95) with house-cured bacon, hollandaise, poached egg and grilled tomatoes. Reservations not required.
Red Rose Inn
2011 N Wheeler St., Plant City. (813) 759-1888; redroseinnandsuites.com.
Special Easter brunch buffet with three seatings of 11 a.m., 1 p.m., or 3:30 p.m., with baked ham, roast turkey, prime rib, salads, shrimp cocktail, a chocolate fountain, plus desserts and a visit from the Easter Bunny. $32.95 adults, $15.95 for kids 6-12; reservations recommended.
At Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 274-7809; riverwalkbrunch.com.
Easter brunch 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with omelets and breakfast dishes, waffles and pancakes, carving station with ham, lamb and beef; Southern and New Orleans cuisine stations with ribs, gumbo and jambalaya; Asian and South American cuisine; seafood including smoked salmon, shrimp mojitos, kids' buffet, plus desserts and champagne. Horse and carriage rides, pictures with the Easter Bunny, live music. $39.95 adults, $28 seniors, $17.95 12 and under, and 5 and under free. Call to reserve.
Catches Waterfront Grille
7811 Bayview Ave., Port Richey. (727) 849-2121; catcheswaterfrontgrille.com.
Choose an appetizer, entree and dessert from special menu for $40 per couple, plus regular menu available, includes sushi rolls, fresh fish with variety of sauce and preparation choices, lobster ravioli ($15.99), she-crab soup ($4.99 bowl), chicken Marsala ($13.99); desserts include turtle cheesecake ($4.99). Opens noon on Easter; reservations recommended.
10900 State Road 54, Trinity. (727) 376-0254; grille54.com.
Order from the regular menu, from pork dumplings with Thai dressing ($7.25) to veal, meatball or eggplant parmesan sandwiches ($5.95-$8.50), cheddar bacon fries ($3.95), spinach and Asian salads ($7.50 and $9.75), or opt for Easter specials like ham, prime rib, lamb or seafood. Most entrees $10 to $25, served 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; reservations required.
Peggy Anders, Times staff writer