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In a sea of new restaurant openings, Prime Serious Steak stands out as the place that hits the mark on exactly what national trends have been saying: a mid-range, polished yet casual steakhouse--sitting next to our beloved Costco at Sarasota Square Mall.

The restaurant space formerly housed a few short-term failures, but my bet is that Prime is here to stay, for many reasons.

Prime is run by two Jersey-born, Scotland-raised brothers who decided to open Donato's Pasta House, an Italian restaurant, in Port Charlotte--and guess what? They really know what they are doing. Donato's has grown to four locations, and they've also got a growing pizza mini-chain called Bocca Lupo. The first Prime opened in Port Charlotte, and you can expect several more in the next few years. These two are serious about hospitality and serving  up good food at fair prices.  

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Now on to the Sarasota location. The restaurant's dining room is inviting, with a curved wine wall that separates the bar area. A giant butcher block with a meat cleaver centers the ceiling, and red and black colors blend well with the metal table tops and individual butcher block place settings. The whole effect is modern and friendly. As the owners say, "We take our steaks serious, not ourselves."

Thoughtful details are everywhere, like the warm popovers brought to your table with fresh salads, and the steak knife boards presented with your entrees. Nice touch.

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As far as entrees go, the concept is easy to understand. Most cuts of steak are choice, not prime, which is fine by me. Entrees include a tableside tossed salad and those delicious popovers. But wait, there's more! Entrees also include a side, with choices ranging from loaded hassleback potatoes to creamed spinach and steamed broccoli or asparagus. A 9-oz. filet mignon will run you $32; 12-oz. roasted prime rib, $24; New Zealand lamb chops, $28; and shrimp and sirloin, $22. All are excellent and just a small part of a very large menu that also includes a very good pub-style onion soup with Guinness and horseradish cheese and a great prime rib sandwich. There are also several seafood options. We found the grilled Maine lobster tails and fresh grilled salmon with creamy dill sauce are the best bets.

There's also a Sunday burger brunch with a Bloody Mary bar--and the burgers are darn good, like the one with Maine lobster on a juicy burger and buttery bun (!).

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And if you want to know exactly where the steaks come from, stop by the open-windowed walk-in refrigerator and watch the butchers hand-cut aged steaks--or, even better, order a custom cut (over 16 oz). My favorite was a two-inch-thick porterhouse steak.

The wine list features a good selection of both whites and reds, along with wines by the cask ( another concept trending across the country).

Warning: Prime does not take reservations. Early or later dining are the best options for those who don't like to wait, but a quick walk around the mall might build up your appetite.

The verdict: I suspect Prime is going to grow, and grow fast. They deserve it.

Prime Serious Steak
8201 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
(941) 921-6161

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