Last week the new Mall at University Town Center opened in Sarasota as a new location for upscale shopping and dining. I had the chance to check it out this past weekend and thought I’d share a few pictures. My mom and I had seen the location last as a dirt patch before construction started, so it was quite impressive to see the change. The grand opening was last Thursday, with celebrities like our friend David Bromstad in attendance to celebrate the opening of the mall at their Macy’s location. Some of the stores are still not open yet, but I would say a good 80-90% are currently open.
The retail center has a range of stores throughout with anchor stores like Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillard’s. High end offerings also include Stuart Weitzman, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Tory Burch, and more traditional mall mainstays like the Gap, Express, Banana Republic, and Victoria’s Secret. One of my favorite aspects of the Mall at University Town Center is the collection of home, kitchen and housewares stores like Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, and Williams-Sonoma. I could get lost in these stores along for hours checking out all the fun gadgets and gizmos as well as great decor.
For the opening weekend they had quite a bit of entertainment going on throughout the Mall. I don’t know if this will continue on a regular basis, but it definitely made this feel unlike any mall I’ve ever been to. There were living statues similar to those that used to appear in Epcot. Multiple musicians were spread out throughout the Mall at University Town Center playing music ranging from steel drums, to Celtic violins, to solo guitar players, and even some singing Jack Johnson. In addition to this there were a couple of gymnastic troupes performing in different locations. It made this much more than just your typical shopping experience. I even got to meet Hello Kitty!
Setting itself further apart from most malls, the Mall at UTC for short, doesn’t offer a food court per se. There are tons of places to eat, but most of them are table service restaurants, with a few counter service locations with seating mixed in here and there. There are also counter location like Auntie Anne’s pretzels, Starbucks, and Cold Stone Creamery where you just walk up to the counter and order. We opted for lunch at Seasons 52, a restaurant that was first mentioned to me by our own Gail a while back when talking about their fantastic meals on twitter.
Being that this was the opening weekend at the mall, we decided it might be a good idea to get there not long after the mall opened at 11am on Sunday. This was definitely a good call because parking was even scarce when we arrived a little before 11:30. We also had the good sense to make a reservation ahead of time for lunch at Seasons 52 using the Open Table website. We actually checked in about half an hour before our reservation time since neither of us had eaten breakfast, and thankfully they were able to seat us right away. Others were being told the wait was about 45 minutes unless they could find a seat at the bar, so we were very happy to get in early.
I will say the service was a bit slow, and also our server wasn’t as familiar with the menu as we were from just looking at it online ahead of time, but I will give them a pass since it was only four days after opening. The food was all fantastic. We thought we’d prefer to try several small things, so instead of ordering any entrees, my mom and I split several appetizers.
We started off with one of the recommended flights and flatbreads, where you can choose from several flatbread options and three wine flights for either $15 or $20 for three tastes of different wines and then a full glass of your favorite of the three. This would be a great lunch in and of itself for future reference. We tried the blackened steak & blue cheese flatbread with the Acclaimed wine flight, which consisted of reds that were all rated 90 points or above by Wine Spectator, the Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast or International Wine Cellar. We liked the cabernet the best, but none of the wines were as full bodied as we’d hoped, so we probably wouldn’t choose that flight again. The flatbread was quite tasty as long as you like blue cheese.
Next up we tried some of the seasonal appetizers on the Autumn menu. One that had caught my eye was the cider-glazed chicken skewers. They were served over a fuji apple slaw with sun-dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds. This was our favorite selection we tried. Mom didn’t care for the slaw as much as I did, but still enjoyed the dish overall. We tried a cup of the porcini mushroom bisque in hopes that it might be similiar to the Portabella mushroom soup at Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, but it was different. Good, but not as creamy as I’d hoped. I liked dipping the small garlic breadstick that came with it in the bisque to combine the flavors. Mom also ordered the carmelized brussel sprouts with crispy bacon, garlic and a parmesan crust. I’m not usually a fan of brussel sprouts, but paired with the bacon and cheese worked really well. We also ordered the organic baby spinach and carmelized pear salad with toasted walnuts, gorgonzola, and a sherry walnut vinaigrette. The salad was very good too, as long as you like blue cheese. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of blue cheese, in case you hadn’t guessed, but I did like what we had.
Last up was our dessert. Seasons 52 has a tray of mini desserts called mini indulgences that are about shot glass size and very affordable at only $2.75 each. These do change seasonally, so the offerings may very, but there were several intriguing choices. We opted to split the lemon and blueberry curd, and the pumpkin pie with a ginger snap cookie. We enjoyed both desserts, but mom and I both agreed we liked the pumpkin pie the best.
The food at Seasons 52 is all 475 calories or less per menu item, which is nice to know. They use seasonal and fresh ingredients to mix up the selections every few months. Their name, in case you were wondering where the 52 comes from, refers to the 52 different wines that are available by the glass. The food pictured above was enough for two adults to get two full meals each out of it and it was very reasonably priced coming to less than $60 before tip. The leftovers were even great the next day! I really enjoyed this restaurant at the Mall at UTC, and it will definitely be one of the reasons I come back. I’d also like to try their Kona Grill, The Capital Grill, and Brio restaurants. Friends have also recommended the Rise pizza restaurant here, which offers gluten free and traditional pies with your choice of toppings.
If you are looking for a different place to get some of your shopping done, the Mall at University Town Center offers a unique sense of style, mixed with Florida casual fun. This will now be my go to location for the Apple store, which cuts my drive time in half to the next closest location, and it is more than twice the size of the one in Brandon. I also like I can now go here for my Cheesecake Factory fix when I need one. Check this new mall out when you get a chance and let me know what you think.Follow us for more updates: