If you’re looking for a fine wine pit stop during your travels, Best of Award of Excellence winner Wine Bar George—owned and led by Master Sommelier George Miliotes—now has a second location in Florida, at Orlando International Airport, in the Palm Court area of the new Terminal C.
“[On our first day], five guys walked up to the bar and their international flight had been delayed a little bit,” recounted Miliotes, who has spent decades in the restaurant business. “They sat down, ordered a bottle of Cabernet Franc, got a big old cheese and charcuterie board and ended up having three bottles of Cabernet Franc before their flight eventually took off. That's exactly what I expected to have happen at the airport.”
Miliotes—who helped launch Disney World's the California Grill before becoming director of beverage and hospitality for Darden Restaurant's Seasons 52 and the Capital Grille—jokes that he gets every sort of clientele at the new restaurant, from frazzled passengers looking for respite during a layover to others looking to start their vacation after a long flight. “You have to be able to read [each guest experience],” he said. “If it is just a quick transactional experience, then it’s a transactional experience, but at the highest level that we can [offer]. If they do want to know a little bit about their wine, then we’re there.”
With 75 offerings covering a range of varieties, regions, styles and prices, the new wine list is shorter than that at the original location in Disney Springs. Aside from a handful of wines on tap, each label is available by the glass or by the bottle, with around 18 selections also available in 1-ounce and 3-ounce pours—even more-exclusive wines such as vintage Champagne, red and white Burgundy, classified-growth Bordeaux, Napa Cabernets and super Tuscans. Per Miliotes, a flexible beverage program is necessary to help his team find the right selection for each guest’s particular needs. Along with cheese and charcuterie, the wine bar also serves small plates such as warm crab dip and house-made hummus, sandwiches and salads.
Miliotes observed that fans of the original Wine Bar George have said they were happily surprised to see the restaurant at Orlando International, while those who first encountered the airport location have expressed their excitement at finding it in Disney Springs. “We want to continue to build that kind of cross-pollination,” said Miliotes.
The new outpost is a collaboration with Master ConcessionAir (MCA), an airport restaurant-retail group that only recently expanded into Orlando International. Miliotes notes that MCA helped him keep true to his original vision, while still developing a practical plan for an airport location. But there was one thing that stumped him: breakfast service. “A lot of people do early flights, particularly out of Orlando,” Miliotes explained. “MCA doesn’t choose my wine list—that's what I do. So, at some point in time, I had to look in my heart and say, ‘You know what, they know much more about breakfast in the airport than I do.’ We took their ideas wholeheartedly and have really let them guide that part of the experience. And you know what? People want to get breakfast and a glass of wine, so we’re good with that.”—J.L
The Capital Grille Opens a New Illinois Location
Fresh off the debut of its new location in Louisville, Ky., the Capital Grille will be opening a restaurant in Skokie, Ill., on March 10. The new location, in the Westfield Old Orchard center, joins the Capital Grille’s widespread portfolio, which includes 61 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners.
“We have had our eye on the Skokie community for years and were excited to have found a location that suits our needs,” Keith Moore, senior director of real estate development for the Darden Restaurants group, told Wine Spectator via email.
Like its sibling locations, the Skokie Capital Grille will focus on steaks dry-aged on location and prepared daily by an in-house butcher. This includes a bone-in New York Strip, a porcini-rubbed Delmonico cut with aged balsamic vinegar and a filet mignon with cipollini onions. Chef and location partner Nick Santangelo, originally from Chicago, will also prepare dishes like calamari with hot cherry peppers, crab cakes and lobster mac and cheese, which are joined by a range of desserts. “Our team looks forward to joining the community as the destination of choice for family celebrations and business meetings alike,” said Santangelo.
Manager and location partner Thomas Dierking—previously the beverage manager at the Capital Grille in Lombard, Ill.—oversees a list of more than 300 wines, with plenty of steak-friendly reds throughout: Napa Cabernets, Rhône reds, super Tuscans and Washington state reds, for instance. This includes leading names like Paul Hobbs and Château de Beaucastel. A number of wines not often served by the glass are offered to guests using a Coravin system. “The dining scene in Skokie is already fabulous,” said Dierking. “We are honored to add to that and look forward to exceeding the community’s expectations.”
The 2,500-bottle, floor-to-ceiling cellar is on display for guests in the contemporary-design dining room, complemented by large chandeliers, original art pieces and photographs of Skokie. As at other Capital Grille locations, guests can store their wine in private wine lockers, and locker holders have first access to special wine tastings and events. The restaurant’s second floor serves as a private dining area.—C.D.
BLT Steak Closes in New York City
BLT Restaurant Group has closed its New York flagship, the Best of Award of Excellence–winning BLT Steak in the luxury Dorchester building on East 57th Street in Manhattan. True to its name, the restaurant had served up choice cuts—including filet mignon, porterhouse and New York strip steaks—alongside a 115-label wine list focused heavily on California, France and Italy. Fans will still be able to enjoy BLT Steak’s menu and wine list at sibling locations across the U.S., including Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners in Washington, D.C., Charlotte, N.C. and Honolulu. BLT Restaurant Group also holds awards for its BLT Prime and BLT Prime by David Burke restaurants. The Manhattan BLT Steak’s wine collection will live on just a bit farther uptown at BLT Prime New York.—C.D.