Chill Grill serves local art scene with urban soul food

By Emily Hoover |
Photo contributed by Grace Bio

PHOTO CAPTION: The Chill Grill serves everything from chicken wings and cheeseburgers to veggie empanadas. The owners call their cuisine “urban soul food.”

Chill Grill owners Enrique Diaz, Luis Peral, Jr., Robert “Crash” Miller and Dorian Lopez, who call their cuisine “urban soul food,” live by one goal: “To serve the community with affordable meals that stick to your ribs.”

Serving everything from chicken wings and cheeseburgers to authentic veggie empanadas and Cuban sandwiches, their food satisfies any appetite and their beverages, especially café con leche, will quench any thirst.

Diaz, a semi-retired quality assurance engineer and real estate investor, got together with Peral after moving his mother to a nearby retirement home.

“I saw he [Peral] was a fellow Cuban American and we became friends,” he said. “I saw the place and I saw the potential. Right now, we are building clientele and people are coming back.”

Peral agrees, smiling when he looks around the restaurant, now bathed in rich colors and blanketed with murals and paintings.

“There is a hundred percent change at the Chill Grill,” he said. “There is much more life and color to it now. We have a team full of energy, you can feel the love.”

Photos contributed by Grace Bio
PHOTO CAPTION: In addition to the “urban soul food” cuisine at Lincolnville’s new Chill Grill, the owners feature local and college artist exhibits. The owners say they are open to any and all artists from the community.

In addition to feeling the love, patrons at the Chill Grill can also hear the love. Diaz said that while he only plays instruments “that take one hand,” such as the tambourine, Peral plays guitar and sings, while Lopez serves as an established percussionist at venues all over Florida, especially the Tasting Room on Cuna Street.

Originally from Los Angeles and a resident of Jacksonville for seven years, Lopez wanted to bring a little urban flavor to Lincolnville.

“We wanted to give Lincolnville a touch of urban life and taste, so we incorporated those elements into the Chill Grill,” Lopez said. “We want to open our doors to local artists and Flagler artists. Come, practice on our property. The city needs it.”

Some students have already taken the initiative. Evan Whitehurst and Yannick Burklin created a graffiti-style mural on the back of the restaurant, while Lopez’s girlfriend Grace Bio, who hopes to attend Flagler for graphic design and illustration, is always seen painting.

She has 20 pieces up right now and plans to do more as time progresses, she said. Inspired by psychedelic art, fluid design and the historical side of Lincolnville, Bio believes that the Chill Grill serves as a cultural epicenter.

“Visual communication draws customers in,” she said. “They are then intrigued by the business. The music is awesome, the history is here. Colorful and spontaneous, the Chill Grill makes everyone in the neighborhood see.”

They stress community effort and, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, the Chill Grill houses “Lincolnville Jam Society,” in which local musicians can pick up an instrument and play. Complete with congas, bongos, maracas and guitars, everyone is invited to participate.

Future plans for the Chill Grill include live music, fresh squeezed juices, family music workshops and Art Walks. Until then, Diaz said, the Chill Grill exists to create a relaxing, family atmosphere, despite Lincolnville’s reputation.

“Any local artist is welcome, space permitted,” Diaz said. “We love the neighborhood. It is eclectic and diverse. The image [of Lincolnville] is exaggerated. We have never had one single problem in nine months.”

The Chill Grill is located at 102 Bridge St.

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