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Open Grill at Surf & Turf Market

Surf & Turf Market in Belleair Bluffs goes extra step: cooking dinner

David Pearson received the phone order for a seasoned cooked turkey breast in the afternoon. A regular customer, Leslie Paul of Belleair, had ordered the poultry cooked and thinly sliced for three meals.

By 4 p.m., Pearson, the kitchen manager at Surf & Turf Market in Belleair Bluffs, was cutting the breast off a fresh turkey. He spiced it with black pepper, garlic and paprika. He stuck it in the convection oven at 400 degrees for one hour.

At 5:15 p.m., Paul arrived, paid $17.96 for the 5-pound turkey breast and headed to her father's home for dinner.

So, when did Surf & Turf become a takeout restaurant?

Actually, it's not a restaurant. It's Surf & Turf's Open Grill Night. "We are a gourmet grocery store who just wants to offer better service to our customers,'' said Mike Walguarnery, owner of the business.

About one year ago, Surf & Turf, with 20 employees, began offering Open Grill Night on Mondays and Wednesdays. The program invites customers to buy their food and request the kitchen staff cook it on site for no extra charge.

Because of the popularity of the two-day-a-week program, Walguarnery has decided to extend Open Grill to Monday through Thursday, beginning this week.

"We won't do it on weekends because our customers seem to come in on Friday and Saturdays to buy food to prepare themselves at home,'' he said. "Open Grill has a need more during the week when people and families are busiest.''

Paul is one of about 25 regular customers that frequent Open Grill Night.

"My dad has health issues, and I care for him,'' she said. "I order here all the time, and they have no problem doing special things like separating the turkey breast into three meals for my dad. They are like family to me now.''

Mix-and-match choices could include grilled yellowfin tuna and stone crabs with mustard sauce on the side or fried shrimp with a pasta salad from the cooler.

Walguarnery believes the most popular dinner includes the steak kabobs. They are made up of filet mignon and mushrooms at a cost of $5.98 a skewer. "I think it's most popular because when people think of grilling, they think of kabobs,'' he said.

The kitchen includes a convection oven, a regular oven, a deep fryer, a grill and a smoker.

"We opened the business with the full kitchen because we planned on doing a lot of prepared foods, as well as a catering business,'' said Walguarnery, 28. "But now, Open Grill is about as busy as our catering.''

Marie Strickland, a home health care assistant who lives in Largo, stops in for Open Grill Night twice a month. Thursday, she purchased the kabobs, along with asparagus and mashed potatoes, for dinner with her boyfriend for $20.

"I told my boyfriend that we're working so hard that ordering here is our reward, and besides, if we went out to a restaurant, it'd be more than $20,'' said Strickland, 37. "We're on a budget just like everybody.''

But what about buying uncooked meat on sale at a regular grocery store? Wouldn't that be cheaper for budget watchers?

Walguarnery contends that although his business does offer gourmet items, prices at Surf & Turf are "very competitive with supermarkets.''

Before she bought the kabobs, Strickland, made a stop at the Publix next door where she purchased, "adult beverages for our dinner, and milk for my stepson.''

Strickland acknowledged that she ignored potential bargains while she was at Publix and opted for dinner at Surf & Turf instead.

"I like to do a dinner on a whim ever so often, and I knew I could've bought a better wine here, but I saved a little by buying wine there,'' she said.

"And I knew that at Publix I could've probably found meat on sale cheaper, but let's just say we're paying $5 more for their flavoring, their expertise.''

. Fast facts

Open Grill at Surf

& Turf Market

Where: 2900 W Bay Drive, Belleair Bluffs.

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

What is it? Open Grill is a service that's offered to all customers free of charge. It's the choice for the customer to get any food he purchased, Monday through Thursday, cooked on the spot.

For more information, visit

Surf & Turf Market in Belleair Bluffs goes extra step: cooking dinner 03/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 2, 2010 7:41pm]
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