A down-home, comfort-style restaurant – named Sunsets – is expected to open in May on the former site of Hot Rod’s Country BBQ.
The popular dining spot in Lutz, locally famous for selling what it claimed to be ‘swamp bat,’ closed in 2013.
Since then, rumors and speculation have swirled around just what would replace Hot Rod’s.
A wrecking crew took down the old restaurant in March, several months after Sunset Livingston LLC bought the property, at 18430 Livingston Ave., in Lutz.
Construction is well underway on Sunsets.
The restaurant will be the anchor for a small retail and entertainment plaza that will have an escape room, archery shop, consignment store, insurance agency and a barbecue food trailer, according to an email from real estate broker Jerry Shaw.
“The concept is simple, good food at an affordable price,” said Shaw in the email.
There will be a relaxed “sit down” atmosphere, screened porch, a drive-through window, and a menu with a variety of choices, he added.
The other shops, including Lost in Lutz, will occupy existing storefronts located on-site. Lost in Lutz should be open by late March or early April.
Lost in Lutz will be escape room entertainment, where game participants follow clues and solve puzzles in an interactive adventure. Escape rooms are a growing entertainment trend nationwide, according to co-owner Julie Woolary.
Players “crack the lock” and “beat the clock,” according to the website.
The first of three escape rooms to open will have a theme, “Stuck in the ‘70s”. Players will have 60 minutes to solve puzzles, riddles and clues to find their way back to the present.
“We are hoping that people will come out and test their skills and brainpower, and most importantly have fun,” said Woolary.
Hot Rods had been a dining staple in Lutz since the late 1990s. Then-owner, Rod Gaudin, started his restaurant with a barbecue pit and a converted wood-frame house next to a country store he operated.
In addition to barbecue and cornbread, it had an offbeat menu with specialty items such as ‘lizard tail’ and ‘armadillo eggs’. They were more commonly known as beef steak and cheddar cheese poppers.
And, despite the restaurant’s claims, the ‘swamp bat’ delicacy actually was quail, according to a published account by Sherri Ackerman, a reporter for The Tampa Tribune.
Published March 8, 2017