969 North Collier Boulevard, Marco
Tara Steak and Lobster House, a popular Marco restaurant for the past ten years, is moving to bigger, brighter digs, the Esplanade.
In short, Tara will retain the steak and gain some serious sizzle.
Owner-operator Tara Trevethan and her partners, mom Jeannie and general manager Marco Porto, already are working daily to get the new venue ready, the airy, upscale bar, kitchen and dining rooms that used to be Vergina.
Physically, the move from Tara’s original location at Bald Eagle Drive and Collier Boulevard to The Esplanade is less than 600 yards down Collier. But the impact of the move on Tara’s business should be huge.
Tara lights up with excitement when she talks about it.
“It’s just great, with that spectacular water view, more space for dining indoors and now we’ll have 60 seats in the outside courtyard we never had before,” Tara says. The extra space, in and out, will yield room for about 160 more seats than in Tara’s old location. “In our other place we were kind of the dark steak house, almost cave-like. Now it’s so nice to have a spacious, bright, place with the great view.”
“Also, the kitchen is like new and gives us a more streamlined, efficient operation for chefs and servers.”
Fans of Tara’s will recognize the same high-end food and service, but with some new features in food and facilities.
“We’re putting a live lobster tank in the front window everybody can see the lobsters swimming around and diners can choose the one they want.”
She laughed when I joked that they might also have livestock walking around so diners can choose their own beef.
“Well we certainly would have room for it,” she said, laughing but shaking her head.
The new restaurant will have a large, temperature-controlled wine rack in the bar area, with 3,000 bottles available. It’s another example of Tara emphasizing the classy nature of the place. The restaurant has won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, six years in a row.
Tara gives all the credit for that to Porto. “He’s the one who knows the wine and handles it all, plus his many other duties. We are great partners,” she says.
Tara and her restaurant neighbors across the plaza share enthusiasm for the move.
“I think we’ll be a benefit to the other restaurants, helping bring more people to The Esplanade,” Tara explains. “And it’s terrific to have great neighbors there, such as Jacquie and Curt Koon, owners of the Bayview and The Bar. We have very good relationships with them and their chef, Laura Owen. We can complement and depend on each other.”
“It’s a really smart, hand-in-hand partnership there. Bayview is changing its name soon and making other changes and upgrades now and it all just fits.”
Curt and Jacquie Koon are equally pleased that Tara is moving in across the plaza. Owners of both restaurants note that the menus and venues are very different and will appeal to different diners at different times.
“It’s going to be good for everybody to have Tara’s fine restaurant here,” Jacquie says. “The other places here at The Esplanade will benefit and islanders and tourists will find a great variety of places to eat, drink and have fun.”
Tara has been serving islanders for 10 years, a lifetime in the restaurant business. And Tara is only 28. But she’s no neophyte to the restaurant business. As Chris Curle reported in an Eagle profile last year:
She was a restaurant prodigy who’s been in the food business here since she was 14.
“When we moved to Florida in 1994 I didn’t know what to do,” Tara tells me. “I went around the island and remember some of owners of small boutiques telling me, ‘you’re too young,’ or ‘you have no experience.’ I was frustrated.”
Tara took an office job to keep busy, but she “hated” stuffing envelopes so she kept looking.
“I saw a help wanted sign in the window at Kahuna restaurant. They were looking for bussers. Tom Blodgett, who interviewed me, said, ‘Don’t worry kid, I’ll teach you what you need to know, so you’re hired.’ ”
“I started bussing tables and got pretty good money for a girl just starting high school. I worked my way up. Within a month I was waiting tables and when (the owner) went on trips, I had the keys, made the deposits and helped managed the restaurant.
“I fell in love with every part of it and then we (she and her parents) decided to do our own. We opened Andre’s, now Tara, in 1998.”
And now she is moving her baby, so to speak, her life’s work, to a venue that potentially offers one of the island’s best known locations. Other eating places include Guy Harvey’s Island Grill, Cold Stone Creamery and Starbucks.
Tara is scheduled to open for business at its new Esplanade location by mid-September. And Tara is planning a celebration, a grand opening, in early October. The phone number for reservations is the same as always: 394-0212. The website: www.tarasteakandlobsterhouse.com.
As Tara works to make the transition, she stops to remember a day 10 years ago when she, her mother and her late father saw a model of The Esplanade in the developer’s office in Naples.
“Dad thought it would be a great place to put our restaurant, but it just wasn’t something we could do at that time,” Tara says. “Now, we’ve come full circle and we will be where dad wanted us to be. Mom and I think dad is watching over us and smiling.”
Note: Don Farmer and Chris Curle will have much more in their Marcophile column in next Wednesday’s Eagle about the many changes coming to the Bayview at The Esplanade.