Upon walking into Council’s on Tuesday, it was like the place was never closed.
Lawton Smith was behind the counter toasting buns and grilling burgers before assembling the sandwiches and serving them to customers on a napkin, just like before. New owners Kimberly Duffy and Sandi Wagner were standing back and taking it all in.
“We’ve got to watch ’em roll before we can jump in,” Duffy said to a customer as they watched Smith work his magic.
Smith was glad to see the historic downtown burger joint reopened. He closed it in November and said after six or seven conversations with interested parties, Smith decided Duffy and Wagner were the right choice to be new owners.
“I think it’s great that women didn’t come in here for 50 years and now women are running the place,” Smith said. “How about that?”
Named Council’s Burgers in 1936, Council Smith operated the burger joint about a block or two away from its current location at 536 12th St. W. He moved it in 1954, and it has served what many residents call the best burger in town ever since. Lawton Smith, Council’s son, took over operations in the 1970s.
It came out in January that Duffy and Wagner would take over the spot without changing the business. The two own the Toasted Mango Cafe, with two locations in Sarasota.
Duffy and Wagner, after “getting their feet wet” and learning the way Smith runs the business, hope to open earlier and stay open later to serve the downtown Bradenton breakfast and evening crowds.
They also plan to add a few things to the Council’s menu, including coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Eventually, they hope to turn the building’s side window into a “grab-and-go” option for the hurried and hungry.