Tropical Grill opens for 8th year
SPRUCE PINE – It was eight years ago, in mid-April 2011, when Sam and Claudia Rothman opened their unique restaurant in downtown Spruce Pine.
The Tropical Grill, at 198 Oak Avenue in Spruce Pine, offers what some may consider an unexpected dining experience in a small town high in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“Almost everything on our menu is made from scratch,” Sam Rothman said. “Our beans, for example, have never seen the inside of a can. We are a mom-and-pop restaurant, so, that means we cook our own food.”
Claudia Rothman is a native of Barranquilla, Colombia. She has degrees in restaurant management and has worked in or operated restaurants most of her life. Sam was born and raised in South Florida and has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Miami. He spent several years designing restaurants, and before moving to North Carolina in 2001, he and Claudia owned and operated a New York-style delicatessen in Fort Lauderdale.
“We decided to move to Mitchell County after years of vacationing in the mountains,” Sam said. “We realized Spruce Pine needed diversity in its cuisine and decided to be the alternative to traditional country cooking.”
The Tropical Grill’s extensive menu includes many dishes based on recipes found during the Rothmans travels through the coastal region of South America and the Caribbean.
“Some of our dishes can’t be found anywhere else in the mountains and some cases nowhere else in the United States,” Sam said. “We offer dishes from Jamaica, Colombia, Cuba, Argentina, Asia and other places around the world.”
Some of The Tropical Grill’s more popular specialties include handmade empanadas, platano picaro, bollo, mofongo, arepas and tostones, as well as the Cuban sandwich, burgers, paninis and more.
The Tropical Grill offers indoor and outdoor seating. The indoor dining area is adorned with colorful products from Guatemala, the sale of which helps support the Mayan economy and medical missions to the country.
Countless restaurants in Mitchell County have opened and closed in the eight years since The Tropical Grill opened and Sam attributes at least some of the restaurant’s success, in addition to the quality of food and the quality of service, to his and Claudia’s staunch anti-alcohol stance.
“Our sales have steadily increased each year despite not serving alcohol,” Sam said. “We are a Christian, family establishment and that has served us well.”