Food & Drink

New owners take Palmetto restaurant in a more adventurous, fun direction

With a menu that includes Grassy Key-style seafood, jambalaya, tuna poke sushi tacos, and seafood cobb salad, Riviera Dunes Dockside restaurant resists easy categorization.

While the menu is adventurous, it also includes popular standards like meatloaf, chops, burgers and steaks. That is in keeping with the goal of new owners Ron Fuller and Steve Bishop to make the restaurant more casual, more affordable and more fun.

And then there is the view overlooking the Riviera Dunes Marina.

“This is a gorgeous, wonderful location,” Bishop said.

In November 2018, Fuller and Bishop took over the 270-seat restaurant, at 102 Riviera Dunes Way, Palmetto, and set out to rejuvenate and fine-tune the operation.

They saw lots of upside potential for the restaurant, which has gone through seven owners in nine years.

Since then, they have changed 90 percent of the menu, brightened and freshened the dining and bar areas with new art work, new table tops, and new lighting.

Some of the changes are not so obvious, such as nautical themed lighting, sail cloth along the ceiling, and new kitchen equipment.

Among the new staff are general manager Kit Bradman and chef David Banda.

Asked about his personal favorite on the menu, Banda answered, “Well, my jambalaya.”

Bradman quickly adds, “It’s got his name on it.”

Indeed, Chef David’s Jambalaya is featured on the center of the menu. Ingredients include shrimp, chicken, and andouille sausage, sauteed with fresh peppers and onions in a broth over yellow rice for $17.

Handhelds are priced at $10 for the Dockside fish sandwich, $12 for the Dockside burger, $15 for the bang bang shrimp tacos, and $16 for blackened grouper tacos.

Other offerings include sushi, flatbread pizza, and fresh salads.

Spirits include a wide range of margaritas, crushes, wines, drafts, bottles and cans.

“The thing that I am most thrilled with here is what we have been able to do. We have made it a fresh come-to, go-to place with live entertainment seven nights a week,” Bradman said.

Fuller and Bishop are long-time restaurateurs who left the corporate world at Crispers Restaurant Division, where they were top executives, and began acquiring restaurants on Florida’s west coast. Their other holdings include Bridge Street Bistro and Island Time Bar and Grill in Bradenton Beach, the Surf Shack on St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota, and Surf Shack in Tampa.

Fuller became acquainted with the Blu Mangrove Grill -- the former name of Riviera Dunes Dockside -- when he lived next door.

“Steve and I would have business meetings here. It is a neat place and we agreed we wanted to buy the business if it ever became available,” Fuller said.

Riviera Dunes Dockside is open 11:30 a.m.- 10 p.m. week days and 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m. weekends. For more information, visit https://rivieradunesdockside.com/ or call 941-304-3689.

Fuller and Bishop operate as Excellence in Restaurants. For more information, visit excellenceinrestaurants.com/consulting/.

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