Mysterious new venture
Though he won't disclose its location, ex-dani Foods Executive Chef Kent Rathbun says he, businessman Robert Hoffman, and award-winning chef George Brown--his former dani cohorts--have settled on a location for their new restaurant, tentatively set to open in May or June 1999. Rathbun adds that design work on the venue has begun, and that they're scouring the nation to nail down vendors offering distinctive food products. So what's the reason behind keeping the details so close to the vest? Rathbun claims they won't utter a peep about project details until the restaurant name is ensured a trademark.
An ocean of wine
Does size matter? To the folks at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse it does. Set to open in late September just off Northwest Highway near Interstate 35, Pappas Bros. will have what is shaping up to be one of the largest wine lists in the nation (the biggest in the Southwest). Featuring some 1,500 selections backed up with on-premise storage capacity reaching nearly 40,000 bottles, the list has already absorbed a $2 million wholesale investment. That commitment should crack $6 million by the time the restaurant opens--far more resources than all but the most ambitious projects require for the entire restaurant--representing total stocks of some 500,000 bottles.
Despite this significant investment in wine, the restaurant seems to have taken a pass on an innovative approach to the program as a whole. Instead of classifying by flavor profile, offering regional and menu-pairing information, or even using an imaginative, witty organizational approach, the list is simply a straightforward, formidable roster tucked under traditional region-color-varietal headings. Historically, this tack has heightened the intimidation factor among guests while buttressing the perception that wine is the sip of insufferable snobs.
But Pappas Bros. General Manager Judd Fruia takes issue with this analysis. He says the restaurant is making a statement with the list. "We're going to give the guests whatever [wine] they desire to the biggest extent we can," he says. "We're leaving nothing to chance." Fruia adds that they've taken significant steps to minimize the list's potential intimidation factor. He boasts a staff of eight wine stewards, each with a particular area of expertise (the list will also include roughly 100 Cognacs), to run the program. But it's hard to see how relying on experts enhances approachability.
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