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Chill & Grill

Chef Scott Birch has found a winning recipe for an off-the-beaten-path location

Seared Crab Cakes from Chill & Grill. Purchase the August issue for the entire recipe!

Seared Crab Cakes from Chill & Grill. Purchase the August issue for the entire recipe!

In the relative calm before the  5 o’clock storm, cooks in the kitchen feed oak logs into the wood-burning oven, stoking the embers for the busy evening ahead. Outside, as a steady stream of traffic heads north and south on U.S. 1, several cars turn in at the sign of a "Merpig" — half pig, half fish in the shape of a mermaid — a nod to the in-house smoked meats and seafood offered at this small, roadside eatery known as Chill & Grill.

Few restaurants have survived this remote location sandwiched between Vero Beach and Sebastian. But quite a few have tried. “They said we’d never make it here,” admits chef and owner Scott Birch, who moved his restaurant here from a prime riverfront location in Sebastian five years ago. “We’re open for dinner six days a week and we’ve been sold out every night.”

Where others have failed, Chill & Grill has garnered a loyal following of patrons who don’t seem to mind the drive — or standing in line for a coveted table. With a firm no-reservations policy, this is one of those rare places where departing customers tell the folks outside: “It’s worth the wait,” a sentiment Csilla, the chef’s wife and business partner, loves to hear.

Now wrapping up their fifth season, the couple has imbued everything they do with a simple formula: family hospitality, solicitous service and Southern-infused, big-flavor dishes, all served with a conviviality that invites diners to become regulars. And return they do — making the trip again and again to savor the creative dishes coming out of the open kitchen.