Savor: Table for 10
BY Michelle Billman
This time you’re going out.
This time you’re going out.You’ve hosted the holidays in your house for years and years and this time you’re taking the whole family visiting aunts and uncles returning children and grandchildren and you’re heading to a lovely local eatery to celebrate the season in style. Great idea! Dining out with a large party if done right can be fabulous fun but doing it right is no small trick. Showing up unannounced with 10 or more can throw a restaurant into a tizzy especially on a holiday. What if they have room for eight and not 10? And how do you order for a large party? “Oops sorry we only have two lobsters left ” is a mood-killer when what the family wants is flawless fun. Finally where do you sit with a traveling troupe? Pushing five tables for two together on a moment’s notice is not conducive to the kind of family spirit you’re looking for.
Three local favorites the Blockade Runner on Wrightsville Beach Caffé Phoenix in Historic Downtown Wilmington and Port Land Grille in Lumina Station offer fantastic food and sound advice to make your holiday meal a smashing success.
For Caffé Phoenix owner Steve Kohlstedt suggests calling the evening before or the day-of for weekday reservations. But if it’s Friday or Saturday try to call three to four days in advance. Kohlstedt explains “The more knowledge we have going in the better prepared we are to execute a flawless evening.”
Amy Steketee the owner and operator of Port Land Grille suggests the sooner the better for any reservation. She says that last-minute reservations can usually be accommodated but if groups of 10 or more want a private dining room they should call ahead to discuss availability.
Over at the Blockade Runner catering director Carol Wagner explains “We can adjust to a group of 10 but if we’re talking about 20 to 25 people we like to have notice at least a week.”
All three restaurants will work with guests ahead of time to prepare limited or specialty menus so that every palate (and wallet) is happy. Mark Lawson the executive chef for the Blockade Runner says “Speaking with guests individually and finding out who they are oftentimes will help us in developing a limited menu.”
Steketee from Port Land Grille further explains the idea of limited menus: “We can tailor the menus to fit budgetary or dietary preferences but we don’t usually need to limit the scope of the menu which is nice for the guests because it feels more like they’re dining at Port Land Grille instead of a banquet hall.”
As with the Blockade Runner and Port Land Grille Kohlstedt says that the staff members at Caffé Phoenix are “open to pretty much anything anyone wants to do — we don’t try to restrict our guests.”
All three of these restaurants are also willing to work with guests to provide specialty items like celebratory desserts that are not included in their normal menus.
Location location location
All three restaurants are well-prepared to handle big parties. Caffé Phoenix offers three areas for large groups including a private banquet room with its own bar (and bathroom) that can seat up to 75 guests a semiprivate space for up to 15 people as well as the actual dining room. Kohlstedt explains that many groups enjoy eating in the dining room most of all “I think what everyone enjoys about our restaurant is the dining room itself just the acoustics of the room really make it feel like a fun happy place to be.”
At Port Land Grille there are two group dining rooms that are equipped with audio-visual equipment at no charge. The larger room can seat 60 people and the smaller room seats 24. There is also an adjoining reception area for cocktails and appetizers.
For larger and smaller groups alike the Blockade Runner is another fine choice. Wagner says that the restaurant dining room can accommodate smaller groups of 10 to 15 guests while larger groups of up to 150 guests can meet in various banquet rooms. The banquet rooms are decorated with holiday centerpieces and a tree for those who want to exchange gifts.
No matter what restaurant you choose for your special holiday get-togethers do your research. Learn what’s most important to your fellow diners — whether it’s a vegetarian-friendly menu or a private dining space — and talk with a restaurant representative to plan for your party’s unique set of accommodations. The more specific you are in your pre-dining communication the more helpful the restaurant staff can be in creating the ambience the menu and the overall dining experience you desire.