The downtown Bradenton crowd will not be short for dining options, especially when it comes to Mexican food.
La Mesa Restaurant will serve “authentic Mexican food with a Latin flair,” said owner Joey Bennett, who also owns the downtown Bradenton sushi bar The Fish.
Rovshan “Rov” Avila, who also teaches at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee in the hospitality program, will be La Mesa’s head chef.
Bennett is shooting for an opening date in January, though the 100-year-old building at 320 12th St. W. needs a lot of work, he said. Bennett plans to turn the two garage doors facing 4th Avenue West into walk-up order windows with a small patio seating area. The walk-up menu will be limited, Bennett said, and the full menu and full service can be found inside. He estimates La Mesa will be able to seat about 200 people.
Bennett heard about Senor Fajitas opening in downtown Bradenton, but said he isn’t concerned about competition from the Mexican restaurant that will be next door.
“I’m not worried about it,” Bennett said. “It’s completely different.”
The food at La Mesa, which translates to “table” in English, will “not be Tex-Mex by any means,” he said.
La Mesa has licenses for beer, wine and liquor, while Senor Fajitas has a license for beer and wine but is still working on a liquor license.
Realize Bradenton executive director Johnette Isham is a big fan of Avila and his cooking. For him to cook in a downtown Bradenton restaurant is a “home run.”
“He’s a millennial and has been a part of pop-ups for a purpose and we are delighted he’s been engaged in mentoring young boys and girls for our cook together project,” Isham said. “I have had his food, I love his food and he’s catered some of our millennial events testing out new recipes but most of all what I love about Chef Rov is his community contribution.”
At The Fish, Bennett said he’s expanding into the former Gulf Coast Legal Services office. The expansion will open more space for the kitchen and add approximately 100 seats to the dining room. The Fish also will expand the menu once the larger dining space and kitchen are finished.
Bennett has a meeting with city of Bradenton officials on Oct. 25 about The Fish’s expansion plans.
“As soon as they approve it, they will start,” Bennett said of The Fish project. “It will probably get done prior to the Mexican restaurant.”