Simmering along an idyllic stretch of beach road, Whitney’s LBK pops up at the crossroads of flawless shoreline and seclusive neighborhoods—providing lowkey locals and transient travelers with a welcoming moment of respite. Directly across from the Whitney Beach public access point, and just a short jaunt from the Longboat Pass Bridge, early rising fishermen and surfers unwind at the barstools for a Buddy Brew cold brew and refuel after a morning out on the water near Bradenton Beach or Anna Maria Island. As AM shifts to PM, beach cruisers fill the bike rack out front, and a steady flow of tanned, sandy beachgoers spill in to wash their feet off at the outdoor shower, happy and hungry from a long day in the sun, now fiending for a salty or sweet snack.


Meanwhile, remote-based creatives slide into booths in the back for a chill spot to post up and work on their laptops. In the evenings, Longboat residents, before turning in after a nice dinner on the Key, head over for a relaxing nightcap of cucumber margaritas around the stone firepit under the stars. From an abandoned service station to a design-centric bodega bar, Whitney’s brings a little bit of Malibu, a little bit of Cuba and a lot of fun to Longboat Key. Before it, a 1950s gas station sat vacant for years as a roadside eyesore to passersby heading north and south on Gulf of Mexico Drive. That is, until partners James Brearley of JB Holding Company and Joseph Chillura saw the lot’s camouflaged potential.

“We believed the need for Whitney’s was hidden in plain sight,” said Brearley. Wanting to ensure a place that would still “fit into the fabric of the north end,” the developers integrated plans for a casual community gathering spot and a much-needed hub for the village that felt like their own. Overhauled by architect Bob Rokop, AIA, builder Mason Martin and acclaimed Brooklyn firm Studio Tack; together the design team repurposed the derelict building with modern infrastructure while preserving the spirit of its ’50s charm. "Longboat Key itself has a different allure, an area that almost feels lost in time, hearkening back to the original draw and promise of the Florida lifestyle,” said Studio Tack. “While the bones of a shuttered gas station might not be considered a modernist gem, it was an opportunity for us to celebrate a tension of utility and sculpture, high-touch points with a relaxed leisurely ease.”

Taking on new life with nostalgic details and mid-century modern undertones, the design scheme brings chill surfer vibes with lush tropical landscaping that seamlessly blends the interior from the exterior. The building’s original architectural elements—such as the lofty canopy providing shade for the picnic tables outside and the expansive garage doors always propped open for easy foot-traffic—allow natural light to flow in and provide a peek into the whimsical interiors where an open-air layout features a palette of playful colors, custom furnishings and patterns from local makers. The chrome countertop contrasts bamboo-top barstools while retro tiles of teal, yellow and peach are dispersed throughout the walls and walkways.

Funky floral textiles from Sarasota designer Charlotte Osterman cover the cushions of throwback diner booths where succulents, leafy plants and stacks of surf history, design and architecture books lay atop for curiosos to pick up and read during lunch. Before leaving, stop in the bodega shop, stocked with classic sundries and provisions to go, including sunscreen, Whitney’s flat brim hats, custom postcards, snacks and various packaged supplies.  

Topo Chico Agua bottles line the wall of vibrant colors and signage at the order station while fresh fruit juices and a well-crafted array of refreshing Florida beers and bottles of bubbly sit in coolers of ice built into the countertops. The ever-changing menu is featured on the letterboard hanging beside the diner-style “Order up!” window. Whitney’s kitchen is overseen by executive chef and partner David Benstock—an alum of Wolfgang Puck with experience at several esteemed restaurants around the country. Benstock focuses on fun, playful dishes that emphasize the bounty of the local area.Expect a selection of shareable snacks, fresh seafood and crafty Latin staples.

“The inspiration came from the food and places that the team loves to eat when they are at the beach—from Central American surf villages to California roadside concession stands, to the fresh local grouper on the docks of our Cortez fishing community,” said Benstock. “The result is a menu that offers our own perspective on beachside fare and dockside staples, reflective of the Gulf Coast lifestyle.” While the menu reads as simple and familiar, each item is crafted from the highest-quality ingredients. “As a tenant of approach, dishes are only served if prepared from scratch. Smoked salmon for bagels and bowls is cured in-house, as is Whitney’s signature bacon. Its sea proteins are sourced directly from fishing boats just north of the restaurant in Cortez. The individual fishermen who reel in the days’ fresh catch are always highlighted on the menu board each morning. “Our chefs are having fun at the beach creating and exploring daily based on what’s in-season and freshly caught,” says Brearley, “keeping the culinary program always interesting.”

Eclectic offerings vary from smoked barbacoa or carnitas tacos to coconut shrimp with mango chili dipping, grouper bites, chilaquiles, an octopus salad, classic beach burgers, and a Sun Dog—topped with pineapple slaw, pickled jalapeño, BBQ sauce and cilantro. The popular LBK Bowl mixes warm wild rice, quinoa, lime-roasted seeds and grilled veggies-of-the-day. The Egg and Avocado Bowl pleases late-starting beach bums, prepared with sous vide sunnyside eggs, avocado, whipped ricotta, caper/dill gremolata, fresh greens and wheat toast, with an option to peak it with a hang-ten helping of smoked salmon—not to be missed with a freshly roasted cup of coffee and a mimosa for the ideal beach breaky. For a heartier breakfast fix, the Patatas Bravas comes stacked with homefry-style potatoes and is drizzled with chipotle ketchup, garlic aioli and scallions.


More naughty fixings include cinnamon sugar donut holes with a caramel dipping sauce, soft-baked chocolate chip cookies and Ybor City’s Chill Bros. Artisan Ice Cream with flavors such as Guava Pastele and Cafe Con Leche Chunk. Wash the goodness down with a pour of blended frosé or berry-hibiscus kombucha on draft. Head outside to play some cornhole and tie your pup under the giant yellow umbrella surrounded by bird-of-paradise, palms and fallen coconuts. “Whitney’s is designed to be a part of how we enjoy daily life at the beach,” shared Brearley. “From custom seagrape vinyl cushions to old-school terrazzo floors, we hope you are comfortable walking in straight off the beach, bicycle or boat.”  SRQ    

Photography by Ryan Gamma.

Whitney’s, 6990 Gulf of Mexico Dr., Longboat Key, 941-383-4606,, @whitneylbk.