SUNNY SIDE UP:
Sometimes, the key to keeping a loyal following is making sure you have plenty of wall space. BY BARRY KAUFMAN
There are very few restaurants on the island that inspire the kind of loyalty that Sunrise Café does. For some, the wide porch at the Palmetto Bay Marina restaurant is almost the community breakfast table, a place where friends and neighbors start their day over coffee and the kind of eggs benedict that fill daydreams for weeks after you taste them. For others, it’s a spot of honor on the calendar, a regularly repeating Saturday morning appointment with a country fried steak. For others, it’s something else, something beyond loyalty. Like the couple in Atlanta who decided the only suitable celebratory birthday meal was lunch at Sunrise Café, prompting a spontaneous five-hour road trip. “We’re extremely fortunate that we have that kind of following,” said Leslie Stewart, co-owner along with her husband Paul. That loyalty extends beyond the borders of the community breakfast table set. “Even though a lot of our base is tourists, they’re recurring tourists who come back every year.” As if on cue, in walked Curt Imerman of Knoxville, Tennessee. He came bearing a gift, a hand-drawn pen and ink sketch of the restaurant. It was a token of his enduring loyalty, so well-timed and on the nose you could scarcely believe his visit hadn’t been planned. “We’ve been coming here for well over 15 years,” said Imerman. Pointing to a young diner just outside the glass doors of the Mermaid Room, the private annex in which we were seated, he added. “The little guy, he’s five and he wants to come here every day. I just have to be here Thursday mornings because I love that peach pecan French toast.” 12
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