New Life for Fred’s

November 20th, 2007
Fred's Logo

We’re taking bets: Will the Porsche convertibles be parking curbside before or after Fred’s signature sidewalk tables reappear?

Denizens of Sarasota’s Southside neighborhood have been counting the days until Fred’s on Osprey reopens. The restaurant went dark in May of this year when the Epicurean Life Group put its holdings—Fred’s, Anabelle’s and Morton’s—up for sale.

Morton’s Market, repurchased by the original Morton family, recently held an open house and holiday tasting…the daily temperature is no longer above 90 F…lights on the cross-walk palm trees are illuminated…and now, there’s the very welcome sound of power tools and the smell of sawdust emanating from Fred’s.

The new management includes Sarasotan Jordan Leschert, himself a former manager at Fred’s, who has had considerable experience in front-of-the-house operations. (His uncle, Titus Leschert owns Café L’Europe on St. Armand’s and Café on the Bay on Longboat Key.) Patrick and Michelle Murphy, owners of seven restaurants in the Toronto area, are the other principals.

The new Fred’s will focus on steaks and seafood. According to Mr. Leschert, negotiations are ongoing with vendors who can deliver fresh, locally caught seafood, with the emphasis on local.

The executive chef will be Scott Kuhling, most recently of Fred’s Lakewood Ranch, and formerly sous-chef at Fred’s Southside.

Dale Mattern, who also returns to Sarasota from Fred’s Lakewood Ranch, will manage the day-to-day operations. He’s been in the restaurant business for more than twenty years and enthusiastically tells us that he’s assembled a top-flight, fun team to offer superb service.

With the change of cuisine, comes a change of goals for the restaurant. Mr. Mattern would like Fred’s to become a place where people feel as comfortable with an impromptu meal on a Tuesday night as they would for a special night-out on a Saturday. The team hopes that a little less fuss and more casual appointments will allow Fred’s to offer a menu of top-quality food at prices that make a weekday dinner an affordable treat.

Candles will light heavy wooden tabletops and booth seating areas. (One of the changes will be the elimination of white linens.) Mr. Mattern goes on to say that Fred’s will accept reservations, but that two-thirds of each night’s seating will be available to walk-ins, who (on crowded nights) will be given beepers. Patrons will be welcome to have a drink in the redesigned bar and lounge space, which will feature leather couches and chairs as well as stand-up ‘pub space,’ with newly-installed bracket shelves large enough to hold a pair of pints or martini glasses, and even an appetizer plate.

The bar will feature four imported beers on draft and a selection of martinis. A less rarefied wine list for both bar and restaurant will be offered. Appetizers will also be available at the bar, which will open at 3:00 p.m. daily. For patrons who like late lunches, Fred’s can still be an afternoon venue in which to see and be seen.

The new owners will reopen as ‘Fred’s Restaurant and Bar.’ The restaurant will retain the name ‘Fred’s,’ in part because of its iconic status in the community, and partly, as Mr. Mattern tells us, because the letter ‘F’ is set in mosiac tile in so many places throughout the building!

Though opening hours will be later, the new management will actually expand hours of operation. At this writing, plans are that the kitchen will be open until 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The bar will be open until midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 1:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

So, for those who toil at nearby Sarasota Memorial Hospital, there is the welcome prospect of a late-night draught and upscale bite at the end of the day. Mr. Mattern assures us that surgical scrubs and clogs will be welcome at Fred’s.

Management is aiming to open to the general public on December 10, 2007.


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