WORDS: Kara Chalmers
PICTURES: Whitney Patton
In the three-and-a-half years it’s been open, Ellenton’s Shake Station has made a name for itself as one of the area’s best family restaurants, equally beloved by both kids and adults.
For one, there’s the ice cream, in particular the creamy, thick milkshakes and malts topped with whipped cream and maraschino cherries. There are 24 flavors of hand-dipped hard ice cream, several toppings, and vanilla and chocolate soft serve, served in cups or waffle cones. Signatures include the Shake Station’s root beer float, banana split, and sundaes, which come topped with whipped cream, nuts and a cherry, as well as “twisters” – soft serve blended with crushed candy bars or mix-ins like cheesecake or brownie bites.
According to owners Andy and Kalliopi Ameres, the Shake Station’s burgers are also a huge draw and an offering the couple is proud of. “We built our restaurant around our burgers,” Andy Ameres said. The burgers, described in one Yelp review as “everything I dreamed of in a burger: messy, meaty, bacon-y, cheesy, with some fresh veggies to balance it out,” are made with hormone-free, grass-fed beef, on a fresh-baked potato bun.
You can get a double or single, with chili or bacon. The Cowboy Burger has barbecue sauce, bacon, onion rings, and Swiss cheese. The Bluesy Burger has bacon, grilled onions, and crumbled blue cheese. There’s a veggie burger, too. Love beer with your burger? There’s Budweiser, Bud Light, and Stella Artois by the glass or pitcher.
Still, notwithstanding its logo – a burger and shake – the Shake Station offers much more. On the menu are numerous salads, wraps, sandwiches, and all-beef kosher hot dogs (which you can order with a choice of 14 toppings.) Among the restaurant’s most popular menu items are the Fried Green Tomatoes; the Crinkle Fries, which you can get with cheese and/or homemade chili; the 301 Nachos Supreme; and the Fish Tacos, which come with fried, grilled, or blackened fish, chipotle lime slaw, tomatoes, cheddar-jack cheese, and homemade pico de gallo.
The Beer-Battered Fish N Chips is a Shake Station signature, as is the Apple Pecan Salad, which features fried, grilled or blackened chicken, plus apples, dried cranberries, candied pecans and crumbled blue cheese over fresh greens. In the numerous positive reviews of Shake Station on TripAdvisor and Yelp, customers also note the crispy tater tots and the fried pickles (spears, not chips.) There’s a kid’s menu, and daily specials. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner every day.
Serving Up Nostalgia
Andy Ameres was “raised in the restaurant business,” as his parents owned and operated several in Manatee County, including the Popi’s Place restaurants. After graduating from Manatee High School, Ameres went on to study hospitality management at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.
After that, he worked for a national restaurant group, first at Houston’s restaurant on Long Island and then helping to open a location on Park Avenue in New York City. In 2001, tired of the weather up north, Ameres moved back to Manatee County and opened a Popi’s Place location in Lakewood Ranch. He sold it when he opened the Shake Station in 2015.
For the last three years, the Shake Station has swept the “Best Family-Friendly Restaurant” category in the annual Bradenton Macaroni Kid Gold Daisy Awards. Macaroni Kid is the publisher of weekly, local e-newsletters and websites about family-friendly events, activities, products, and places. The Shake Station’s family-friendly draws (besides the food) include welcoming and attentive servers, generous portions, and cleanliness. Several high chairs and booster seats are stacked against one wall.
But what truly sets Shake Station apart is its fun and upbeat vibe. Upon entering, you feel as if you’ve walked into a diner and ice cream parlor in the 1950s. From the chrome stools and stainless-steel counter, to the black and white checked walls, the design is decidedly retro.
Oldies are played all day, and vintage tin posters advertising I Love Lucy, Corvettes, Dubble Bubble Gum, and other products and entertainment from the 1950s hang on the walls. Classic car shows – usually consisting of some 120 cars — are hosted by the restaurant from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every second Sunday of the month.
“I feel like the 50s theme is timeless,” Ameres said. “I try to keep it as nostalgic as possible.”
From the road, (US 301 N.), you can’t miss the restaurant, with its black and white checked walls, with red trim. On one corner of the red roof stands a statue of a 1950s-style cook wearing a black and white checked apron.
The free-standing, 40-year-old building used to house the Big L restaurant. While Andy and Kalliopi kept some of Big L’s nostalgic, classic car, and route 66-themed decor (such as the mural on the front exterior wall), they gutted and completely revamped and updated the building’s interior. They also repainted the exterior and added a front deck with bright red picnic tables with umbrellas (you can host a party here for up to 50 people.) A walk-up window for ice cream (or takeout) overlooks the deck.
While the Shake Station’s menu is completely different from that of its predecessor, it does offer the “Big L.T.,” its version of a B.L.T., in its honor.