REDINGTON SHORES — The story of Coco Wood Grill is not just about a new restaurant opening. It’s a love story. When Coco Wood Grill opened its doors on May 16, it was the culmination of a lifetime of love — the love of family, love of community, love of hospitality, and love of great food.
Located at 17814 Gulf Blvd. in Redington Shores, the restaurant was constructed on the site of the old Lobster Pot Restaurant property. Owners Chris and Jennifer Lazorcheck bought the site in September 2021 and came up with the concept for their “mixed grill/gastropub” restaurant. “Our goal is to provide the community with a full-service neighborhood restaurant that takes traditional family recipes and puts a twist on them,” said Chris Lazorcheck.
Even the name of the restaurant itself was developed by the husband-and-wife team to reflect strength, elasticity, and flexibility. The Lazorchecks explained the history of coco wood that was derived from old coconut palm trees harvested for ship building. For more than a century coco wood has been used to make bulwarks, masts, cross stays, side ribs, and cabins. The idea of naming their restaurant for something that represented resilience and fortitude in the wake of the pandemic appealed to the Lazorchecks.
Chris Lazorcheck grew up in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where he was introduced to the restaurant business by his father, a high-ranking Woolworth executive who got him started working at various Woolworth stores’ lunch counters. As a young man, Lezorcheck worked for both the Hilton and Desmond corporations. Then he went to work at the Union League of Philadelphia where he was in charge of overseeing 19 ballrooms and four restaurants. That was also where he met his wife, Jennifer, who was then the director of the four restaurants.
From there on the Lazorchecks owned and operated a number of restaurants in the Northeastern U.S. for many years, and currently they still own one high-end Mexican restaurant in Philadelphia; but now they and their grown-up blended family all live in Tampa Bay. Son Brandon Hammons is a hospitality industry veteran who is a front house manager at the Coco Wood Grill. Hammons was the first of the family to move to the area two years ago and reconnoiter for the entire family’s big move. Daughter Bailey and her husband Nick Villa recently married and also live locally.
Reading the menu alone can make one salivate. The recipes are a concoction of the best of the best of the 30 years of the Lazorchecks’ culinary creations that have proven to be real crowd-pleasers. The Lazorchecks say they like to create “crave-ability,” which means enticing patrons to keep coming back.
From seafood enchiladas made with shrimp and scallops in a smoked poblano sauce with a magnificent blend of parmesan, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses to macadamia encrusted swordfish with coconut rice in a cilantro coconut sauce to Philly cheesesteak eggrolls, everything on the menu is absolutely “crave-able” in both visual and taste appeal.
According to the Lazorchecks, their “flavor innovations” are derived from “combining traditional cooking techniques (braising, steaming, and grilling) with modern methods (sous vide) and incorporating smoking principles to create new flavors on regional family recipes.”
The Lazorchecks say their greatest asset is their staff, who they consider family. From chefs and culinary staff to wait staff and bartenders to janitorial, management and administrative staff, the Lazorchecks say they feel “blessed to have the staff we have.”
Coco Wood Grill has both indoor and outdoor seating with a total of 180 seats and is only a one-block stroll from the beach. Every night Chris and Jennifer take a break from operating the restaurant to walk that one block to watch the sunset. “We think about being thankful,” Chris said.