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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018 7 months ago

Rosemary District's The Overton never compromises creativity

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The Overton is a new chef-driven, fast-casual restaurant that will send foodies rejoicing.
by: Shellie Terry Contributor

Walking into The Overton, centered in the new Rosemary Square, it’s immediately evident this isn’t your typical downtown Sarasota eatery. 

And that’s by design. Its open beam ceiling, concrete walls, natural wood finishes and lime green seating give a decidedly utilitarian flair that’s ready to get to work.

Rosemary Square developer Mark Kauffman approached Keith and Erin Zolner, owners of Perq Coffee Bar on Hillview Street, to possibly open another Perq location in the quickly developing Rosemary District just north of downtown. But the Zolners came back with another idea — a request they’d heard from Perq customers time and again: How about a fast-casual joint with a chef-y touch?

Kauffman agreed, and the three-year-long planning for The Overton began. The new spot opened in late summer with limited hours for the team to get the training, menu and concept just right. 

The Overton shares the Rosemary Square space with the Sarasota Contemporary Dance Company, artist residences for the Sarasota Opera and fellow eateries Spice Station and Artisan Cheese Co. 

Towers of new condos and a steadily increasing buzz are bringing the square to life.

The Overton's hours are currently 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

When he opened Perq, Keith Zolner was inspired by coffee cafes in Australia. “It’s a very similar climate to Sarasota, but the café style is very different,” he says. “Rather than coffee and pastries like we have in the U.S., Australian cafes are very weighted toward chef-driven menus along with the specialty coffee.”

The idea gelled with Sarasota locals and visitors and inspired The Overton. Then, the Zolners paired up with Christian Hershman, who has been working as a chef in Sarasota for more than 20 years. He opened State Street restaurant in 2012, which had a complementary urban vibe the Zolners wanted.

Hershman embraced the need for a fast-casual spot as well, but one that didn’t compromise on menu creativity. “Menu-wise, my personal interest is always a little bit on nostalgia,” Hershman says, pointing out the turkey and egg sandwiches offered at The Overton. However, he gives everything a bit of a twist.

“It’s hard to have brunch hours without an avocado toast, so we add a spin on that by topping it with a quail egg,” he says.

Other menu items, which will eventually be available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., include a uni toast with sea urchin butter, as well as a classic roadside burger that Keith Zolner calls “Really killer … the best burger in town.” The menu rounds out with several gluten free and vegan offerings, with nearly every item in the $6 to $10 price range.

The Overton is also experimenting with a cocktail tap system, similar to a beer-keg tap system. Drinks are pre-mixed and available in singles or a pitcher that serves five or six drinks — with options like Old-Fashioneds, Manhattans and martinis.

“What I learned at State Street is that we all want good ingredients — fresh juice, a nice brand of liquor,” Hershman says. “But what we don’t like is waiting eight or 10 minutes for a drink. Technology allows us to create these systems to create fresh cocktails with fresh juices and get a martini in 35 seconds.”

The Overton team is putting the final touches on the menu and hopes to expand to full hours by season. The restaurant, located at 1420 Avenue of the Arts, is currently open Wednesdays through Sundays.

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