Saks at Mall at University Town Center will include restaurant, bar

Department store to include upscale dining at Sophie's

srocco@bradenton.comMarch 5, 2014 

UNIVERSITY PARK -- After splurging on a pair of exceptionally priced pumps or a new handbag, Saks Fifth Avenue shoppers in Manatee-Sarasota will be able to sip a martini or two at the store's own restaurant and bar.

The Saks Fifth Avenue at The Mall at University Town Center, due to open this October, will feature an upscale restaurant called Sophie's, Saks general manager Joel Ellzey announced at a fundraiser for the South Florida Museum on Monday.

The swanky department store that prides itself on first-class customer service and a variety of designer merchandise offerings will have a full-service restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, with the possibility of introducing early dinner.

"Customers can make more of a day out of shopping knowing that they can go shop in the afternoon and then unwind with a lovely cocktail sitting outside on a Florida afternoon," said Michael Kaufman, president of Fifth Dining LLC, the exclusive restaurateur for Saks Fifth Avenue.

Sophie's in University Park will be the second in the world. The first Sophie's opened four weeks ago on the seventh floor of the Saks Fifth Avenue in Chicago.

The name salutes American designer Sophie Gimbal, who presided over couture at Saks for more than 40 years. When the world focused on fashion coming from Europe, Gimbal embraced her American style. "I like my wardrobe simple, correct, perfect in every detail," she is quoted as saying.

Sophie's menu and design is modeled after the woman herself: elegant, contemporary, sleek.

The 2,600-square-foot

space will feature an indoor, 60-seat dining room and bar as well as a 60-seat outdoor terrace for dining, lounging and a second bar. The color palette will be centered around black and white with Florida colors incorporated throughout.

Executive Chef Alex Reyes, who is responsible for Sophie's overall culinary direction, will work closely with a chef hired for the Sarasota restaurant. The menu will feature Sophie's signature salads, appetizers and drinks but will skew closer to flavors found in Florida.

"We'll put together a menu that is American, but with global influence and local in its appeal," Kaufman said, adding that the crab cake at the Sophie's in Chicago is the restaurant's best selling dish.

The restaurant will employ about 35 people, including a management team of four.

"Our goal is make food that people love and crave with flavor and beautiful presentation," Kaufman said.

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