A hard-to-miss building facade of Main Street’s Historic Downtown district, El Melvin Cocina Mexicana lures you in with the sound of a Latin-fueled fiesta, the scent of housemade tortilla chips, the sight of bright, festive decor and the feel of its warm, welcoming vibe. Taking over the former residence of Two Senoritas, new owners Jeffery Good, Mitchell Good and Matthew Hess revolutionized the space to become the enlivened El Melvin—named after the late family matriarch Melvin Good.

 El Mel's Mercado and lounge area. Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.


With an elevated, modern rebranding and a total makeover with the help of a consulting team consisting of designer Kurt Lucas and restaurateur Mark Caragiulo, the interior transformed into a bright white inscape with splashes of festive furniture, a colorfully cushioned lounge area, Baja-inspired motifs and an eye-catching mural of Mexican culture symbols, along with the quote “Crea tu propria historia” weaved in—translated to “Create your own story.” Which is exactly what Jeff, Mitch and Matt have the intention of doing; not only new to Florida from up north, but new to a restaurant venture quite like this.

Pescado Moctezuma entree. Photography by Wyatt Kostygan.


“The name El Melvin is a bit funky,” admits Matt Hess. “When we were thinking of a name, we didn’t want to box ourselves in with a really authentic Mexican name, or with strictly traditional cuisine. We wanted to broaden the theme, use it as a catalyst to expand upon with different design concepts, open the window to a more eclectic menu that’s a little funky too.” That funkified menu ranges from savory Tex-Mex items like fajitas, burgers and burritos, mixed with traditional Hispanic imprints like Carne Asada, street tacos and ceviches, then thrown in with some twists. “We especially wanted items that you can’t find anywhere else here in Sarasota,” Hess goes on. Take “Aperitivos” like Avocado Fries with jalapeño aioli, sous vide Street Corn dashed with smoked paprika and the Chorizo Albondigas, housemade meatballs served with chipotle salsa and torta bread. Meanwhile, “Entradas” like the Duck Enchiladas sizzle—duck confit in a guajillo sauce and charred poblano rancho crema, queso oaxaca, radish and cilantro in warm corn tortillas—and the Pescado Moctezuma—a sustainable whole fish, fried or grilled, served with rice, peanut butter mint sauce, lime sweet chili and pico de gallo. For “Postres,” extinguish the fever with sweet Mexican Flan, cinnamon sugar Churro Dona and a three-milk Tres Leches pastel, served with strawberry gelato and marshmallow whipped cream. 

The Farmhouse Margarita, created by Bar Manager, Lucas Johnston.


Spicing up the fusion of these innovative dishes and Mexican fare is Executive Chef Jonatan Alberto. Chef Alberto believes “passion is an art of expression,” which was instilled in him through long-held family recipes from his home city of Puebla, Mexico. Those very same recipes now take shape on the El Melvin menu, including his mother’s guacamole and father’s mole sauce. And at El Mel’s Mercado—the open-window counter adorned with colorful flowers and shelves of Jarritos’ natural flavored sodas—you can opt to create your own guacamole. At each table, a pencil and checklist reside so you can mark off various fresh ingredients to toss in for the making of your ideal chip dip—including proteins like carnitas, chicken tinga and lobster; sweet, tropical fruits like pineapples and mangos; and a brigade of peppers like habaneros and jalapeños to uptick the spice level. The restaurant revamp also saw an upscale craft cocktail menu come together by the bartending expertise of Cocktails By Spence Consulting, and includes a fleet of top-shelf tequilas like Hiatus, an all-agave azul tequila brand with a strong local presence and dangerously smooth capabilities. With salsa- dancing classes occasionally on Mondays, taco specials every Tuesday, live Latin music on the weekends and a killer happy hour daily which features Sangria Roja, Coronitas and the household cocktail of choice, El Mel Margarita—no matter the day or time, El Melvin brings the fuego spirit with fun, flair and flavor.