UNIVERSITY PARK -- Culver's, known for its creamy custard and bulky ButterBurgers, is opening in the next couple of weeks at 2605 University Parkway.
The University Park location will mark the first in Manatee-Sarasota. Wisconsin-based Culver's has 450 restaurants in 21 states, mainly in the Midwest, as well as four Florida cities -- Fort Myers, Naples, Estero and Port Charlotte. Three other stores are slated to open soon in Largo, Cape Coral and a second Fort Myers location.
Laura Hobart, owner-operator of the University Park store, says first-timers must try a ButterBurger (particularly the Culver's Deluxe, a double patty doozy), a turtle sundae or a Concrete Mixer, a cup of custard with chunks of toppings and candy mixed in.
"We're known for our ButterBurgers. They're made fresh to order," said Hobart, who has worked for Culver's for 13 years. She started as a part-time team member and worked her way up to franchise partner.
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The ButterBurger is named after the sandwich buns, which are buttered on top and lightly grilled to a toast.
Hobart says she plans to carry out the company custom of serving the community. When she worked for Culver's in Illinois, Hobart's team would volunteer at local food banks boxing canned goods or preparing meals at local soup kitchens.
"It started with the Culver family who were very much about giving back to the community," said Mary Schluter, Culver's marketing and communication manager. "Part of their hometown, small-town Midwestern values are about caring for others."
Craig Culver opened the first Culver's in Sauk City, Wis., in 1984. The restaurant's recipes were inspired by his parents, George and Ruth Culver, who opened a family style restaurant in the early 1960s.
Culver's is the first major tenant to lease a space inside the Town Center at University Groves, a 200,000-square-foot shopping district off of University Parkway. University Groves also will include 149 single-family homes, 338 multifamily units and 110,000 square feet of office space. A 120-room hotel, a 200-unit independent living retirement home, a 120-resident group care home and an 80-bed residential treatment center are also planned.
Culver's will be open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The 4,500-square-foot restaurant will seat about 100 people and will hire more than 55 employees, a company spokesperson said. Apply online at culvers.com.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.