Two new restaurants are opening next to each other in downtown Sarasota. But each will offer a different dining experience.
by: Niki Kottmann Managing Editor of Arts and Entertainment
The scenario is much too familiar.
Nobody can seem to come up with a restaurant that will please the whole group. One person wants to go to the Italian place, another wants Mexican and another is craving a burger. Tensions are running high as the level of ‘hangry’-ness soars.
The hostess stand at Element will appear to be on fire. Photo by Niki Kottmann
It’s the same story with mom and dad’s anniversary celebration. A marriage that lasts 50 years deserves a gourmet meal, but finding a unique place to splurge is harder than it sounds.
Enter American Dreams Restaurant Group. Owner Jim Abrams wants to create dining experiences that satisfy all tastes — and he’s starting by opening two vastly different restaurants in downtown Sarasota.
Abrams, the former owner of Clockwork Home Services, which he sold in 2010 for $183 million, knows a thing or two about business. And he’s confident his new establishments are here to stay.
American Dreams Restaurant Group is the umbrella group overseeing Duval’s and now Element and PBnT, which will both open to the public Nov. 15. Their storefronts are neighbors in the Five Points building on Main Street, and they share part of a kitchen, but the concepts serve two different clienteles.
PBnT is short for Pizza, Burgers and Tacos, the three fast-casual dining dishes that proved to be most popular when part owner and Executive Chef Nils Tarantik concluded his research.
PBnT will be a fast casual restaurant where customers order at a counter. Photo by Niki Kottmann
“Ninety percent of our industry in that genre is pizza, burgers and tacos,” he says. “We want to get rid of that conversation that you’d have with your kids in the back seat when one wants pizza, one wants tacos, etc.”
The idea is to appeal to the masses, whether that’s people looking for a quick, quality place to eat during their lunch break, a family of hard-to-please kids or a group of retirees after a softball game, he says.
Next door, Element will provide a high-end Italian steakhouse experience that Abrams says no other restaurant currently provides in Sarasota.
The back entrance to Element, which part owner Nils Tarantik says will probably become the main entrance, has a covered valet that will keep customers dry when it rains. Photo by Niki Kottmann
“I envision this to be a place where people will come to get engaged, celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, or just to see something totally different on a menu,” he says. “Things that aren’t offered anywhere else in the state of Florida.”
Tarantik plans to make this possible by revamping some classic dishes that were more popular before his time.
“What used to be my parents’ or your grandparents’ staples of food, like the bone marrows and the off-the-cuff kind of stuff, that’s come full circle to become foodie food,” he says. “It’s really a perfect storm of perfect ingredients to a restaurant — taking the nostalgic food of yesteryear and bringing it to the 21st century with a foodie twist.”
He says the eclectic menu will be complemented by the interior of the restaurant, which is themed around the natural elements of earth, wind, fire and water. Lifelike video projections of water will create a realistic waterfall on the eastern wall, and customers will be greeted by a hostess stand that appears to be on fire.
A series of video projections will be cast on the western wall of Element. Photo by Niki Kottmann
Much of Abrams’ enthusiasm is for another unique element to the space — covered valet parking. As a businessman who says superior customer service is at the forefront of all his endeavors, he’s excited to provide guests the chance to utilize the same parking services provided to residents of the building, particularly in the case of rainy days.
To do this, he says he went to great expense to knock through the northern wall of the space to create a First Street entrance under the porte-chochere.
The chef's table at Element will be right next to the kitchen and feature a unique interactive dining experience. Photo by Niki Kottmann
Another critical expense was equipping Element’s private room with video equipment and other tools so businesses can conduct catered meetings during the day when the dinner-only restaurant is otherwise closed. Tarantik believes this is the only space of this kind in downtown Sarasota outside of a hotel.
Both restaurants will also feature “cutting-edge visual and audio technologies” both in decor and at Element’s family table and chef’s table, which offer a special interactive visual experience. The details are under wraps, but these components were inspired by the memorable dining experiences that Abrams says he’s had during his international travels. Now he’s bringing them here, which is part of why he calls these restaurants a “gift” to the community.
“You don’t have to be a world traveler — you can dine like one in your backyard,” Tarantik says.