Half Shell Oyster House leaving Sarasota for Manatee

Seafood restaurant spent less than two years in downtown Sarasota

cschelle@bradenton.comSeptember 5, 2013 

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The Half Shell Oyster House is coming to this site at the University Park Center on University Parkway next month. It will be renamed the Half Shell Seafood House. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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MANATEE COUNTY -- Half Shell Oyster House will be leaving downtown Sarasota for Manatee County.

The Mississippi-based seafood restaurant is planning to move to 5231 University Parkway in October to set up shop in the Benderson Development-owned University Park Center shopping center, said Dino Mirando, proprietor of the Sarasota restaurant.

"We're a New Orleans-style seafood house with a lot of fresh local fish and seafood," Mirando told the Herald.

Mirando said the business decided to move because they expect more traffic at the new location. The restaurant will be open about a year before the Mall at University Town Center is set to open. That mall, off of North Cattleman Road and University Parkway, is a partnership between Benderson and Michigan-based Taubman Centers and is the only new mall being constructed in the country. It is expected to open in October 2014.

As part of the move, the restaurant will be renamed Half Shell Seafood House, Mirando said.

"I feel like we're limiting our expose with Oyster House, and people might be hesitant to try us with oyster in the name," Mirando said.

The new location will feature a new Sunday brunch menu and will add king crabs, snow crabs and lobster in addition to the current items, Mirando said.

Half Shell's original location is in Gulfport, Miss. There are also other Mississippi locations in Biloxi and Hattiesburg. The Sarasota location, 1991 Main St., opened in January 2012, and is the only Half Shell in Florida. Half Shell's new space is the former Red Elephant Pizza, which closed in April after declining sales.

The former Red Elephant space is undergoing a renovation to feature 175 seats inside and outside and will have an additional bar, Mirando said. And when folks enter the restaurant, they'll see someone shuck oysters to create a seafood house atmosphere, he said.

"It's going to have a more sectional feel. The last place left it a more wide open area," he said.

The final day for the Sarasota location is uncertain, and hinges on construction of the new space, Mirando said. Most of the staff will come to the new location, but more people will be hired for the new location as the restaurant gears up for tourist season, he said.

In other moves at the shopping center, Subway has signed a lease for a space beside Tijuana Flats, said Mark Chait, executive director of leasing for Benderson Development.

That space was tapped for a Brooklyn Water Bagel shop before financing fell through.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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