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WHAT’S IN STORE: Bravo Coastal Bar and Kitchen to open in August – Sarasota Herald |

WHAT’S IN STORE: Bravo Coastal Bar and Kitchen to open in August – Sarasota Herald

Westfield Siesta Key has kept the next act of its redevelopment in the wings.


But you can still expect to say, Bravo!  

The shopping mall has splattered “coming soon” signs at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Siesta Drive for its new players — Metro Diner, Connors Steak and Seafood, Lucky’s Market, and the Naples Flatbread and Wine Bar — but there’s been one newcomer missing from the list.

And we finally have a better idea of what it’s going to look like.

Bravo Coastal Bar and Kitchen is tentatively slated to open Aug. 31.

It’s been more than three years since Bravo Brio Restaurant Group first announced plans to open BRAVO! Cucina Italiana in Sarasota as part of the mall’s redevelopment into a lifestyle and entertainment center. That project met some unexpected delays, and the mall itself was the subject of a tense lawsuit that alleged that Manatee County-based Benderson Development Co. tried to thwart the property’s redevelopment plan.

Sarasota diners may benefit from that lag, though. Now, we’re not getting a BRAVO! when the restaurant opens next month. We’re getting the chain’s new, fresh, small-plate-focused coastal concept, one of the first communities in the country to have it.

I first caught wind of this possibility in December. That early in the process, the details that Brian O’Malley, the CEO and president of the restaurant group, could share were pretty slim.

He got to be more candid when I spoke to him Friday morning.

The new coastal Mediterranean concept was a way for the company to hold onto its Italian roots but move away from the dark, red-and-gold tones and bone-white china that we’ve seen at the sister restaurant chain, Brio Tuscan Grille, one of which is at the Mall at University Town Center. 

The open air Bravo Coastal Bar and Kitchen will have a large bar area, brightly colored dinnerware and a menu laden with small plates made for passing around the table.

This isn’t a place that you only go to on special occasions, O’Malley told me. The Coastal Bar and Kitchen is designed so you can grab a bite and a drink whether you’re unwinding from a long Monday with coworkers or spending a Saturday evening catching up with old friends.

They’ve upped their bar menu with infused cocktails and more craft beer than you’d see at the traditional BRAVO! and Brio restaurants and they’ve created a food menu that’s healthier and lower calorie. The new dishes have fewer ingredients but they’re used to their full potential, O’Malley said.

There’s prosciutto and burrata pizza with tomato sauce, chili flakes and basil, and a shaved vegetable salad with crunchy veggies, farro, feta, pepitas and a simple vinaigrette. The Coastal Bar and Kitchen has a seasonal bruschetta and dessert that are both listed on the menu, but not specified beyond a small note encouraging guests to “ask somebody.” Small plates run between $3 for bread with pesto, sea salt butters and evoo and up to $16 for scallops with butternut squash, pistachios and salsa verde. There’s a strong variety with larger dishes too starting with bucatini pomodoro for $13 or going up to $28 for the braised short rib with smoked gouda polenta, Brussels sprouts, hobb’s bacon and walnuts.

There are actually only two items on the whole lineup that are made with cream, O’Malley told me, something you’d find quite a lot more of across town at Brio.

The millennial generation has shifted the way that people dine. O’Malley knows that his customers don’t just go out to eat to go out to at anymore. Millennials are all about enjoying themselves and trying different things. Even though they won’t be his prime target in Southwest Florida, he recognizes that older adults also dine differently today than they did a decade ago. They’re after that experience just as much as the younger generation is.  

The sharable, lighter concept has already taken off in California, where it’s been operating for a few months and goes by the name Brio Coastal Bar and Kitchen. There’s another in the works in Charlotte, North Carolina, where O’Malley’s team is transforming a Brio Tuscan Grille into the new model.

They’re prepared to roll them out in other markets, too, if these three do well.

That’s an exciting role for us. Typically, large companies look to audiences in bigger communities when they’re experimenting with new concepts.

It’s almost time to say Bravo!, Sarasota.

And with all this on the line, you can bet the corporate company is going to be listening to just how much you do or don’t applaud. 

Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @MaggieMenderski. Read her daily blog at whatsinstore.blogs.heraldtribune.com.

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