RIVERVIEW — Traveling to Valrico to visit family during the past decade, Tampa restaurateur Chris Rose noticed immense changes as the area exploded in growth in the bedroom communities surrounding Brandon.
First, businesses filled the remaining gaps of State Road 60. Then Lumsden Road and Causeway Boulevard became crowded. Now Bloomingdale Avenue is booming west-to-east between Riverview and Valrico as new neighborhoods along U.S. 301 bring more mouths to feed.
The area’s growth, especially the influx of transplants from beyond Tampa, made this a perfect time to open a second location of his Eats! American Grill, Rose said. The 220-seat restaurant with 40 patio seats opened Monday in Winthrop Town Centre on Bloomingdale Avenue. The space was home to the Green Iguana Bar & Grill before it moved north to Town Center Boulevard near the Westfield Brandon shopping mall.
Rose said the Eats! family-friendly concept is a great fit, especially with Winthrop Charter Elementary School and single-family homes to the south and multifamily developments to the north, east and west.
“I love everything about the Winthrop property and what they’re trying to accomplish,” Rose said. “This can launch us to the next level.”
The Winthrop Town Centre began emerging from 148-acres of pasture land in 2000. Developers John and Kay Sullivan envisioned a mix of residential, retail, professional and school uses. The blend attracted anchor tenant Publix to the shopping plaza at Bloomingdale Avenue and Providence Road. Other businesses, medical offices and retail stores followed.
Several restaurants occupy storefronts, including Acropolis Greek Taverna, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Cappy’s Pizza. The most recent additions to the mix east of the main plaza are The Egg & I and Ciccio Cali. On weekend mornings, there are almost as many customers waiting to be seated at The Egg & I as there are in the dining room. Weekend nights are equally as popular for Ciccio Cali’s fans of California cuisine.
Rose said the development’s concentrated group of restaurants plays to his advantage by being a magnet for families and food lovers.
“That’s what I liked about it,” he said. “I talked to people who said they drive to Winthrop and then figure out where they want to go to get a bite once they get here.”
Rose’s first Eats! American Grill opened in 2010 at 4502 S. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa with a menu of classic American dishes that played to a population that migrated to the city from outside Florida.
That meant helpings of Buffalo-style Beef on Weck roast beef sandwiches, authentic Texas chili, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and St. Louis baby back ribs, among other items.
The restaurant got a boost in 2012 when Food Network’s “Heat Seekers” filmed a segment highlighting the Eats! Heat 5-Pepper Sauce it serves on chicken wings.
The Riverview location will offer almost triple the amount of indoor seats as the original Eats! and provide double the patio space. That will allow the restaurant eventually to offer a “Dog Menu” for pet owners to order for their pooch on the porch, manager Tracy Guida said.
The new Eats! will have an expanded bar menu, with 30 American craft brews on tap and a larger menu of classic craft cocktails. Plans also call for beer and wine dinners and special events.
“Eats! is going to be for families, but also for the individuals who want to enjoy a really nice, relaxed bar and opportunities to watch sports and have a good time,” Rose said.