BAYSHORE GARDENS -- A fast-food burger and shake joint has returned to the former Sonic Drive-in, and Sax Burgers & Sandwiches has everything but the tots and roller skates.
Sax, 6008 14th St. W., opened Monday morning for its first full day offering a new take to drive-in fast food, offering a made-from-scratch alternative for those who like a drive-in experience.
Co-owners Shawn Massey and Kyle Berry moved to Bradenton from Hendersonville, Tenn., where the original Sax location was open and took the rights to the name and menu and tweaked the concept for the former Sonic space.
"We're definitely letting people know that we're at a car-hop environment, but our food is fresh and fast," Berry said. "Not to downgrade Sonic, but we're not Sonic."
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Car-hops will take orders through a speaker box, walk out the order with a smile and that old-fashioned service, with the sandwiches wrapped in white butcher paper. Sax had a test run Saturday night to get some of the 45-person staff up to speed. After a rainy week of training, Berry is glad the sunny Florida skies are back.
"That's a blessing," Berry said. "We're very fortunate to open on a beautiful day like this."
Massey and Berry have transformed the space with a new paint job, lighting, menu boards and picnic tables. The space is leased from Benderson Development for five years.
Manager Brandon Jenkins also came from Nashville to help out.
"Where's this place been my whole life -- I've heard a lot of that," Jenkins said. "People are just very, very excited."
While the owners from Sax might be from out of town, there's a familiar face in the kitchen. Melissa Gudaitis, former owner of Mama's Magic Kitchen, cooks at Sax and loves the different feel of a drive-in.
"You get to see more of Bradenton through a drive-thru than you do in a restaurant," she said.
The menu features hand-pattied burgers, hand-cut seasoned fries, breakfast food, salads, shakes and some interesting twists like a chicken salad in a waffle cone. Don't expect McDonald's pricing for burgers made with fresh ground beef. A burger combo with hand-cut seasoned fries and a drink cost about
$8, while breakfast combos, like a steak and egg biscuit, cost about $5.
"You get a lot more portions for your money, too," Gudaitis said.
Plus you won't eat food that's been thawed out.
"The only thing in our freezer is our buns," Jenkins said.
On opening day, the Sax burger was a big seller, along with the steak, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich.
As with any opening, Sax continues to tweak its operation. Some folks struggled with the angle and height of the menu boards, having to get out of their cars. One senior couple said they prefer the neighboring Taco Bell for the prices and free senior drinks.
Other diners were immediate fans.
Nicole White stopped at Sax on her lunch break from Publix in the Bayshore Gardens Shopping Center, and remembered frequenting the former Sonic.
"Every day," White said, laughing. "A lot of Publix people used to come over here."
White opted for the Sax deluxe burger, while her coworker Mariah Bryant had the bacon burger with smoked cheddar cheese, grilled onions and mayo.
"The food's totally different," Bryant said.