Like the hearty aroma luring patrons into a bakery, the growing culinary scene in Lakewood Ranch draws some of Sarasota’s top restaurateurs out east. Diner favorites in the region will set the table soon, if they haven’t done so already, in new locations. All of the restaurateurs have for years relied upon customers from Lakewood Ranch to fill their reservation lists, and now the diners have a chance to order their favorite dishes at restaurants a few minutes from their home rather than traveling downtown or further. Management from JPAN, Owen’s Fish Camp, Selva Grill and Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill see an eagerness for their wares and a hunger for their menu options that must be fed. “Our customers have been begging for it,” says Samuel Ray, co-proprietor of Tsunami Sushi and Hibachi Grill. “You have to go with what the people want.”

Tsunami, a Downtown Sarasota stable, will open a second location at The Green at Lakewood Ranch on State Road 70. Ray says the company has wanted to expand for some time. In addition to bringing sushi offerings east of Interstate-75, the new establishment will serve as a nightlife entertainment venue.

Ray says the first floor of the restaurant will have a dine-in, casual dining restaurant and a menu like that in Sarasota, but there will then be a 16-foot aquarium separating the main dining room from a full liquor bar on the other side. Then on the second floor, another bar will pour drinks in a space with room for a live band. “It’s almost three restaurants in one,” Ray says. It’s not the only establishment that aims to raise the game in Lakewood Ranch and enticing guests with a full venue as much as a beloved menu. Owen’s Fish Camp, a Sarasota hotspot named for Sarasota founding father Owen Burns, will open as part of a CASTO project on University Parkway. Co-proprietor Paul Caragiulo said the restaurant for years has looked for a place to expand, but it took the right mix of finding the perfect development partner in a prime location to take the step of hanging a second shingle.

Working with CASTO and with (company president) Brent Hutchens, we had someone who is familiar with our concept and wants to integrate into their development plan,” he says.

The freestanding restaurant will be similar to the original Owen’s in Sarasota with many of the seafood and cocktail recipes making the trip to the Ranch. The Caragiulo family plans to take advantage of a lakeside location and offer waterfront dining. Some grand trees will be planted in the space.

“We have a little rule—we wouldn’t want to create any places we wouldn’t want to hang out in ourselves,” Caragiulo said.

The owners of JPAN, which has locations in Siesta Key and University Park, plan to open a new concept in Kore. At Waterside Place, the restaurant introduces Korean barbeque into the landscape. Chris Makpedua, now general manager of JPAN’s University Park location, says the new restaurant will employ techniques unseen in this market and delight diners. 

“We will have a grill in the middle to cook in front of you, but our ventilation is from the bottom,” he says. “Normally barbeque is very smoky, but this one is different. It’s built to suck it out through the bottom. That way you can wear something nice and not come out smelling like smoke.”

Korê, too, will incorporate live music into its experience.

 In addition to drawing customers from a Lakewood Ranch crowd already familiar with JPAN’s reputation, Makpedua predicts the restaurant will attract many people from Sarasota and Manatee counties to make the trek to the Ranch and enjoy the new dining options. 

Giuseppe “Peppe” del Sole, from the Napule restaurant in Sarasota, has lived in the University Park area for the last four years. He saw an opportunity with the opening of Waterside Place to bring Italian cuisine to the Ranch. Now the chef will open Osteria 500, the latest restaurant announced in the new center. “The bread, pasta, gnocchi, ravioli, dessert, everything is going to be made in the restaurant,” he said. “And we will have a beautiful cocktail bar with wines, a beautiful patio.”

The location seemed attractive because of the waterfront. Del Sole just came home from a trip to Italy where he shopped for furniture representative of his homeland to add to the atmosphere of the new restaurant. 

And Selva Grill has already started serving the Lakewood Ranch crowd at its location at University Town Center. “I had been looking for a second location for a very long time,” said co-proprietor Jeremy Osment. He initially expected to open a second Selva somewhere near Tampa. But when he saw the Benderson Development-made space available just outside the Ranch, it seemed too perfect to take a pass. He abandoned negotiations on a lease in Hillsborough.

“Lakewood Ranch has slowly been becoming its own market separate from Sarasota,” says Osment. “It’s been doing great.”

Part of the appeal of the Ranch, he said, is that independently owned restaurants have just now started to find a place in the community, but there’s an audience of affluent foodies anxious for the options. “It is important that we are part of a scene, and not on an island,” Osment said. Opening up in a commercially vibrant area guarantees traffic through the doors.