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East County Wednesday, Jun. 16, 2021 1 year ago

UTC welcomes garage-themed burger and beer restaurant, Ford's Garage

Customers excited by detailed theme, reminders of past at Ford's Garage grand opening in University Town Center.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

When Ford’s Garage held its grand opening June 8, Braden Woods residents Dayton Amey and Larry Brunatti knew they had to eat there for lunch — and dinner.

To these members of the Mustang Club of West Central Florida, this wasn’t just another burger joint opening up in town. It was their passion coming to life in the form of a restaurant and bar.

But what about the customers who aren’t in a club devoted to Ford? Why were they excited to be some of the first people to eat at one of many local restaurants specializing in burgers and beer?

For one reason or another, every customer asked said they didn’t view Ford’s Garage as just another in a long line of burger joints, but rather as a unique dining experience at a restaurant that happens to specialize in burgers.

Parrish resident Sally Washio said there was something special about eating in a Prohibition era-style garage. She liked being surrounded by oil cans and other items that reminded her of American innovation and craftsmanship. It reminded her of her father, who grew up “old school” with three brothers.

“They looked at something and they weren't defeated by it,” Washio said. “Whatever they needed, they made. To me, when you go into a garage, it brings the ability to just put together life. You're building amazing things.”

Her husband, Ken Washio, said eating in the restaurant made him feel nostalgic, too. He worked at a gas station when he was a teenager, so seeing all of the car parts made him think about his youth.

Amey and Brunatti said they appreciated how detailed the theme was at Ford’s Garage, particularly how the employees wore old-fashioned gas station shirts with names sewn on. They also said the bathrooms were must-see, with tires used as sinks and gas pump door handles.

One of multiple vehicles that can be found inside Ford's Garage, a car sits propped above one of the restaurant's bars.

Sarasota resident Carlos Montenegro agreed with Sally Washio’s comment about eating in a garage for a slightly different reason. He said Ford’s Garage was the perfect place to eat a burger because the mechanical-themed atmosphere had a ruggedness that matches the aesthetic of a greasy American burger.

Montenegro and Sarasota’s Kaitlin O’Donnell also said the restaurant had more specialty burgers than most other burger joints, adding that they appreciated some of the unique toppings on the menu such as arugula and sweet red onion marmalade.

Sally and Ken Washio said there was one other aspect of Ford’s Garage they enjoyed that simply can’t be copied by any other restaurant — the Ford brand. Sally Washio said the tradition of Ford made her feel connected with history and traveling the country.

“It takes you to places around America where you can travel,” Sally Washio said. “For some reason, you catch that logo, and it's America. It's Ford.”

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Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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