Take-out Redemption • Chop Shop – Lakeland, FL

Just last week I had some pretty negative things to say regarding the skulduggery practices of a “ne’er to be mentioned” dining establishment here in town. As I intimated in the take-away trash post, I get pretty frustrated when my money is wasted on sub-par cuisine. I’m not just talking about when I give my money to a restaurant, actually I get more upset when I’m the one cooking the sup-par food. But we don’t have to worry about that on this fine Monday, because I returned to an old stomping ground of mine to pick-up some redemption lunch.

The Chop Shop in Downtown Lakeland opened about 3 years ago. At the time, I was delivering to customers in the Downtown District. This retro style burger joint, owned by Ty Starkey, was one of my regular lunch spots. Sadly though, I was forced to inherit another position which took me too far away to make the Chop Shop a viable lunchtime option.

So many places have come and gone over the years on the downtown food scene. One place that has seemingly come away unscathed is Chop Shop. They have even expanded since opening, so business must be doing quite well. Even though I don’t get to stop in for a perfectly cooked burger as much as I used to, the joint is always jump jiving no matter what time of day I go.

The atmosphere is fun, with Rockabilly or “Real man” Country blasting from the speakers at all times. You can tell that the owners want this place to be a hang out, and it is for the most part. Ty has become an aquaintance of mine over the years, probably because he used to see my ugly mug deliver his mail everyday for about a year straight. I get the feeling he is like that with most everyone that frequents Chop Shop. Niceties only go so far though, so let’s get down to brass tacks. The food, is all that matters in the long run right? And it’s really, really good. Its like any neato place you would find on diners, drive-ins and dives. In fact, I think they deserve their own segment. Are you listening Guy? You’d better get your little red Camaro down here stat!

You have to start by ordering a burger, as it’s easily the best thing on the menu. They have about 10 different choices. I think I’ve had all 10 and I would highly recommend all of them. It’s not on the menu but if you want a kind of healthy alternative just say you want your burger Salad style. I dont need to explain salad style do I?

Note: I hate Chili…I love Abbys Chili. I love it on Tater tots. I love it in my mouth.

I think I’ll stop there. To explain what to order at Chop Shop would require me to read you the entire menu. Even though they have tweaked the menu a few times (R.I.P. Chicken Parm, maybe one fine day, you will be part of some sort of resurrection).

Oh bother. I almost forgot to mention the reason I even thought of writing about the dang place to begin with.

I walked in today and ordered a Cobb Salad, to-go mind you, even though I had a game changing experience at this exact time last week just a few blocks down the street. I thought to myself, “If anyone can allow me to enjoy a meal from my stinky desk, it’s these guys”, so there I sat, nervously awaiting my take-out.

You see a guy walk out of the kitchen holding a plastic bag containing a square styrofoam box and he begins walking in your general direction. You turn off the game of Family Feud you were playing on your iPhone because you think he is coming for you, but, like a ship on the horizon, he passes you as if you were a castaway. The next time out of the kitchen, you try to lock eyes with the food runner as if that will make any difference, overlooked again. The third time he emerges from the curtain, he’s walking with purpose, he calls your name. Did he called my name? He called my name! Yeah, we go way back. No big deal.

You grab your loot and hit the road. Before taking your vehicle out of park, you check your food. This can’t be! Everything you ordered was exactly the way you expected! A perfect Cobb topped with freshly chopped blackened chicken and hot bacon honey dressing? I mean I know it’s a burger dive, but just look at that composition! Talk about taking pride in your work. 

The Chop Shop Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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