The restaurant and bar, part of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar family, is located on the pier originally built in 1921, which recently opened a floating dock
The height of off-season offers an ideal time to visit our area tourist destinations such as Anna Maria Island, home to many charming restaurants and bars, including the one found at the base of Bradenton Beach's most famous structure.
Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Pier opened at the end of 2015 at the Bradenton Beach Pier, originally built in 1921. Though there are three previously opened Anna Maria Oyster Bar locations in Manatee currently, AMOB on the Pier is actually a return to the restaurant's roots, which opened its since-closed original location on Anna Maria City Pier in 1996.
Featuring a scenic waterfront backdrop while still offering drinks and food at reasonable prices — especially during its daily happy hour — AMOB draws a crowd of both tourists and locals. It seems likely to get further foot traffic now too, thanks to a floating dock recently opened on the pier, which can be found on the east end of Bridge Street, jutting into the Intracoastal Waterway.
I stop by around 4 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon that thankfully manages to remain sunny. The crowd during my visit indeed is a mix of regulars on a first-name basis with the bartender and out-of-towners dropping in after visiting the pier.
The bar is tucked into the back of the restaurant, decorated by a few flatscreen TVs, a rainbow of bottles on a window shelf and kitschy decor like a sign that reads "Drinking rum before 10 a.m. makes you a pirate, not an alcoholic." From the bar, you can see cars traversing the Cortez Bridge as well as a few dockside homes, which lends the place a neighborhood watering hole feel.
If you're looking for the more classic waterfront vista, there's a covered outdoor seating section just a few steps away from the pier. There are also several restaurant tables inside, surrounded by more kitschy decorations like Christmas string lights and dolls in hula straw skirts hanging from the ceiling.
Once I'm done at the bar, I take a walk down to the end of the pier, which offers a view of fishing village Cortez from across the water. It's an idyllic Florida scene, as I walk past vacationing kids debating who caught more fish and a pelican that nonchalantly lands onto the pier a few feet away from me.
Off the specialty drinks menu, I order the key lime margarita ($5), given an extra boost of tropical sweetness with Keke Key Lime Pie Cream Liqueur. They make a pina colada the same way, along with a rum runner and "Cortez Cosmo" made with Patron tequila.
I also try the Pier Beer ($2.50), brewed exclusively for AMOB by Bradenton's Darwin Brewing Company, an easygoing lager suited for a hot summer day. Other Sarasota-Manatee craft beers are available in cans, with Cigar City's Jai Alai from Tampa on tap along with the traditional domestics.
There's a small selection of wine available by the glass or bottle along with house wines. The menu also offers drinks of the day, including a variety of bloody marys on Saturday and Sunday.
Happy hour runs 3-6 p.m. daily and includes 50 cents off house wine and draft beer, as well as $4 select liquors. AMOB also offers happy hour pricing whenever it's raining, which should come in handy for customers during these stormy summer weeks.
AMOB's happy hour deals also include buy-one, get-one-half-off on appetizers. I try both the fried pickle chips ($5.99 regular hours) and portabella mushrooms with horseradish sauce ($7.49), both served as calamari-esque breaded and fried morsels ideal for nibbling on while nursing a drink.
Calamari's on the appetizer menu too, along with other seafood dishes such as smoked fish dip, mussels provencal and coconut or peel-and-eat shrimp. The oysters that give the restaurant its name are available by the dozen or half-dozen and served a variety of ways, including chipotle and tequila lime.
You can get grouper, mahi mahi or batter-fried pollock on a sandwich, as well as an Angus burger. And if you're there for a full meal, you have a wide variety of seafood dishes to choose from, as well as baby back ribs or pepper fried chicken.
AMOB offers some drinking and dining options at very reasonable prices — with the happy hour discounts, two drinks and two appetizers plus tip ultimately cost me about $21. But for me at least, the biggest attraction remains having the pier a few steps away, for taking an actual stroll down memory lane.
Anna Maria Oyster Bar on the Pier: 200 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach; 941-778-2662; oysterbar.net/pier
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