Great restaurant, great partnership.                  F.M. Don’s to honor Punta Gorda heritage

Great restaurant, great partnership. F.M. Don’s to honor Punta Gorda heritage

Punta Gorda, Florida – April 5, 2017 - Chris Evans, co-owner of The Turtle Club Coastal Tavern and Claw Bar, summed up what went into a restaurant deal that will change the face of Marion Avenue: “Like anything else in life--time and opportunity.”


It took both to bring about the purchase of eight-year-old Jack’s on Marion, owned by Bill and Janet Minerich in downtown Punta Gorda’s Sunloft Center since 2012.


Said Evans, “For a retired airline pilot who’d never been in the restaurant business before, Bill Minerich has done a fantastic job with Jack’s. We’ve been friends for years, and I’ve been floating balloons to him for a year and a half. 


“I’d also been trying to hire Chef Keith Meyer for a year. He loved what he was doing at Trabue, and they were building a great, strong business there. When Trabue was sold this January, I re-approached both of them.”


Meyer and Evans will partner in Jack’s, with Meyer focusing on the culinary excellence for which he’s recognized, while Evans applies the operational processes and systems that he’s honed in his other restaurant ventures, at Punta Gorda’s Turtle Club and The Glass Tavern in Schenectady.


“I think we’re going to make a dynamic team,” said Meyer.


Trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York, with former sous-chef positions at two Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurants, Meyer will bring expertise in French cooking technique to a kitchen three times Trabue’s size and a restaurant of 260 seats.


Explained Meyer, “The menu will obviously be broader, but keep Jack’s most popular items. I want to keep everything super fresh, seasonal, and scratch made, taking advantage of the many resources we have locally, such as Three Suns Ranch for my bison meatloaf.”


Meyer expects to continue his practice of visiting the dining room to share in customers’ satisfaction. And Meyer’s wife, NBC-2 News anchor Stacey Deffenbaugh Meyer, will continue to work with her husband in a hospitality role at the new restaurant.


Said Meyer, “Even though most people are from somewhere else, everybody in Punta Gorda comes together to make this town a great place to live. Being involved directly with guests has always been enormously satisfying for Stacey and me.”


Aware of the market and price points in Charlotte County and Punta Gorda, Meyer and Evans don’t plan on fine dining. There will be casual choices, a bar menu, small plates, fine dishes and plates for sharing.


“For us,” said Evans, “every restaurant has several keys to success: management, quality, capital, location and, of course, concept.


“Our concept is historical. Everybody who comes this community loves the history, the harbor, the story of Punta Gorda. We want to create a space dedicated to telling that story, where you can come with your whole family & friends, enjoy delectable food, and see the history of Punta Gorda.”

“My grandfather, F. M. ‘Don’ Donelson, was part of that history. He developed Fishermen’s Village and Emerald Pointe in the 1970s, started The Royal Order of Ponce de Leon Conquistadors in 1979, and worked to establish one of the first Charlotte Harbor Fishing Tournaments for kids.  Working with Gene Murtha of the Punta Gorda Historical Society, we want to showcase my grandfather’s historic photographs and other historical pieces in the restaurant.” 

In his honor, the new restaurant’s name will be F.M. Don’s. 


“This will not be The Turtle Club or The Glass Tavern or Trabue,” said Evans. “We don’t need more brick and earth tones. But we do want to frame up some walls and install floating acoustic ceilings to contain live music in the bar area and keep the dining area quieter. With Jack’s energy already centered around that bar corner, we want to bring in more live entertainment.”


“We want to keep people happy who’ve been coming to Jack’s for years, while injecting unique energy into this growing town,” said Meyer.


The changeover will begin in May, but the transition will be slow and seamless over the following six to eight months, retaining the Jack’s team and keeping everything they need to remain successful.  To come in the future: a catering division and a large banquet space, for meetings of 50 or more, in Sunloft Center’s Suite 211 behind Jack’s.


“The energy in Punta Gorda is unique, passionate, and lifestyle oriented.  We want to build on that energy.  When you combine all the efforts of this community, you are marketing this community.  Selling more homes, bringing more businesses, and adding to the fabulous way of life that Charlotte County offers,” said Evans.

Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry


  • 1 pound chicken, breast or thigh
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 to 6 white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • For Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • Rice noodles, or white/brown rice


  1. Prepare rice noodles according package instructions; or, prepare white or brown rice to serve with the stir-fry. Keep warm until ready to serve.
  2. Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl: brown sugar, soy sauce, water, sesame seed oil, vinegar, ginger (I use fresh ginger and mircoplane to create finely ground ginger) and minced garlic; set aside.
  3. Preheat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add thinly sliced chicken breast or chicken thigh. Cook the chicken for 7 to 9 minutes, stirring often, until completely cooked. Remove into a large bowl and keep warm.
  4. In the same pan, prepare the vegetables in batches to prevent overcrowding. I like to prepare the onions and mushrooms together, bell pepper and snap peas, zucchini and broccoli. Cook each batch for 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables reach desired doneness. Remove each batch into the same bowl as the chicken. 
  5. Once all vegetables are cooked, pour the prepared sauce into the pan and bring up to a simmer. Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes, allowing the sugar to caramelize and thicken. Return all of the vegetables and chicken back into the pan and coat in the sauce. Continue cooking the mixture for a few more minutes for the sauce to season the ingredients.
  6. Add the rice noodles to the pan, if desired and toss to coat with the sauce. Alternatively, serve the stir-fry over rice.

Popular local restaurants returning to regular hours

Dining options expand as we approach season By Wade Tatangelo

(Ticket editor) 

Sure, it still feels like summer.

But the numerous dining destinations reopening and returning to regular hours this week and next is a sure sign season is approaching. And now is a great time to visit these popular spots before season really gets started.

Sol's NYC Delicatessen (1991 Main St.) has returned to regular hours, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, which means the return of those delicious Jewish soul food dinners complete with a slice of Sol's amazing cheesecake. Sol's has also brought back happy hour, daily from 3 to 6 p.m. with$3 drafts, $4 bottles, half off all wine, and 25-50 percent discount on all liquor libations.

Also downtown, Upper Main Street sushi staple Utamaro (1900 Main St.) will start serving its signature rolls for lunch and dinner again on Wednesday.

Seafood Shack, a landmark restaurant and marina in 4110 127th St. W. Cortez on the Intracoastal Waterway that recently unveiled a fun, new happy hour menu and daily dining deals, returns to regular hours Wednesday after taking off for “a little me time” Monday and Tuesday.

On Anna Maria Island, fresh seafood destination Blue Marlin (121 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach) reopens Thursday.

Duffy’s Tavern (5808 Marina Dr, Holmes Beach), a family owned and operated restaurant that has been serving beloved burgers on Anna Maria Island since 1958, reopens Tuesday.

The Waterfront Restaurant of Anna Maria (111 S. Bay Blvd.), featuring indoor as well as outdoor seating by the beach, reopens Saturday.

Over on Longboat Key, Harry’s Continental Kitchen (525 St Judes Drive) reopens Thursday.

Another fine-dining favorite on Longboat Key, Euphemia Haye (5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive), also reopens Thursday.

Jo-To Japanese Restaurant, with its hibachi tables and sushi bar, at 5218 Ocean Blvd. on Siesta Key, reopens Oct. 4.

The two longest-running restaurants in Bradenton’s Village of the Arts were on hiatus this month, but not at the same time. Arts and Eats (1114 12th St W.) reopens Wednesday. Ortygia (1418 13th St. W.) closes Wednesday and reopens Oct. 6.

In Osprey, the popular waterfront restaurant and tiki bar Casey Key Fish House (801 Blackburn Point Road) reopens Friday.

Also, the Venice landmark Crow’s Nest Marina Restaurant (1968 Tarpon Center Drive), which closes every year the day after Labor Day for annual maintenance while the marina remains open, recently reopened its restaurant and tavern.

Know of other local restaurants taking a break or reopening? Please email