Nothing Standard Here: GrillSmith – Carrollwood

by Heather Lindsay Sell, ShoutOUT®, June 13, 2017

Disclosure: Through my relationship with Press Marketing, I was given the opportunity to visit GrillSmith Carrollwood to check out their remodeling efforts and was provided a complimentary meal in order to provide my honest opinion on the entire experience. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own and based completely on my own thoughts, experiences, and taste buds.

Gail Appel painting

Admittedly, when I checked out GrillSmith Restaurant’s menu online, it seemed like a standard steakhouse menu. Nothing immediately stood out to me, with the exception of their Poutine appetizer (I adore poutine!).

Wine rackLet me just tell you how quickly my perceptions were proven wrong! From the warm, inviting ambiance that greeted me as I walked through the door, to the staff’s friendliness, to the fresh ingredients tasted in every handcrafted bite or sip, there is nothing standard at GrillSmith.

I had the opportunity, thanks to GrillSmith Restaurant and my friends at Press Marketing, to check out GrillSmith’s remodel image of bar area and rebranding efforts at their Carrollwood location. They’re doing a phenomenal job in freshening their look!

The honeyed interior in the Carrollwood location reminds me of a resort lodge crafted with warm-toned woods in the ceiling beams and flooring and old-timey Edison light bulbs suspended from the ceiling and affixed to the walls. Such a warm feeling.

But you want to know about the food, don’t you? Of course you do! Let’s get to the really good stuff, starting with the cocktails.

CocktailsMy idea of a well-made cocktail is one where you can actually taste all of the flavors of the drink and not be overwhelmed by the alcohol. My Dragon Berry Mojito was a deliciously sweet blend of Bacardi Dragon Berry rum, fresh mint, strawberries, limes, simple syrup, and club soda. Refreshing, pleasantly sweet, and deftly mixed. Hats off to the bartender! Mission accomplished.

For the appetizers, we were treated to a smorgasbord of treats including of Smoked Salmon Bruschetta, Spicy ThaiAppetizers Shrimp, Filet Tip Egg Rolls, Poutine, and Pub Pretzels. I was most excited about trying the Poutine, in case you missed the hint earlier, as I got hooked on the French-Canadian treat in Toronto and that’s not a dish that’s readily available in the south.


Out of all the appetizers, 3 stood out to me. The Poutine, Pub Pretzels, and Smoked Salmon Bruschetta. Here’s why. The poutine was a bevy of sidewinder fries (not the traditional straight cut fries), crispy outside/soft inside, and dotted with Cigar City beer-marinated cheese curds then bathed in a savory rich, beefy gravy. A delightfully lighter version of the traditional fare but no less satisfying. A tad more cheese and I would have been on cloud nine.

Bavarian PretzelMy partiality for the Bavarian Pub pretzel was moreso for its housemade cheese fondue crafted from locally brewed Reef Donkey APA. The mildly sweet cheese and citrusy beer in the fondue was a nice balance to the pretzel’s saltiness and none of the flavors were overpowered by the other.

Ready for the main course? How about Chicken Marsala (fire-grilled chicken breast swathed in a deeply rich mushroom Marsala wine sauce) and a Center-Cut Sirloin (8oz choice fire-grilled finished with a garlic-herb butter). The entrees, especially the Chicken image of chicken marsala entreeMarsala, were quite tasty, but what impressed me the most, believe it or not, were the side dishes. Not taking anything from the main dishes, but these sides and innovative seasonings aren’t generally sides you are offered. Smashed Cauliflower, Sweet Potato fries, Sautéed Spinach, Au Gratin Potatoes, and Jasmine Rice – oh my!

The Smashed Cauliflower was a side of creamy, buttery, flavorful mashed Salmon Bruschettacauliflower whipped into a frenzy of delectable, cream flavors and had the consistency of mashed potatoes. A second helping please. The cheesy au gratin potatoes were to die for! Tender sliced potatoes smothered in gooey, oozing cheese and a blend of heavenly flavors. Scrumptious! I would have licked the bowl, but I was afraid people might stare. And the sautéed spinach. Lightly garlicked, full flavor, amazingly fresh. The Jasmine rice was a surprising treat. Full-flavored, moist, fluffy, peppered with baby garbanzo beans and crunchy daikon radish seeds. Wow!

Bananas Foster SundaeAnd the finale, a Bananas Foster Sundae. Oh yes, we went there! Crafted with bananas, vanilla bean ice cream, served in a waffle bowl, topped with candied pecans and fresh whipped cream then doused with a sauce of caramelized brown sugar, cinnamon, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum.  Nice rich caramel flavor and not too sweet. The waffle cone was a creative twist to an old classic. A bit hard to cut, but tasty all the same. Swoon-worthy indeed.

On my next visit, I plan to try the Voodoo Cheese Fries appetizer (I’m intrigued), Port Wine Filet Mignon (deliciously rich), and the Grand Marnier Crème Brulee (heck yeh!) for dessert.

As you can tell from my visit, there was nothing mainstream about GrillSmith, their menu,Bar table or the experience. The staff were remarkable! A heartfelt ShoutOUT to Joe Gugli, GrillSmith President and Chef, for his warm hospitality, his invaluable time answering all of my questions, personally taking me around the restaurant to view the transformation efforts, giving insight into GrillSmith’s backstory and future vision, and stopping by our table throughout the evening to check in on us. Can’t thank you enough! And can’t forget our wonderful parmesan crispsserver, Erica, who entertained and gave such incredible service throughout our meal.  Please ask for her when you visit the Carrollwood location. Such amazing service! Robby, a “hat tip” to you for swooping in to entertain while boxing up our leftovers, and to Luigi, for swinging by to say hello and check on us. It was a treat to meet you all!

ShoutOUTs to GrillSmith too for supporting local business and artists. I immediately noticed this in the vibrantly-colored oil paintings by local artist Gail Appel hanging throughout the restaurant, the local brews and fresh ingredients used in recipes, and seasonal vegetables brought in daily from Florida’s East Coast. (P.S. Gail, truly amazing work! The cityscape was especially striking.)

So, the moral of the story here? Never pre-judge a restaurant simply by its online menu. Like me, you could be pleasantly surprised and discover one of your new favorite places to eat. Fresh ingredients tasted in every bite no matter what you order. Creative modern twists on classic dishes. Give a ShoutOUT when you go to let me know what you ordered and what your faves are.

Connecting with GrillSmith
GrillSmith – Carrollwood address: 14303 Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33618
Locations: Lakeland, Clearwater, Carrollwood, and New Tampa
GrillSmith APP: Download and receive a free appetizer on your next visit
Good to know: During the week offers specials (e.g. Spicy Thai Tuesdays, Wednesday Night Happy Hour”, Grey Goose Thursdays). Menu includes light fare (“Fitness Plates”), Gluten Free. Also available on UberEats (Carrollwood).


ShoutOUT Contact: Heather Sell

About ShoutOUT

In 2009, I started sharing my experiences, food, travels, and events, along with all of the incredible people and businesses I was meeting and discovering. What began as a fun hobby had such an overwhelming response, in 2010 ShoutOUT was born! I continue to stretch the boundaries locally, regionally, and nationally, discovering, sharing and connecting as I go.
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