File this under "upgrade." Husband and wife Jamie and Kathy Otto have converted P.T.'s Sports Bar, a dusty dive on Palmer Boulevard, into Buttermilk Handcrafted Food, a fashionable breakfast, lunch and coffee spot that should open within the next couple weeks.
The restaurant is the couple's first venture into the food industry, but the menu reflects both longtime Midwest Mennonite family tradition and Jamie's love for Southern cuisine. Built on the four pillars of biscuits, grits, toast and "treats," the still-in-the-works menu will include basics like biscuit sandwiches made with fluffy eggs and Benton's bacon and open-faced sandwiches with deviled eggs and wilted dandelion greens, served alongside coffee brewed in consultation with Sarasota's best coffee shop, Perq. "Everything has a memory tied to it," Jamie says.
The selection of sweets, meanwhile, includes sorghum, oatmeal and pecan pies, sweet and savory biscuits and buttermilk cookies and salted chocolate chip cookies—all baked up right on the premises, in the small kitchen hidden behind the restaurant's service counter and display cases. "Our menu's going to be small," Jamie says, "but everything we're putting out I am excited about." Prices haven't yet been fixed, but Jamie estimates a typical customer will spend $10-$12 per visit. The restaurant will offer WiFi and charging stations to keep people lingering.
The space is mod Southern, with bright white subway tiles, shiny wood counters repurposed from 4-by-4 fence posts and Edison bulbs screwed into farmhouse light fixtures. Jamie has worked as a carpenter for years; he put his skills and connections to work in designing and building the space. "If it's made out of wood, I did it," he says.
Outside, the couple, working with property owner and neighboring businessman Jonas Yoder, has replaced P.T.'s pothole-strewn mud parking lot with a layer of level gravel and squares of sod. (Click here for a Google Maps-preserved idea of what the property used to look like.) The Ottos first pitched Yoder on their idea for the restaurant last July, three months after P.T.'s closed. Only three walls survived the remodel.
The Ottos may not have food industry expertise, but that didn't deter them. Thanks to community connections at church and at Sarasota Memorial Hospital—where Kathy works as an ICU nurse—word of mouth is buzzing. "I think it's going to do well because of my husband's vision and passion," Kathy says. "He knows his stuff. He's very knowledgeable and he's good at what he does." She calls him "the bearded wonder of the project."
"Everyone's tried to discourage us," Jamie says, "but we're still really excited."
Buttermilk Handcrafted Food is located at 5520 Palmer Blvd., Sarasota. Follow the restaurant on Facebook for details on when exactly it will open. Its hours will be 6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. The phone number is (941) 487-8949.