1. Business

Burtons Grill & Bar headed to Midtown Tampa

TAMPA — Burtons Grill & Bar will open its first restaurant in the Tampa Bay area in 7,000 square feet in the $500 million Midtown Tampa project.

Burtons is a "polished casual" restaurant — think Houston's — with a contemporary American steak and seafood menu and a readiness to work with diners who have particular needs: food allergies, sensitivities to gluten, or vegetarian or paleo diets.

"We found several years ago it was a good business practice, a good niche to be in, so we will customize meals and meet whatever dietary restrictions anyone has," co-founder Kevin Harron said Thursday.

Burtons Grill was founded in 2005 in Massachusetts and will open its 17th restaurant on the eastern seaboard next month, but its team has plenty of connections to Tampa. A lot of the founders had been involved with Outback Steakhouse in the 1990s, often as franchisees or joint venture partners working with franchisees. Harron himself has been coming to Tampa since the 1980s when he worked for Bennigan's. And the restaurant is named for one of its investors, longtime Tampa venture capitalist Don Burton, himself an early investor in Outback.

"It's great to put one in his home town," Harron said.

Burtons Grill now has 1,700 employees in nine states and a sister concept, the Red Heat Tavern. Its only Florida restaurant so far is in Boca Raton, but Harron said the company is looking to open a second Burtons Grill in Palm Beach County next year, then the Tampa restaurant in 2021.

Burtons is the largest restaurant yet announced at Midtown Tampa, along with the bay area's first True Food Kitchen and a new restaurant by chef Chris Ponte, known for Café Ponte in Clearwater and On Swann in South Tampa. Those other new restaurants are expected to be 5,000 feet each. Developers have said they expect to bring six to eight full-service restaurants, many of them new to the market, to the Midtown Tampa project, which also includes offices, apartments, a hotel, a Whole Foods Market and other stores.

"Midtown is resonating with tenants all around the nation," said Nicholas Haines, chief executive officer for The Bromley Companies, the New York-based master developer for the Midtown Tampa. The 1.8 million-square-foot project is expected to start construction near N Dale Mabry and Interstate 275 in coming weeks and to open by early 2021.

Midtown Tampa is the first mixed-use project of its kind — with a hotel, offices, apartments and retail — where Burtons Grill has opened. The location, "right in the heart of Tampa," Harron said, "is not simply going to serve the tourists but the year-round folks as well."

The restaurant will have 225 seats inside and will be big enough to have for a takeout operation capable of catering to Midtown's residents and office workers.

"I think we can have the best of both worlds in that location," Harron said, "where we'll have a great destination restaurant as well as one that accommodates people if they want food to go."

Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times