Cottonmouth is the newest restaurant by Chef David Shiplett, who also owns Birdrock Taco Shack, around the corner in Bradenton’s Village of the Arts.
| Sarasota Herald-Tribune
BRADENTON – The most highly anticipated Sarasota-Manatee restaurant opening to be planned since the start of the pandemic should take place a bit earlier than expected.
Chef/owner David Shiplett aims to unveil Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen to the public Sept. 30 after announcing earlier this summer he would open in October. The restaurant occupies a historic cottage on the main road through Bradenton’s Village of the Arts, near Shiplett’s other eatery Birdrock Taco Shack.
A casual dining destination, Cottonmouth has indoor seating adored with local artwork as well as al fresco options including a spacious, fenced in backyard area with sprawling trees providing shade and dangling Edison lights. There will also be a covered stage in the back, too, where musicians will begin performing when Sunday brunch launches with the Brown Bag Brass Band on Nov. 8, followed by nationally acclaimed Bradenton-based blues artist Doug Deming on Nov. 15.
Cottonmouth’s tightly constructed menu focuses on Dixieland dishes such as fried green tomatoes, collard greens, and shrimp and cheese grits. “Those are the three things I knew I needed to have on the menu when I started thinking about the concept,” Shiplett said earlier this week. “And fried chicken. I also knew I had to have fried chicken.”
Before attending California Culinary Academy, before working at fine-dining establishments such as Michael’s On East in Sarasota and the old Poseidon on Longboat Key, before opening Bradenton restaurants Ezra and Soma, and before opening Birdrock Taco Shack five years ago; Shiplett began his culinary career at a Kentucky Fried Chicken located just a few miles from where he was born, at Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton 61 years ago.
“KFC was the first restaurant I worked at, at age 15, making two dollar hours, and I was lucky, I had friends working at other restaurants making $1.60 an hour in the early ’70s,” Shiplett said with a laugh. “I got to meet the (Colonel Harland Sanders) twice and I was awestruck. And I always wanted to do fried chicken, but, I wanted it to be worthy of the Colonel, you know?”
Gazing at the new Cottonmouth menu, one’s eyes are immediately are pulled to the Big Plates section and the Cast Iron Southern Fried Chicken Breast dish that comes with collard greens and mac and cheese.
“Uncle Jim, before he passed away, gave me a whole collection of cast iron, a lot that he used over an open flame,” Shiplett said. “And ever since he gave it to me I knew it was the perfect vehicle to cook chicken in; at a nice low temperature, after doing a buttermilk brine overnight so that it’s tender and juicy.”
Other Big Plates include the Bradentucky Meatloafburger with melted cheddar and tomato on Texas toast served with a side of tater tots. While Shiplett originally planned to