The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2013

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Page 38 of 162

THE SAvvY BuyER MIChAEl TAYlOR AddS LOCAL SENSIBILITIES TO dEL FRISCO'S CHICAGO PROPERTy Chain Breaker by Tom Caestecker Jr. / photo by Jay Schroeder T he idea of a nationally represented steakhouse opening a Chicago location might bring raised eyebrows, or even a weary shrug. Local, independent steakhouses have perhaps been most associated with the city's contributions to fine dining. Moreover, the legendary stockyards have made Chicago a carnivore capital of sorts. But Del Frisco's, which opened its tenth property in the former— and landmarked—Esquire Theater, has been more creative than to simply flex its meaty corporate muscles in a city proud to call itself a "cow town." The restaurant group, known for visual and culinary pageantry, has wisely chosen a locally influenced Wine Director, Michael Taylor. Taylor has shepherded and built diverse wine lists all over Chicago—from upscale Mexican to traditional Italian—and now a list that's high on the steak chain. "All Del Frisco's wine directors have full control of the wine list in each city," says Taylor. "David O'Day is the Director of Wine for the entire company—an incredible sommelier—and although he'll put together a basic, initial list at each location, the list becomes ours to run. Every Del Frisco's restaurant is unique that way; I traveled to others while training, and they're completely different from what I've assembled, but super cool in their own way." The more vertical aspect of the space that was once home to a huge, urban movie house allowed Del Frisco's to create an unquestionable focal point: a multi-story glass-faced vertical wine tower. It commands all attention, and shows off Taylor's handiwork in expertly selecting wines that not only pair with Del Frisco's vision, but more important, with Chicago's unique take on steak. "Del Frisco's has been very progressive with the designs and build-outs of the different properties," says Taylor. "The tower is purposely large in scale, and it works with the height of the restaurant. Here, you look at the tower and it's impossible not to want a bottle of wine. As for the selections, the Chicago market tends to embrace both Old and New World wines equally." Being able to grasp the complexity of each local market—not just Chicago's—is what makes the Del Frisco's teambuilding efforts so unique, according to Taylor. "We're a home-grown group," he says. "We know we're the new guy, and that there are many steakhouses already here. So we actually have a humble way of bringing forth a uniquely grandiose style of restaurant." 38  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2013 TP0613_001-41.indd 38 Wine Director Michael Taylor, of Del Frisco's in Chicago, inside The Tower—a grandiose, vertical wine "cellar." 5/23/13 4:26 PM W

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