Friday, September 20, 2013

Bradenton Evie's opens on 53rd Avenue

Evie's Tavern & Grill is now open at 3561 53rd Ave W. Photo by Charles Schelle/Bradenton Herald
Despite "Coming Soon" on the marquee, Evie's Tavern & Grill is now open at 3561 53rd Ave. W, in Bradenton.
The bar and grill opened Thursday for business and throughout opening weekend is offering 25 percent off of food. If you can't make it out opening weekend, Evie's offers 50-cent jumbo wings on Tuesdays, $8 18-inch pizza on Wednesdays and $5 burgers on Thursdays.
Owner Michael Evanoff told me in August that he's gearing the bar and grill toward staff at area businesses and the college students at SCF and IMG Academy:
"We're focusing on more of a family atmosphere, trying to get people from IMG, the high school and college to come to this location," Evanoff told the Herald.

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You'll find sandwiches, burgers, wraps and pizza on the menu, a couple pool tables and plenty of screens to catch the game. The full-service liquor bar features 19 taps with a rotation of craft brews. One relatively uncommon brew spotted on tap Friday is Duke's Cold Nose Brown Ale by Bold City Brewery in Jacksonville.
Evie's will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays-Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, he said. The popular happy hour from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. also will come to the Bradenton location featuring $2 Bud and Bud Light bottles. The location also offers take-out orders through a separate entrance.
The original Evie's started in 1997 on Bee Ridge Road with a golf driving range, expanding to a car wash, mini-golf course and more. This will mark Evie's seventh location and the third in Manatee County. Other Manatee Evie's includes Evie's Pizzeria on University, 5897 Whitfield Ave., and Evie's Tavern in Ellenton, 5955 Factory Shops Blvd., near the Ellenton Premium Outlets.
And to put a longstanding mispronunciation to rest by some, it's Evv-vie's and not Eee-vie's, thanks to the owner's last name Evanoff. Count me among the guilty.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

PDQ chicken joint could come to Manatee pretty darn quick.

It’s no secret that PDQ will be coming to Manatee County. Where and when the Tampa-based restaurant will open here is the secret. Kind of.

PDQ, which stands for People Dedicated to Quality, wants to have multiple locations in the Manatee-Sarasota area, said PDQ spokesman Jeff Kamis during a test run of the newly opened PDQ in South Sarasota, 5164 S. Tamiami Trail.

The chicken chain nearly bought the former Checkers building , 505 1st St., that was put up for sale by Manatee County Schools, but backed out early in the process due to access issues. That parcel has since been sold to Route 32 Investments, a mystery of its own for the time being.

Ten acres is a lot for a fast-casual chicken joint. The Sarasota site is so small in comparison, the site is measured in square feet (66,989). Maybe they’ll go ahead and put a chicken coop behind it with all that space (kidding!).

For now, PDQ’s parent company MVP Holdings is non-committal about what is going in East Manatee. Kamis previously told me out of the possibilities, which includes PDQ and Lee Roy Selmon’s, could make way for a new retail concept. He didn’t have anything new to offer last week either. I doubt a Lee Roy Selmon's could open there given one is located off of the University Parkway exit.

But with the restaurant sniffing around, it was worth making the drive to see what PDQ is all about. And if you’re one of those foodies who like to be in the know, go ahead and take the drive down to Sarasota if you haven’t been to a PDQ north of the Sunshine Skyway.

During a visit with a colleague, we partook in a friends/family event that helps restaurants give out food to provide a stress test to get ready for a grand opening.

Serving chicken sandwiches and chicken tenders in a fast food setting inevitably brings up Chick-fil-a comparisons. Kamis said that’s not entirely accurate. Chick-fil-a is built on drive-thru service, while PDQ markets itself as fast-casual, similar to Chipotle and Panera Bread.

You will find a drive-thru at PDQ, but no speaker box. Just drive up and talk to someone face-to-face to put in your order and have your food delivered.

Another difference is the food prep. Your basic choices are grilled or fried chicken sandwiches, tenders or salads, in addition to sides and shakes. The chicken is battered as you order it, and the sauces are made from scratch each day.

What I noticed driving to PDQ is how large the place is from the road. This doesn’t look like an everyday fast-food restaurant with the large windows, misters blowing on the patio and comfortable seating.
The amount of windows in the restaurant is more noticeable during sunsets. Once the sun goes down, the dining room gets dark, but more of like for intimate dinner dining—you can still see your food. They won’t flick a switch and make the place bright as can be.

Hand washing is an interesting touch. The sink is located outside of the restrooms for all to use. I kind of like that because it will publicly shame all those who didn’t wash their hands because you can see who walks by the sink coming out of the restroom.

Oh, the food. The chicken is juicy and the sandwiches are built from the top-down. The toppings are on the bottom and the chicken is on top. One employee explained to me that it’s designed that way to hold the chicken in better. He was right, and I immediately thought why nobody else does this. I’ve been a victim of chicken slippage at other restaurants. The lettuce gets soaked by the juices, maybe the mayonnaise aides, but as I squeeze the bun, the chicken slips out. I haven’t had that experience at PDQ yet.

The fries are similar to the Steak ‘n Shake string fries, but were a tad soggy instead of crisp and dry. This might be due to the kitchen having to endlessly churn out food for the masses who showed up for the event. The green and sweet tea were a bit off, too, during that visit. A visit to a St. Pete PDQ recently yielded much better taste on the sweet tea.

During another visit, I decided to opt for the crispy chicken salad. It’s a standard salad with cucumber, but I wish I was asked what kind of sauce I wanted. The default sauce is the honey mustard for the salad. Having seven home-made sauces should be emphasized for each of the menu items, really, and not just the chicken tenders. I wanted to try the Buffalo Bleu, but the honey mustard did a fine job as a substitution by default. The Sweet Heat is a good one to try on sandwiches, too. It’s kind of like a sweet-and-sour sauce without the sour.

Until PDQ comes to Manatee, which is only a matter of time, Sarasota would be the closest option for me. And judging by the crowds at the Sarasota location, I could imagine that a new location would be coming pretty darn quick.

PDQ, 5164 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, is open seven days a week, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. For more, visit