The Shore Diner has established an excellent reputation for fine fare, but craft beers and fine wines too?
Mention the word “diner” to virtually anyone and there are specific ideas that will undoubtedly leap to mind. Broad menus, fast service, hot coffee and extended hours of operation are among them.
Craft beers and fine wines, however, are not.
In Egg Harbor Township, the Shore Diner — located near the intersection of Fire and Tilton roads — has been attempting to alter that paradigm for the last several years. Founded in 1992 by veteran restaurateurs Spiros Stratis and Alexandros Markouris, Shore Diner had already established an excellent reputation for food well above the diner norm. Specifically, they offer top-grade certified Angus beef, succulent jumbo lump crab cakes and an extensive array of pastries and breads, all fashioned in-house by the gifted hands of professional bakers.
But what truly sets them apart from other similar operations locally is their boutique bar. Under the direction of 33-year-old George Stratis, they have expanded to incorporate a selection of more than 100 beers and a 120-item wine list, with two dozen available by the glass.
Making this all the more unexpected is the fact that they have accomplished so much in very little time, as their wine program began just over a year ago.
“It all started not with wine but with craft beer,” says George Stratis, adding that their goal has always been to provide “a fine dining experience at diner prices.”
Recently, they were honored by Wine Spectator magazine with a prestigious 2012 Award of Excellence. At present they are the only diner in America to receive this lofty commendation. Currently stocking more than 600 bottles in a custom-made La Cache wine cabinet in the restaurant’s foyer, the purchase of this apparatus was critical to making their wine program a viable element of the overall enterprise.
“One of our goals when we began was to receive a Wine Spectator award — but wine has to be served under the right conditions.”
George and other senior employees, younger brothers Demetri and Yanni, along with manager Elena Motalkina and supervisor Patty Cano, regularly conduct samplings to consider new items for inclusion on the bill of fare. He allows that their desire is to “represent the entire world through wine,” which leads to the list being arranged by country, not variety.
With vintages from the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece, Israel, Spain, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, they have apparently taken that notion quite seriously. Among Stratis’ personal recommendations are wines from Australian producer Some Young Punks. The winery was founded by a group of friends desirous of creating upscale beverages that were simultaneously approachable and affordable.
Cape May Winery and Vineyard takes the art of wine making, sprinkles in stretching views of 22 acres of grapes, subtracts the pompous atmosphere associated with the wine culture, and adds a smile, all equaling a great first stop on a typical tour of southern New Jersey wineries.