GatorsTerritory  -  A night at Spurrier's Gridiron Grille

After years of planning, months of training, delays due to COVID, and some staffing issues, Steve Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille is open for business in Gainesville.

There is perhaps no one person more synonymous with the University of Florida than Steven Orr Spurrier.

With the long-anticipated store opening, I had to get a table and check out the restaurant for myself. This isn’t sponsored content, but, hey, Spurrier’s if you want to throw a free meal my way in the future I’m not going to turn that down.

The restaurant is located at Celebration Point, directly adjacent to the AMC movie theatre. Making reservations was easy online but surely this shrine to Florida football will become a much more difficult seat to acquire as the season approaches.

Walking into the restaurant you’re greeted by pictures, rings, footballs, bowl game watches, and enough memorabilia to interest to fill an entire Sotheby’s auction. It’s clear Spurrier kept a lot throughout his more than 40 years in the game.

Spurrier’s Heisman Trophy is on display along with 14 championship rings which include Duke’s 1989 Atlantic Coast Conference title, South Carolina’s 2010 Southeastern Conference Eastern Division championship, and even one from the Orlando Appollo’s from the now-defunct Alliance of American Football league.

Steve Spurrier’s Heisman trophy along with the game ball and game worn cleats from a 30-27 win over Auburn in in 1966, along with 14 championship rings. (Nick de la Torre)

There is a more casual dining experience called the lounge, located by the bar and separated from the main dining room by the glass cases pictured above. The menu is the same but the area offers a more casual experience.

We sat in the main dining room against the back wall which gave our group a full view of the entire restaurant.

Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille is described as “polished causal” and farm-to-table. Our server informed us that all of the steaks are locally sourced from farms in Newberry and Ocala and that any fish offered is never frozen, in fact, it was caught within 48 hours of arriving at your table.

With that knowledge in hand, we made quick decisions on dinner but still want to peruse the menu. You can find nods to Spurrier’s career on the drink menu. There’s the 1966 lager (the year Spurrier won the Heisman), a 52-10 Pale Ale (the score of Spurrier’s first National Championship Game), and the CiTrUs 75, a fruity prosecco drink that gives a nod to Spurrier’s famous quote “you can’t spell Citrus without UT” poking fun at Tennessee.

In the middle of looking at the drink menus, a whistle rang through the restaurant and before you knew it Spurrier was on the microphone.

Even at 66 years old, Spurrier commanded the room like a practice field in the 90s. He welcomed all of us, thanked us for being there on one of the first few nights that they were open, and informed us that he was wearing his Georgia red shirt that night as a reminder that, “We need to beat those damn Dawgs this year,” which drew loud applause from the patrons. Spurrier stayed around and took pictures with guests and he’s sure to be a fixture at the restaurant in years to come.

Our drinks were good but the food is what really stood out. Our group of four ordered two Short Rib and Wild Mushroom Risotto, which is slow braised beef short ribs, served with a wild mushroom risotto finished with beef demi-glace. The short rib, while small in portion was tender enough to eat with just a fork and the risotto was cooked perfectly.

My friend’s fiance went with the Macadamia Encrusted Mahi, and since I was here for work, I insisted on trying it. The fish was cooked perfectly and the macadamia crust added a nice crunchy texture and some fat to a lean piece of fish. The maple bourbon-glazed carrots (substituted this side) were also delicious.

Our final entree was the Ike Hillard Catch of the Day, which on this night was a blackened gulf redfish finished with shallot and thyme butter, served with miso brussel sprouts. Again, the fish was cooked to perfection and the miso brussels were good enough to trick a finicky child into eating vegetables.

Overall the food and ambiance are fitting of the winningest coach in Florida history. Spurrier’s Girdiron Grille is definitely a place that will become a frequent dining out option and should only continue to get better with time.


By Malvi

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