Outback's Chris Sullivan builds Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar

Carmel Café & Wine Bar, a Mediterranean, casual-dining brand, plans its second unit

Carmel Café & Wine Bar, a casual-dining Mediterranean restaurant from Outback Steakhouse co-founder Chris Sullivan, will open its second restaurant in the Tampa, Fla., area next week.

The second location is scheduled to open in Carrollwood, Fla., on Sept. 13, and follows the first restaurant in Clearwater, Fla., which opened in November 2010.

Inspired by dishes from Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco and France, the cuisine is modern Mediterranean. The ordering method is also modern, offering customers the choice to place orders via tableside iPads or with waitstaff.

Sullivan said the restaurant’s inspiration comes from southern French cuisine; his part-time home in the Carmel, Calif., area; and technologies such as the iPad. He was also interested in creating a smaller restaurant concept than Outback Steakhouse.

“We’re not looking to build the next Outback,” Sullivan said. “The restaurant industry has to make adjustments to stay relevant.”

The first Carmel Café opened with 125 seats in a 3,500-square-foot space in a shopping center, while the second will be slightly bigger, at 150 seats and 4,100 square feet.

A third Carmel Café may be planned for the Tampa Bay market, but Sullivan said he does not plan to expand further after the third restaurant opens.

Former OSI partner and chief branding officer Nancy Schneid; former Oceanaire Inc. chief executive Terry Ryan; and Keith Sedita, former managing partner of Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse in Tampa, are each involved.

Menu selections range from various flatbreads and a mezze platter of edamame, feta cheese, roasted pepper and roasted eggplant spreads; to grilled lamb lollipops, veal sliders, Moroccan lemon chicken, braised short ribs and basil grilled salmon.

A glass of wine and a flatbread costs $11, while a full meal averages about $35 to $40 per customer, Sullivan said. Diners are seated either at private tables or a communal area.

Carmel Café features 70 wines from around the world, including pours that can be customized by serving size, with three-, six- and nine-ounce glasses offered, as well as full bottles. Beers and seasonal sangrias are also available, and wine tastings happen weekly.

Along with taking orders, the customized iPads provide information about the wines and dishes, and recommendations on wine pairings.

Contact Alan Snel at [email protected] [3].
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