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Eric and Todd Chop Block Grill

Creating and Growing a Premium Restaurant

By Diane Bedard Posted on September 17, 2020

In 2014, Eric Gallery and Todd Smith came to Brooksville. They had lived in Tampa for years, Eric working in Customer Service Management and Todd in Restaurant Management. Tired of the rat race, they chose to move to Brooksville and open a casual urban eatery.

Chop Block Grill was begun in an unassuming shopping center south of Brooksville’s historic Main Street district. It is an unusual place for such high-quality food, including prime steaks, fresh seafood and a creative cook-to-order menu, but there are good reasons for the location.

“I looked for a lot of parking and the opportunity to be back from the road for the comfort of our guests,” Eric shared with me. “The rent here is a fraction of most of the other places we looked, which allows me to keep our prices in line with the market.”

The words “CHOP BLOCK GRILL” are in large letters over a double storefront a couple of doors down from Mickey’s Barber Shop. There are two tables with four chairs each in front of the restaurant for outdoor dining, a result of COVID-19’s impact on the restaurant business in 2020.

The Salad Bar at Chop Block Grill is extensive, with tomato salad and potato salad, cole slaw and cottage cheese, in addition to all the fixin’s and house-made dressings – FRESH! Image by Diane Bedard.

A Great Place for Lunch

At lunch time, the parking lot is crowded with local businesspeople coming in for lunches ranging from $8 to $12 and the eatery’s somewhat famous all-you-can-eat soup and salad combo for $10.

Their New England Clam Chowder is made fresh with plenty of butter and clams. It is hearty, creamy, and delicious. I have been known to stop by for this delicacy multiple times a week! The Vegetable Beef soup is full of nicely sized beef and veggies with a classic flavor. The Minestrone is another gem.

The Salad Bar is available Tuesday through Friday from 11 am to 4 pm. “With all the Covid regulations, we had to figure out how to deliver our salad bar while following safety guidelines,” Eric said. “We have gloves available for guests to use while filling their plates and ensure that only one plate is used per helping. This allowed us to be able to continue offering the fresh salad experience we are known for.”

The Carribean Mahi Tacos have mango salsa, pina colada rice and fresh grilled mahi mahi pieces on a freshly made taco shell. They are amazing! Image by Diane Bedard.

Other lunch favorites include the ½ lb. burger, chicken tacos on freshly fried shells, pasta dishes choc-full of seafood or chicken, luncheon plates, and wraps. And the Caribbean Mahi tacos are exceptional… trust me.

A true vegetarian section is on Chop Block Grill’s menu. A friend who is a strict vegetarian was so happy to see this and raved about the quality of the food, as well as its flavor. While I am a committed “meatatarian”, it is so nice to enjoy a special meal at the same table here.

Great Beer & Wine Selection

Chop Block Grill offers a nice selection of beer on draft and in bottles. They have a great wine list for proper pairing with each dish. Specialty drinks available include mimosas, sangria, and a pina colada spritzer.

Eric Gallery shows two fresh red snapper that will be filleted and served at Chop Block Grill. Fresh fish is an important part of the restaurant’s offerings. Image courtesy of Chop Block Grill.

The Prime Beef is a Noticeable Upgrade

When Eric and Todd began conceptualizing Chop Block Grill, the casual urban dining plan was created. It included the finest ingredients prepared to order – and that meant prime beef. Did you know that beef comes in grades, and prime beef is significantly pricier than choice or select beef grades? Prime beef has abundant marbling, which makes the meat more tender and flavorful than other grades. It is usually sold only in high end restaurants.

I have noticed a significant taste difference in the prime beef here compared to the beef sold in chain steakhouses. My favorite steak here is the ribeye. This full pound 60-day wet aged prime Iowa steak comes from Carlaisle’s Meat Market in Brooksville. This ribeye is so flavorful and juicy that I comfortably spend for it – and usually take enough home for another meal.

Bacon wrapped Filet Mignon is a favorite. Notice the real grill marks.
Can you see how tender it is? Image by Diane Bedard.

There are two other prime beef cuts on the menu: a New York Strip and a bacon wrapped Filet Mignon. They are each a joy to the taste buds and include two sides. All steaks at Chop Block Grill are cooked over open flame for the best flavor.

Speaking of sides, they are all special in their own way. For example, the broccoli is steamed and then has butter and garlic added before plating. The herb roasted potatoes are seasoned and cooked just right.

In the evenings, the salads are freshly prepared to order by your server from the salad bar. The house salad has tomato, cucumber slices, red onion, an olive or two, and shaved parmesan cheese as well as your choice of house-made salad dressings.

Look at the size of the shrimp and the fresh cheese on the shrimp scampi! Image by Diane Bedard.

Save Room for Dessert: Cheesecake is made in-house

Eric is a true gourmand, and he loves to create new items for Chop Block Grill’s guests. His newest creation is a cheesecake made in-house. It is not as heavy as traditional New York style cheesecake, but still rich and creamy with just a hint of almond and vanilla. It is served plain or topped with blueberry or strawberry coulis, or chocolate sauce.

Speaking of chocolate, the southern chocolate bourbon cake is so rich and moist that you can forego the scoop of vanilla ice cream if you want, but you may just want it to balance the load – definitely shareable after a meal.

The Limoncello mascarpone and the Berry cream mascarpone cakes are both out of this world. The berry one comes in XL and is topped with berry coulis. It is another good sharing choice.

A Restaurant Duo that Thrives despite Adversity

Eric and Todd began working on Chop Block Grill nearly two years before they got the doors open. They originally planned to open their new restaurant in an historic downtown building, but its landlord chose a sports bar over them. They scouted locally for a new location.

Eric and Todd Chop Block Grill
Eric Gallery and Todd Smith are a local restaurant duo that has created a wonderful place to enjoy an upscale meal in Brooksville, and throughout the Nature Coast. Image by Diane Bedard.

After looking through the shopping centers available, they settled on their current location at 691 Broad Street in the Family Dollar plaza. They got to work, hiring a contractor to create the restaurant to their specs. The contractor was r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w. So slow that they first opted to create a seafood restaurant at the downtown location.

It became a popular place and the guys stayed there for a year, all the while waiting for their current location to be completed. The doors were opened in September 2019.

They were open for “season” and getting solidly grounded when COVID-19 hit. I have been impressed at how creative they were in managing through crisis and anticipate they will be here for years to come.

The Caribbean Mahi Mahi Filet with fresh vegetables. The filet is sizable and glazed with a wonderful sweet and spicy island glaze. Add pineapple mango salsa and jasmine rice for a favorite dish. Image by Diane Bedard.

What to Expect at Chop Block Grill

The walls are a relaxing violet color and the booths have high backs for privacy. The restaurant is outfitted with all new equipment, so the seats are nicely cushioned and accented with butcher block tables.

Outside just melts away after the hostess seats us in the relaxing environment. Artwork of Paris and Europe, as well as a magnificent quilt decorate the walls. Jazz music plays softly.

The seating is all safely distanced 6 feet, and reservations are recommended. You can call 352-678-6767 to reserve a table. Chop Block Grill can only accommodate parties of eight or less until Covid restrictions are lifted. Take out is available.

The atmosphere is relaxing at Chop Block Grill. The servers are consistent and so is the food. Now that Covid regulations are in place, guests are seated at every other booth and six-foot distance between tables is carefully observed. Image by Diane Bedard

I forgot to mention appetizers, but you will like the variety when you visit – from Cuban Egg Rolls to a pan seared Crab Cake.

The staff has been attentive and kind to me when I visit Chop Block Grill. Servers wear black shirts, masks, and have black aprons. They are also consistent, which I like. It is a true pleasure when your server knows your name and drink preference. I have found this consistently at Chop Block Grill. Try them out and let NatureCoaster know what dish your favorite was.

Chop Block Grill Quick Facts:

  • Chop Block Grill opened in 2019, featuring prime steaks, fresh seafood, and a large salad bar.
  • Beer and Wine served.
  • Located at 691 S. Broad Street in Brooksville.
  • Phone: 352-678-6767
  • Hours: Tues – Fri 11 am – 9 pm, Saturdays 4 – 9 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.
  • Reservations suggested. Maximum party of 8. Take Out Available.
  • Menu Link
  • Prices: $8 – $52. Children’s Menu. Vegetarian Dishes.

Comments

Tina says

We LOVE this place! They cook up the best fresh and deeeeelicioso food around, prepared with great care and respect for all.

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charla b says

This sounds like a delightful place! I cannot wait to try!!

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