Tropical Grille bringing Cuban dishes to Mauldin

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Tropical Grille has become a hub for mouth-watering Cuban cuisines with its four Upstate locations. Now, the Greenville-based restaurant is opening its first freestanding space in Mauldin.

The 3,000-square-foot restaurant, located at 108 North Main St., will be the largest Tropical Grille to date and will feature outdoor patio seating and a drive thru.

“The lines can get long at the other restaurants and customers have always asked for a drive-thru,” said co-owner Lazaro Montoto. “We’re just giving the people what they want, and I think they’ll love it.”

However, the most interesting aspect about the new restaurant is that it will be housed inside the city’s first general store, according to Ford Elliot, managing director of Greenville’s SVN BlackStream Commercial Real Estate.

Co-owner Lazaro Montoto plans to remodel the historical building’s interior, adding a kitchen and seating areas. But he has other plans for the exterior.

“The building has a great brick foundation that has the urban look from downtown we wanted. So we’re going to keep it, said Montoto. “We pride ourselves on being a community restaurant, and I think owning a piece of local history shows that.”

The new location is projected to open sometime in November and is part of a larger expansion plan for Tropical Grille. Montoto has identified several locations in downtown Greenville and on Augusta Road for additional restaurants.

Final locations for the restaurants haven’t been chosen and any expansions will have to wait until the Mauldin location is established, according to Montoto.

“Greenville is home for Tropical Grille. It’s where it all started, and our customers have made us what we are. So we’re going to take care of them before exploring other markets,” Montoto said.

Tropical Chicken Grille opened in 2010 on Pelham Road. In 2011, the restaurant changed its named to Tropical Grille and opened locations on Highway 14 and Woodruff Road. A new restaurant also opened seven months ago in Easley.

It grew from humble beginnings.

In 1996, Montoto began as a dishwasher at a hotel restaurant in Miami, Fla., when he turned 14 years old. The restaurant’s five-star chef decided to mentor Montoto in the culinary arts. That chef left the restaurant in 1999, and Montoto became the restaurant’s head chef. He married his wife and business partner Shadid in 2003.

In 2005, he left the hotel for a management position at a nearby steakhouse. Montoto and his wife moved to Greenville in 2007.

Montoto worked as a manger at a Ruby Tuesdays until 2009. But he had bigger aspirations. That’s when he got the idea for Tropical Grille.

“My wife and I were driving down I-385 one night. She was eight months pregnant at the time and craving Cuban food from Miami. But there wasn’t anywhere to get Cuban food from in Greenville. That’s when the light bulb turned on,” Montoto said.

In 2009, Montoto and his wife began planning a Cuban restaurant alongside Jimmy and Susie Zabala, his mother and stepfather.

That plan became Tropical Grille — a restaurant offering made-from-scratch Cuban foods. The restaurant uses all-natural, hormone-free meats and offers gluten-free and vegetarian meals. It also buys locally.

“Too many people have to eat fast foods because of busy schedules. We don’t have time to cook. So we wanted something affordable, fast and healthy,” said Montoto.

For more information, visit http://tropicalgrille.net.

Financing: Bank of Travelers Rest

Leasing: SVN BlackStream Commercial LLC.

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