Atamanchuks turn Key around

Ever since 1997, when New Yorkers Sue and Rocket Atamanchuk bought Lock ‘n Key at Englewood Beach, they haven’t stopped growing.

In 2017 the couple purchased nearby Flounders, renamed SandBar Tiki & Grille, and launched a shuttle service to overflow parking farther up N. Beach Road.

Only a year ago, they closed the Lock down for three months to expand its inside bar and outdoor dining, and to remodel the dining room.

In case you’re wondering what’s next for this busy pair, they’re seemingly out to conquer the Key. They recently purchased the former Manasota Key Coffee House, which had sat vacant for nearly two years, half a mile up N. Beach Road from SandBar.

The beach-facing duplex, on an acre that also backs up to Lemon Bay, will be renamed

Magnolias Market on the Bay

According to Sue, it will be a small gourmet market along with light breakfast, pizza and deli items for takeout and delivery.

“Lots of grab-and-go’s for the beach, beer and wine, and, of course, an ice cream shop,” she said.

The Atamanchuks hope to open their 2395 N. Beach Road market in November.

New chefs’ first year at JD’s and 88 Keys

It’s been a year since Chef Danny Cortes left the executive chef post that he’d never really wanted at JD’s Jazz Club in Port Charlotte, instead choosing to chase down his dream with Danny’s Food Truck.

Into his place at JD’s stepped Executive Chef Kellen White, 31, who’s now running the show at the posh supper club with the help of a sous-chef and a chef garde manger.

Sous-chef for six years with Chef Tony DuBoulay at Venice Airport’s hidden-gem Suncoast Café, White has been cooking professionally since the age of 12, when his family ran a Sarasota catering business, seasoning and deep-frying 50 to 100 holiday turkeys out in a field.

“Food’s my passion,” he said. “I tell the guys, make it look good, taste good, that’s what we do.”

His influences were his late Aunt Sandra, Julia Child and the young Emeril Lagasse — in that order.

He joined the University of Iowa Cyclones as a defensive back, but recruiters laughed when he asked if the place had a culinary program. He couldn’t wait to get back in the kitchen, so he enrolled in culinary school at The Art Institute of Tampa and finished up closer to home at Keiser University.

Though his long-term goal is a restaurant of his own, the up-and-coming young chef said, “This is really fun right now, working with GM Dawn Jagr and owner Chris Patel. He gives us a lot of creative leeway.”

Culinary creations like pan-seared mahi mahi with lump crab in richly herbed Hollandaise prove that he knows his way around a kitchen. And as he works the JD’s dinner crowd, shaking hands and chatting with guests, it’s clear that he’s having the time of his life.

JD’s Jazz Club ($$-$$$), 941-255-0994, 1951 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, is open Tuesday to Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.

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“Hands-on” is a good way to describe Head Chef John Ellis‘ style at the Wyvern Hotel’s 88 Keys Florida — whether he’s in the kitchen or plating creations at Wednesday night’s live pasta station.

This isn’t his first stint at the hotel’s restaurant. He opened Lulu’s there, pre-Curve and 88 Keys, then moved on to W. Marion Avenue fine dining at Opus. Before recently returning to the mainland, he cheffed at the exclusive Boca Grande Club as well as 3rd Street Bistro.

Some 20 years ago, Chef John started the usual way, as a dishwasher, then dove onto the line one day when the cook didn’t show up. Not only has he worked with Carmelo Mangiafico of Carmelo’s Italian Ristorante, he also went to Port Charlotte High School with him.

His goal? To see the Wyvern’s restaurant come into its own.

88 Keys Florida ($$-$$$), 941-639-7700, 101 E. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda, is open for breakfast daily 7 to 10 a.m., for dinner Wednesday and Thursday 4 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday to 10 p.m.

Penny’s parties on

Aug. 6 marks a year since Penny Rowe and Gordon Muir opened Penny’s Restaurant in Punta Gorda Isles.

Sounds like an excellent reason to party.

Rowe reports that tomorrow’s birthday celebration will have music, a limited menu, special prices and a prize wheel where each customer will spin for special deals, including half-price meal, free meal, free side, free drink and entire party free.

Penny’s Restaurant ($-$$), 941-347-8106, 1133 Bal Harbor Boulevard, is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Average price ranges are $ = inexpensive (under $10), $$ = moderate ($11-$30), and $$$ = pricey (over $30), including tip and beverage. Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at suewade47@aol.com.

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