The excitement level is high in Lake Sumter Landing as a brand new restaurant prepares to open its doors.
The Chop House at Lake Sumter, located next to Barnes & Noble, will open for business on Monday, July 22 at 11 a.m. The restaurant, which is owned by highly popular restauranteur Fred Karimipour, of FMK Restaurant Group, promises to take elegance to a new level in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.
“We are extremely excited for the opportunity to open such a fine establishment in The Villages,” said Karimipour, who also owns the relatively new Bluefin Grill & Bar, Evans Prairie Country Club, Belle Glade Country Club, Bonifay Country Club, Orange Blossom Hills Country Club and Scooples Ice Cream Parlor in The Villages.
The Chop House will feature a variety of prime steak choices, as well as a robust menu offering seafood, pasta and pork chops, among other dishes. A full-service bar in the back of the restaurant will offer a variety of drink choices, as well as craft cocktails that are being developed prior to the grand opening. And an outside bar and seating area will offer diners a chance to enjoy the Florida sunshine and the ambiance of Lake Sumter Landing.
“The restaurant not only has a diverse menu consisting of fresh hand-crafted steaks, but also offers a creek-side menu that offers a lighter fare,” Karimipour said.
General Manager Michael Dillenburg, who helped open Bluefin Grill & Bar this past September, said he’s also excited to see the Chop House nearing completion.
“This is really going to blow it out of the water,” he said.
It’s no secret among Villagers that the three prior restaurants in the same location – Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar, Honest John’s Whiskey and Provisions and TGI Fridays – all ended up closing their doors.
But Dillenburg said he’s not concerned about that because he really doesn’t believe the location was the issue. In fact, he said it’s important to note that all three of the failed restaurants offered menus based largely around burgers and chicken wings – the same items offered by nearby eateries Cody’s Original Roadhouse and RJ Gator’s, while Johnny Rockets in the square specializes in burgers.
“It was oversaturated with the same kind of concept,” he said. “We want to be different. We want folks to know that we are actually listening to the people that come into our restaurants and we’re going to provide exactly what they want. Ultimately they’re giving us the answers and we’re listening.”
Dillenburg has spent the past several months handpicking the staff to take care of diners at the Chop House – an assignment he labels as crucial to the success of the new restaurant. He said he conducted close to 350 interviews at Bluefin to find the 100 people needed to make that restaurant a success. And he said he has done the same thing to make the Chop House a restaurant Villagers will want to visit time and again.
“My best effort is to make sure that we find a team that is surrounded by like-minded, good-hearted people,” he said. “Because if you get an entire group like that working toward one main goal, it makes it very easy to do what we’re doing.”
Dillenburg added that it all comes down to treating every guest the way he or she wants to be treated.
“At the end of their experience, they’re going to walk out and say one of two things,” Dillenburg said. “They’re going to say, ‘I can’t believe I spent that much money.’ Or they’re going to say, ‘I can’t believe I had that great of an experience and I only spent that much money.’”
As for his own excitement level, Dillenburg said it’s off the charts.
“When I walked into this place I was literally at a loss for words,” he said. “This is something special. I feel like this is going to be the next favorite in The Villages.”