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.
Calling them “over the top — an explosion of skills,” Stratis goes adds that the names of their products are just as unique as the wines themselves.
Like “Passion Has Red Lips” — a blend of Shiraz, Australia’s traditional red- along with Cabernet Sauvignon. Or “The Quickie,” a Shiraz blended with classic northern Italian grape Nebbiolo. Spanish Tempranillo, with tones of leather, vanilla and coffee — and one of this writer’s favorites — also gets deployed in a Shiraz blend called “Double Love Trouble.”
Second-growth Bordeaux, considered some of the world’s finest reds, are available here at prices that are a fraction of what you might pay elsewhere. For those unsure of what they might enjoy, the Diner offers a sampling of up to three different wines from that extensive by-the-glass list. Making them all the more desirable are rock bottom price points, starting at as little as $5 with none reaching $10.
A trio from that directory highly vetted by George include Conn Valley Prologue, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Pozzan Chardonnay — oaky and buttery from Russian River Valley and Saint Ubans Reisling, native to the German town of Mosel, known for its slate/mineral essences.
Another winemaker popular here is legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Shore carries nearly the entire Coppola line, offering reds Claret, Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Rosso along with whites Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, plus their organically grown, higher-end Rubicon vintages.
Asked why they opted to devote so much time and energy toward wine, Stratis says, “we didn’t see something like this elsewhere in the market.”
Or anywhere else, for that matter.
Address: 6710 Tilton Road, EHT
On the Web: shorediner.com