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Bar review: At Sweet Sage Cafe, brunch near the beach

I don't make it to brunch often, and I'm not sure exactly why. It's the perfect setup — late enough in the day for night owls like myself, delicious food and socially acceptable early-afternoon booze.

I decided to rectify this error recently and stopped into North Redington Beach's Sweet Sage Cafe. Sweet Sage came up during my initial search for quality day-drinking establishments, and it seemed too fun to miss: a kitschy, ultra-Florida brunch spot (open until 2 p.m. daily) that's dog-friendly, has an attached boutique and gift shop, and serves a variety of drinks with humorous names and unlikely promises (piña colada description: best you've ever had).

Located across the street from the beach, Sweet Sage is an easy pick for snowbirds and beach tourists. Grab some brunch, hit the beach! But it's also a solid pick for the adventurous local who might enjoy a brunch spot that's just a little bit out of left field.

Sweet Sage has three main areas. Through the front door is a small boutique, with lots of local crafts and knickknacks. Tourists will get a kick out of it. There's a dining room attached, which is as bright and colorful as the smoothies sipped by the patrons. Out back is a large, enclosed patio, which is where just about everyone sits.

The patio is very sunny, of course, but there's plenty of shade, from sun shades stretched above the tables and palm trees looming overhead.

If you asked someone who had never been to Florida before what they imagined a beach cafe would look like, this would probably fit the description. There's a small boardwalk that wraps around the main building, with the rest of the ground covered in sun-bleached shells. An impressive assortment of colorful Florida foliage fills the spaces between tables, punctuated by a babbling stone water fountain. The entire area is populated by lizards and birds, scavenging for crumbs, and generally going on about their business in what I'm assuming is a very Florida manner.

There are dozens of kitschy signs posted around the patio with all sorts of humorous sayings, which is probably the most commented-upon feature at Sweet Sage, if online reviews are any indicator. It certainly underlines the whimsical, carefree vibe — a sunny afternoon at the beach, with a wait staff that is as fun and friendly as they come.

One of the menus is exclusively for dogs. That's right, dogs are allowed on one side of the patio, and they have their own menu, which features options with names like Can't Take My Paws Off of You, Snoopie Soufflé and Who Cut the Cheese ("the dog of course!"). Of course, there's water for them to drink, too — your choice of tap or bottle.

The food menu covers all the bases, with options for breakfast, brunch (buffet-style on the weekends), and lunch. I ordered the Mediterranean Lite Bite — bagel topped with hummus, tomato, cucumber, tortilla strips, and balsamic drizzle, served with a side salad with homemade raspberry dressing — to go with my tangerine juice Screwdriver, which is made from freshly squeezed juice when in season. There are a few typical beer options, and the rest is wine, including a range of wine-based faux spirits for the handful of cocktails on the list, like the Bloody Mary, Mango Margarita and the boldly-named To Dream the Impopsicle Dream ("by Dr Martin Luther Kream").

The short cocktail menu is a hoot. For example, Dr. Sage's World Famous Bloody Mary and Bust Developer is "formulated to cure les gripes, gabbers, fibers, & light tippers," and there's a suggestion to "eat the celery stalk before it grows thru the ceiling." The drinks are nothing outrageous, but they're cheap ($4-ish), tasty, and the atmosphere you're drinking them in sells itself quite easily. There's also a full coffee menu, which is a perfect way to transition out of brunch mode and into uh-oh, it's 2 o'clock and I'm just now getting my day started mode. The espresso's not bad, and it comes with a little twist of lemon, if you like that kind of thing (I do).

Here's a sign from the patio:

"Garden Rules: feel the breeze, read a book, converse, listen to the birds, sip on a drink, & relax."

Hey, that sums it up pretty nicely. It may just be the colorful, cheerful, and decidedly quirky Sweet Sage Cafe, but I can see why people like this whole brunch thing so much.

— Contact Justin Grant at jg@saintbeat.com. Follow @WordsWithJG.

Sweet SaGe Cafe

16725 Gulf Blvd., North Redington Beach

(727) 391-0453; sweetsagecafe.com

The vibe: A funky brunch spot on the beach, popular with tourists and locals.

Food: Sides, starters, and soups, 95 cents to $5.95; entrees, $7.98 to $11.98; desserts, $1.98 to $3.98.

Booze: Beer and wine. Beer, $2.98 to $3.98; wine, $4 to $4.95.

Specialty: Everyone knows that brunch and mimosas go together and, when in season, Sweet Sage makes theirs with freshly squeezed tangerine juice, if you'd prefer it over OJ. Why not make it a tangerine Screwdriver instead, with wine-based "vodka" in place of sparkling wine? And, of course, there's a Bloody Mary—"Dr. Sage's World Famous Bloody Mary and Bust Developer"— which is made with Mr. & Mrs. T's, and garnished with the classics: three olives, lemon, lime and a comically tall celery stalk.

Hours: Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily

Bar review: At Sweet Sage Cafe, brunch near the beach 11/26/15 [Last modified: Monday, November 30, 2015 4:44pm]
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