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New Steakhouse To Replace Griffin Chophouse

Chapin Commons developer eying similar development in Lexington

Happy Fork, the dining group and developer that has opened the Chophouse of Chapin and Bakon Southern Eatery in the Chapin Commons development, is set to bring Southern Smoked Tavern and Steakhouse to the spot at 924 E Main St. formerly occupied by Griffin Chophouse.

Happy Fork is well-acquainted with both the space and Griffin Chophouse, having partnered with owner/chef Henry Griffin to open the restaurant in 2020 before they parted ways.

“I knew the building, I knew the location,” Happy Fork owner/CEO Ron Pereira told the Chronicle. “Actually, I live five minutes down the street, so very familiar and entrenched in Lexington. So as soon as we saw the sign come up for lease, we immediately jumped on it. And I knew the [Midtown Fellowship] church, the landlords, from the past and they’re just absolutely, phenomenally great people, can't say nothing but [good] things about them.”

The location is attached to the Lexington outpost of Midtown Fellowship, one of the church’s three Midlands locations.

As to how Happy Fork decided a steakhouse was the best call for the location, the CEO said his team is always paying attention to what people are asking for.

“When you go on Facebook, and you see those big groups and the hundreds of comments of what everybody's looking for around here, everybody was demanding a steakhouse,” Pereira said.

“So part of what we do at Happy Fork is we listen. We don't just sit there and throw a concept together. We focus on a lot of key people in the area, look at a lot of social media, try to figure out what the people really want. And that's what we try to deliver.”

While Griffin, too, leaned steakhouse with its menu, Pereira said Southern Smoked will stand apart from its predecessor by balancing its selection of high-quality steaks with more trendy options like street tacos and deviled eggs topped with burnt ends. He said the new restaurant will also have a more casual sports bar feel, with an ample selection of TVs to catch NFL and SEC football games and other action.

As to when the new restaurant will open, Pereira said, “I’d like to say the end of June, my team wants to revolt on me when I say that. I’d like to have been open yesterday. We’re pushing hard and fast. Our biggest hurdle will be employment. We’ll probably need a good 40-50 employees.”

Chapin Commons makes progress, developer eyes Lexington expansion

Another ongoing project for Happy Fork is Chapin Commons, the upscale shopping and dining center at 301 Columbia Ave. that is already home to Chophouse of Chapin and Bakon and which the company continues to build out.

“It’s moving along, and it’s definitely a big project,” Pereira said of the development, where construction has been paused for several months. “We're trying to get construction moving, and get the costs under control because we were way out of budget due to a lot of variables. So we’re trying to push as fast as we can and just keep moving along.”

Among the future tenants slated to make their home are three more Happy Fork dining concepts, including a less-steak-forward outpost of Southern Smoked (so as not to compete with Chophouse of Chapin), a drive-through restaurant called Modern Fresco and an as-yet-unnamed frozen yogurt spot.

Also slated for Chapin Commons in the future are a med spa, a gym to replace the MUV Fitness that closed earlier this year, and a nail salon, with Pereira noting that his team is trying to solidify additional plans for an axe throwing spot and a cigar shop.

The CEO also mentioned that Lexington is on the company’s radar to replicate what it is doing with Chapin Commons.

“We're hoping to do Southern Smoked Tavern and Steakhouse in Lexington as kind of our first spot in Lexington,” he said. “ We're planning, once we finish Chapin, to do another smaller shopping center in Lexington to incorporate the concepts I have out and Chapin and bring those to Lexington.”

Pereira said Happy Fork is hoping to secure land this year, adding that they are looking at options near the Publix Super Market at Hendrix Crossing along U.S. Highway 378, west of downtown Lexington.

“That would be more ideal for us to be more on the outskirts,” he said. “Our niche is to be not near downtown, but to be delivering good food, good products, great service on the outskirts, so you don’t have to drive 30, 40 minutes to get downtown.”

Article originally published by Jordan Lawrence of the Lexington County Chronicle on May 25, 2023.



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