Los Mariachis means ‘real Mexican’

For four years its 5,900 square feet sat shuttered and silent on Tamiami Trail, next to its livelier neighbor, Wally’s.

Now, the 185-seat former John Hall’s Goal Post and Smuggler’s Grille is alive with vibrant colors and mariachi music.

Partner Edrey Flores said, “The Goal Post was always my favorite sports bar.”

Now, at 28, he’s general manager at the same spot, for Los Mariachis Bar & Grill, Port Charlotte’s newest Mexican restaurant. Just like his four co-owners, Flores always wanted to have his own business.

The five partners came together at Port Charlotte‘s Plaza Mexico but wanted a fresh start with their own place and a chance to control their own destiny.

“When the opportunity showed itself,” said Flores, “we all took it.”

Their recipes go far beyond typical Mexican-American fare. There are menudo, barbacoa, mixed-grill parillada, ceviche, Mexico City flautas, sopes (fat masa tortillas) and huaraches (“sandals,” even fatter), al pastor and lengua (tongue).

“We have the perfect team,” said partner Miguel Carranza. “And we welcome everyone in Port Charlotte like family.”

Los Mariachis ($-$$), 941-627-8030, 3575 Tamiami Trail, is open Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday to 9 p.m.

They’re the coolest!

The 1950s, that era of innocence, were made for ice cream parlors.

That was when eating fistfuls of raw cookie dough, like breaking the 5-second rule, never killed us.

Englewood’s newest ice cream shop—Made in the Shade—lets kids revel once more in not just the long-forbidden dough, but also a fifties’ Candyland bopping with tunes like “Runaround Sue,” “Angel Baby” and “Mr. Sandman.”

They serve 40 ice creams, 19 snow cone flavors and 25 kinds of fresh-made cotton candy.

And they’re always inventing things, including Bacon Sundae, the ultimate blend of sweet, salt and fat, topped with bacon, chocolate drizzle and chopped peanuts.

If it’s edible cookie dough you crave, this is the only shop between Fort Myers Beach and Sarasota where you can get it. It’s completely safe because it uses heat-treated flour and contains no eggs.

And owners Becky Taubel and Devroy have the sort of daffy enthusiasm that’s expected of all the best soda jerks.

“My very first job was at an ice cream parlor on Fort Myers Beach,” said Taubel.

Added Devroy, “Who doesn’t like ice cream?”

With Swirls-N-Curls to the east and A Better Scoop, Irving’s and a future Baskin-Robbins to the north of them, they staked their scoop in the former Serenity Café, across from The End Zone.

It took them two months to rebuild the interior in soda-shop tile, chrome and red vinyl, outfitting it with 1950s memorabilia.

Their 1949 AMI jukebox still lights up in neon blue and red, and was converted from 78s to play golden-oldie 45 rpms like “Tutti-Frutti” and “Great Balls of Fire.” The 1940s Coke machine standing next to it would work, too … if they dared plug it in.

Appropriately, the place’s name is postwar slang for “set for life.”

Made in the Shade ($), 941-681-2204, 2411 S. McCall Road, is open Monday to Thursday 2 to 9 p.m., Friday to Sunday noon to 9 p.m.

‘The right way’

The day before pitching its first ball, the Atlanta Braves’ new CoolToday Park treated local families to an open house.

The same Saturday, Il Primo Pizza & Wings treated friends and family to an opening celebration in North Port, in the former Uncle Maddio’s space.

Coincidence? We think not.

Although there’s no shortage of pizza in North Port, expanding there made total sense, according to Il Primo’s director of operations, Jonathan Schroeter.

“North Port is growing like crazy, with the Braves team going in there, and our concept, being very family-centric, sets us apart.”

Two flat screens play G-rated Disney movies for kids, while two more play sports for adults. And all Il Primo outlets have a pirate character who visits one day a week from 5 to 8 p.m., twisting free balloon animals and painting faces.

Il Primo is the 36-year-old brainchild of western New York founder Paul Conti, who tired of never finding pizza or wings made “the right way.”

“I had my own idea what pizza was supposed to be like,” Conti once said.

He felt the same way about his Buffalo wings, insisting on fresh, never frozen, a distinctively crispy texture and the best Louisiana hot sauce: Frank’s.

Recently, Schroeter was excited to open Il Primo’s first new location since its founder’s passing in 2013.

Il Primo is a simple, self-serve concept that evolved out of experience.

Conti discovered he could have 100 different things on the menu and get it right 70 percent of the time, or stick to pizza and wings and get it right 100 percent of the time. So, he cut back to pizza, wings, house and Caesar salads, and appetizers. They also serve beer and wine.

“Once we get North Port rolling, we’ll start scouting out other nearby locations,” hinted Schroeter.

Il Primo Pizza & Wings ($), 16979 Tamiami Trail, North Port, is open Sunday to Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday to 11 p.m.

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