El Mandilón

Last month, Tyler Yurckonis announced that his restaurant, The Starlite Room, would be the subject of an undisclosed Food Network series, during which the space would receive a makeover and reopen as a brand-new concept. Two weeks ago, El Mandilón debuted as a "craft Mexican" restaurant and tequila bar.

The sit-down restaurant offers customizable tacos, fajitas and enchiladas. The walls are adorned with Mexican bandits clutching blue cocktails that match the blue accents on each wooden table. Traditional recipes like pork al pastor, mole chicken and chicken asada are available, while zucchini flower tacos and sombrero-shaped pasta are offered as "chef specialties." El Mandilón boasts a huge tequila bar with an all-day happy hour, $5 margaritas, $5 beers and $10 margarita pitchers.

“I was away from the restaurant for two weeks,” Yurckonis says. “When I came in, there was a brand-new menu and a brand-new restaurant. Most of the changes, I’m really happy about.” Now that the Food Network production team has departed, he plans to repaint the outside of the building and make a few other cosmetic changes. Yurckonis now has complete creative freedom, except for social media. “[Food Network] controls the website and all of the social media channels, until the episode airs,” he says.

The transformation from The Starlite Room will air as the first episode of Restaurant Flip sometime in June. The television series follows chef Joey Maggiore as he renovates restaurants across the country.

The decision to serve Mexican cuisine was made by Restaurant Flip producers. Yurckonis, who says he's "as white Eastern European as they come," didn't have experience serving Mexican food before the changeover. According to Yurckonis, two Mexican chefs came from Arizona to train the kitchen on making the new recipes. The name of the restaurant is a double entendre. While "mandilón" is Spanish for "apron," it also colloquially refers to a husband who is pushed around by his wife.

Yurckonis isn’t sure how he will be portrayed on the small screen. “I tried to be honest," says Yurckonis. "I tried to be myself." He says he wanted to emphasize his advocacy for the arts, particularly the theater, and Sarasota's LGBT population. The Starlite hosted many LGBT-friendly events in the past and the second floor was home to Elevate, a bar that regularly featured drag shows and performances. As of right now, the second floor is unusable, filled with The Starlite Room's remains.

Yurckonis says it was difficult not knowing what the restaurant would transform into, but once he saw the new look, he was excited to share the news. "You really just have to see it to appreciate it," he says.

El Mandilón is located at 1001 Cocoanut Ave., Sarasota, and is open 11 a.m.-midnight daily. For more info, call (941) 702-5613 or check out the restaurant's website.

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