The fact that restaurants serving a variety of bowls have taken over the collective consciousness (and appetites) of the local community hasn’t been lost on Ryan Mortti, now the co-owner of Mahana Fresh, located just north of I-75 off Doña Michelle Dr. and Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. in New Tampa.

Ryan, who also owns his own construction company, recognized the need to do more to capture more customers, especially with multiple new bowl-oriented restaurants either having opened recently or getting ready to open within a couple of miles of his Mahana Fresh location — which is one of three in the Bradenton-based mini-chain.

To that end, Ryan has brought in an experienced partner, Chris Courtney-James, who was responsible the last several years for making sure that Dunkin’ Donuts locations that hadn’t been meeting company expectations were brought up to speed. More important, however, is that Chris also spent years in the kitchens of restaurants across the Tampa Bay area and, in his words, “isn’t afraid to spend a lot of time cooking at a hot grill.”

In addition, Ryan and Chris have a special offer that they hope will bring in plenty of locals — two hours of free Mahana-sized bowls on Saturday, June 12, from noon-1 p.m. and from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. You can pick a bowl, any bowl — one per person, for dine-in only.

Photographer Charmaine George and I spent some time recently at the local Mahana Fresh and even though both of us already loved the food, we were impressed with the incredible precision with which the bowl-oriented eatery prepared for a large catering order — as well as with the delicious aromas that emanated from those grills while tender steaks and marinated chicken breasts and thighs were cooked over the open flame.

An Amazing Selection! 

For those who have never tried Mahana Fresh, you shouldn’t wait until June 12 to check it out. Here’s how it works. You choose from three sizes — Kids (with 1 base, 1 veggie, 1 protein & your choice of sauce), Mahana (1 base, 2 veggies, 1 protein & sauce) and the Big Mahana (2 bases, 2 veggies, 2 proteins & sauce).

The bases include coconut or cauliflower rice, a basmati rice blend, sesame noodles, spinach or my favorite, the kale crunch salad.

Your proteins include marinated ahi tuna, plus Key West, BBQ or (Jannah’s favorite) teriyaki chicken, plus spicy grilled tofu and tender, grilled-to-order steak (my favorite). 

The incredible veggies (above photo) include roasted mushrooms, roasted sweet potatoes, Buffalo cauliflower, garlicky cilantro green beans and my two favorites, the sesame ginger broccoli and the honey sriracha Brussels sprouts. 

Available sauces include coconut sweet potato, creamy wasabi and mine and Jannah’s two favorites, the cilantro vinaigrette and the citrus ginger.

For a small extra charge, add roasted almonds, avocado smash, parmesan cheese, Jannah’s favorite feta cheese and my fave, the Mediterranean tomatoes. 

Honestly, you really can’t go wrong with any of them, but if you have any trouble deciding, Mahana Fresh has now introduced “Signature Bowls,” including everything from a “Keto Surfer Bowl” (cauliflower rice, sesame ginger broccoli, roasted mush-rooms, grilled steak & cilantro vinaigrette) to a “Veggie Vacay Bowl” (coconut rice, sesame ginger broccoli, roasted mushrooms, sesame garlic tofu and coconut sweet potato sauce) and The Big Kahuna Bowl (basmati rice blend, spinach, Buffalo cauliflower, garlicky cilantro green beans, BBQ chicken, grilled steak and cilantro lime vinaigrette). 

And, all of Mahana Fresh’s house-made desserts are pretty tasty, especially for gluten-free — and include chocolate chip cookies, zucchini brownies and snickerdoodle cookies. 

As for beverages, Mahana Fresh has done away with its unique beer taps, but still has  fountain sodas, Pure Leaf sweet and unsweet tea, regular and strawberry lemonade, a variety of Bubly flavored sparkling waters and Bai flavored antioxidant infusion drinks.

Mahana Fresh is located at 17512 Doña Michelle Dr. and is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. every day. For more information, call (727) 238-9967 or visit

Bringing Mini-Golf To The Grove!

As mentioned earlier, Ryan also owns his own construction company and has been busy working on not only completing many of the repurposed shipping containers at the KRATE container park at The Grove, but also on bringing a cool mini-golf course to the area near The Grove theater, with his brother Matt Mortti and his sister Melissa Schachtner and her husband Andrew Schachtner. 

“It won’t have windmills but it will have a mountain with waterfalls and fire, plus cool trick shots,” Ryan says, adding that the tropical-themed course also will have a tiki hut restaurant that serves beer and wine.

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