Cinco de Mayo is a yearly celebration held on May 5 to commemorate Mexico’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Here in Sarasota, the Mexican national holiday festivities can be seen and felt on Main Street in downtown, Sarasota, and what better location to have a two-day block party attended by over a thousand party-goers? Directly in front of El Melvin Cocina Mexicana, a popular Mexican restaurant that sponsors the block party and features live entertainment, food (dine indoors or buy “tacos-to-go” while you attend the block party). The 2024 Cinco de Mayo block party is scheduled this year for Saturday, May 4 (warm up party begins 4pm to 2am) and on Sunday, May 5 (10am – midnight).

The annual block party features live music, drinks (El Melvin is famous for its Margaritas and largest tequila selection anywhere), as well as Mexican cuisine that includes vegetarian and vegan options. Attendees are encouraged to reserve tables in advance, especially the front row tables facing Main Street.

According to the event organizers, the 2024 block party is planned to be even bigger and better than the previous year’s celebration.

El Melvin is known for serving upscale, modern Mexican cuisine with a vibrant and festive atmosphere. The restaurant features a “Mex-eclectic” concept with colorful decor, a hand-carved 100-foot wooden bar, and live music several times a week.

Click here for the BEST one-minute El Melvin’s annual Cinco de Maya block party!

The menu offers a variety of Mexican dishes, including tacos, enchiladas, and birria. Reviewers praise the quality of the tacos, particularly the birria and carnitas varieties, as well as the margaritas and other cocktails. However, some felt the entrees were overpriced for the casual setting.

El Melvin is open for brunch, lunch, happy hour, and dinner seven days a week. It offers both indoor and outdoor seating, and is considered pet-friendly. Parking is available on the street or in nearby paid lots.

Eat Sarasota believes El Melvin Cocina Mexicana is regarded as one of the best Mexican restaurants in the Sarasota area, especially for its vibrant atmosphere, creative cuisine, and popular bar program.

El Melvin owners Matt Hess and Mitch Good.

Sebastian is one of El Melvin’s bartenders. In addition to being adorable, he’s a master Margarita maker!

It’s All In A Name:
How El Melvin came to be.

Co-owned and operated by childhood friends and partners Mitch Good and Matt Hess, El Melvin Cocina
Mexicana is an entrepreneurial spin off from a storied chicken farm and grocery store history. Mitch’s
grandfather, Melvin Mitchell, led this spirit, growing up and working on a chicken farm for Victor Weaver in New Holland, Pennsylvania, where the two partners also grew up. Through dedication and hard work, Melvin worked his way up the company, which grew to Weaver’s Chicken. It eventually sold to Tyson Chicken in 1989.

Not ready to retire, Melvin decided to finance another business venture with his son-in-law and Mitch’s father, Jeff Good, starting Amelia’s Grocery Outlet in New Holland that same year. The store was named after Melvin’s wife, Dorothy Amelia Mitchell and Mitch’s name also came from his mother’s maiden name, Patricia Mitchell. The initial Sarasota tie-in also came from Melvin, who bought a vacation home in 1989 at The Meadows Country Club for family and extended family visits. Over the next 24 years, the store flourished and in 2013, was sold to the Grocery Store Bargain Outlet based in Berkeley, Calif.

Like his father-in-law, Jeff was not ready to retire. Following in Melvin’s footsteps, Jeff then also bought a vacation home in Sarasota. In 2014, after Mitch graduated from Penn State University with a degree in marketing and Matt graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in finance, the three started discussing business opportunities. Sarasota was low hanging fruit due to its warm climate and the family vacation history that came with it. It was just a matter of time to find the right place and opportunity.

Over the next five years, Mitch and Matt pursued their respective marketing and finance careers, Mitch in food marketing for Advanced Food Products, a U.S. division of Savencia Cheese and Fromage, who just so happened to have purchased the office building from Weaver’s Chicken for their North American headquarters. Matt ventured into commercial banking. But the desire to go into a business of their own never wavered.

After considerable research on business opportunities, five years later, Mitch and Matt decided to move to Sarasota in 2019. Shortly thereafter, they met Chris Brown, a well-known Siesta Key and downtown Sarasota commercial real estate developer and restaurant owner, who proposed to Mitch and Matt to take over Two Senoritas, a 25-year family-owned restaurant in downtown Sarasota. Not ones to consider a restaurant due the industry’s low success rate, there was something about it that intrigued both of them. That afternoon, Mitch received a call Melvin had passed away. Mitch took this as a timely sign from his grandfather to move forward with Two Senoritas.

With no restaurant experience between them but a long history of entrepreneurial success, Mitch and Matt decided to apply Mitch’s family philosophy of hard work, and dedication and develop relationships to evolve the family and cultural history of Two Senoritas into a more elevated and modern and socially engaging experience. To do this, Mitch and Matt surrounded themselves with local industry experts who gave them a generous helping hand of support. These included Mark Woodruff, owner of Made
Restaurant, whose father, John, founded Two Senoritas. Mark’s storied history with downtown Sarasota and the restaurant business provided invaluable insights both from concept and operational standpoints.

Another was Mark Caraguilo, a Hollywood and restaurant staging and design consultant and also a member of the well-known and respected Caragiulo family, which owns several concept restaurants in Sarasota. Mark assisted with the remodel concept to create a lively, Mexican Cocina ambiance, while also recommending the name El Melvin. The history behind Melvin and his commitment to family and the entrepreneurial spirit intrigued Mark and by naming the restaurant El Melvin, would continue this
family legacy, also an important part of the Mexican culture. And coincidentally, or perhaps it’s something bigger, one of the Caraguilo’s restaurants, Owen’s Fish Camp, also carries another tie-in. Melvin’s brother’s name was Owen.

If you go:

1355 Main Street

941 -366-1618

~ Andrea Mastrocinque Martone

Andrea Mastrocinque-Martone is Sarasota Event Calendar’s Chief Editor. She is the former A & E Editor for Sarasota Observer Newspapers and is currently a public relations consultant.