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Turning Tables: Shuffles at Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group

Plus, the Lobster Club completes the new Major Food Group trifecta, Bouchon Beverly Hills is closing, and New Orleans treasure Gabrielle reopens
Photo by: Shannon Sturgis
Union Square Cafe 2.0 retained the feel of the original restaurant, while revamping the look.

Julie Harans, Victoria Sadosky, Lexi Williams
Posted: October 26, 2017

Sabato Sagaria Leaves Union Square Hospitality Group

Sabato Sagaria, who had served as chief restaurant officer of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) for four years, has been named president of Bartaco. The Latin American chain is part of the Connecticut-based Barteca Restaurant Group, which also owns 13 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning locations of Barcelona Wine Bar.

Sagaria says he was drawn to Barteca from his very first experiences in its restaurants. "I sat down at the bar and they overheard that my friend had never tried Sherry," Sagaria told Wine Spectator. "And without missing a beat, six glasses appeared, and the bartender went on to give [a] down-to-earth, two-minute tutorial on one of the most complex beverages on the planet."

As president, Sagaria plans to maintain that individualized guest experience as Bartaco grows; six new locations will open in 2018, adding to the 15 the chain has already. He says providing strong training programs and hiring passionate, ambitious people will deliver that caliber of service.—J.H.

Chicago's Arthur Hon Is in at Union Square Cafe

In other USHG news, Arthur Hon, sommelier of the acclaimed Chicago restaurants Sepia and Proxi, has left to become the assistant wine director of Union Square Cafe. The Danny Meyer institution, his first restaurant, opened at its original location in 1985 and earned an Award of Excellence in 1987. Now in a brand-new location just a few blocks north, its 600-selection wine list holds a Best of Award of Excellence.

"The timing at this point was right for me. I think that I was ready to let go of what I had built," Hon, who spent a decade working at Sepia, told Wine Spectator. Jason Wagner, Union Square Cafe's wine director, has known Hon for years and is looking forward to working with him. "For [Hon], being a good sommelier is not selling the most expensive bottle, it's getting the right bottle to the right person," said Wagner."

These staff shuffles come on the heels of the group's latest project, Vini e Fritti, which opened in the Redbury Hotel Oct. 10. It's USHG's third venture in the hotel: Caffé Marchio and Award of Excellence winner Marta complete the trio.—J.H.

Lobster Club Opens, Major Food Group Trifecta Completed

Scott Frances
The Lobster Club's flashy yet elegant decor sets the tone for the new restaurant.

The Lobster Club, the third of Major Food Group's restaurants in the renovated Seagram Building in New York, will open Nov. 1. Steak house the Grill and seafood restaurant the Pool opened in May and July, respectively. (The Grill and the Pool are also the subjects of Wine Spectator's upcoming Dec. 15 issue cover story.)

Overseen by acclaimed sushi chef Tasuku Murakami, the Lobster Club will serve elegant Japanese cuisine. John Slover, the wine director for all three restaurants, created a single wine list that matches all the concepts and their food. The wines that he bought for the Pool, like Champagnes and Chablis that complement its lighter fare, will go well with the first half of the Lobster Club menu. Some of the more elegant reds that he bought for the Grill, such as Grenache-based wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, will suit the second, heartier half that includes more meat.

Slover will offer 16 wines by the glass. He hopes to give guests a sense of discovery with Japanese cuisine, similar to the joy he felt trying sashimi with an old bottle of red Burgundy, which he called "one of the greatest and most unusual pairings." He'll also be bulking up the off-dry Rieslings to play off the Asian spices.

Slover is developing a sake program tailored to the Lobster Club (but available at the two other restaurants), with around 75 selections. He envisions tables sharing a selection of sakes with a progression of food, evoking the experience of a wine bar. "I wanted to think about how to make it sort of fun and interesting for people to try a lot of different things," he said.—J.H.

New Orleans Treasure Gabrielle Reopens After Katrina Devastation

Courtesy of Gabrielle
The owners of Gabrielle recreated the restaurant's signature blue-and-yellow exterior.

More than 12 years after damage from Hurricane Katrina caused Gabrielle Restaurant to shutter in 2005, it has finally reopened, about a mile from the original location. Owned by Mary and Greg Sonnier and named for their daughter, the New Orleans eatery held an Award of Excellence from 1998 until the year it closed. Now 28 years old, Gabrielle herself will serve as front-of-house manager.

For years, the family had been looking for a way to bring back their business, and finally purchased a former Asian restaurant, renovating the exterior to resemble their original building.

Greg Sonnier was pleased to see several regulars return for the opening. "It's really nice to see [guests with] happy faces [and] full bellies," he told Wine Spectator. He says he's kept many customer favorites on the menu, like his slow-roasted duck, as well as added new plates like a stuffed rabbit belly with dirty rice–style quinoa.

The French-focused wine list currently has 50 selections, and is still growing, with 16 wines available by the glass and a few magnums. Sonnier says that rich Chardonnays and flavorful Zinfandels are some of his favorite wines to pair with the bold Creole cuisine.

"A lot of people we came to know by first-name basis, when they walked through the door we knew what they wanted to drink and we had their cocktail waiting," Sonnier said of the feel of his restaurant. "So that's what we wanted to recreate."—J.H.

Thomas Keller's Bouchon in Beverly Hills Will Close

Bouchon in Beverly Hills, chef Thomas Keller's Best of Award of Excellence winner, recently announced that it will be closing its doors Dec. 31. The restaurant is known for its traditional French bistro dishes, as well as its wine program spanning 380 selections, with strengths in California, Burgundy and Bordeaux.

"It is with great sadness that we must end our partnership with the city of Beverly Hills," Keller said in a statement. "The circumstances no longer exist to operate a profitable restaurant. I especially want to commend everyone who has worked with us over the years to make such an important impact with our guests and the community."

Restaurant Award–winning locations of Bouchon in Yountville and Las Vegas will remain open.—V.S.

City Winery Rocks Out with Two New Locations

Known for its wine and live music, City Winery will be coming to Boston and Washington, D.C., by the end of 2017. The chain has four Restaurant Award–winning locations, and is known for its wide selection of in-house wines.

The new outposts, in Boston's West End and D.C.'s Ivy City neighborhoods, will feature around 20 City Winery wines on tap, in addition to two guest taps with rotating selections. "By blending the worlds of wine and music together, we create an intimate atmosphere where guests can enjoy a concert while savoring great food paired with phenomenal wines," said CEO and founder Michael Dorf in a press release.—V.S.

Now Open in Pittsburgh: Red, the Steakhouse

Red Restaurant Group has opened a Red, the Steakhouse location in the U.S. Steel Tower, the tallest skyscraper in Pittsburgh. This is the newest addition to the high-end steak-house chain, which includes a Best of Award of Excellence winner in Miami Beach, Fla.

Similar to its sister restaurants, the Pittsburgh outpost's wine program features classic steak-house selections from California, France, Italy and beyond. "We partner with some of the finest producers in the world to bring vintages with distinctive notes and flavors to the table," sommelier Stephanie Pack, who built the wine list, said via email.—L.W.

Fogo de Chão Launches Half-Off Wine Discounts

Courtesy of Fogo de Chão
The wine tower at Fogo de Chão's Portland location brings wine to new heights.

Fogo de Chão, the Brazilian steak house with 43 Restaurant Award–winning locations across the globe, has kicked off a wine promotion. At all outposts, South American bottles under $100 will be half-price on Wednesdays.

"Whether a high-altitude Malbec from Mendoza, an undiscovered, organic Carmenère from the Colchagua Valley, or a Bordeaux-style blend from Chile, we believe this will be a lot of fun for our guests," Fogo de Chão's CEO Larry Johnson said via email.—J.H.

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