Out with the ale, in with the wine

SoNapa moves in

  • By
  • | 8:38 a.m. August 3, 2011
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - The former Steak and Ale restaurant on Highway 17/92 in Maitland will reopen as a SoNapa Grille.
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - The former Steak and Ale restaurant on Highway 17/92 in Maitland will reopen as a SoNapa Grille.
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
  • News
  • Share

Recreating the vineyards of Napa Valley and Sonoma County is no easy task, but a new restaurant seeks to bring a piece of the wine country to Maitland’s downtown.

SoNapa Grille, a restaurant in New Smyrna Beach specializing in Napa Valley and Sonoma County cuisine and wine, will open a second location in the Steak and Ale building, which has stood vacant for three years on the corner of Orlando Avenue and Manor Road, across from Lake Lily.

SoNapa is scheduled to open in January. Adam Barringer, owner of SoNapa and mayor of New Smyrna Beach since 2009, said he is excited to take a prime piece of the city and beautify it for all to enjoy.

Revitalizing downtown

“It’s part of the cultural corridor of Maitland,” Barringer said. “We’re bringing a great project to the city that will create in the neighborhood of 40 full-time jobs at the restaurant, while the money that we’ll be spending on interior and exterior renovations will go to local firms to support the economy.”

In hopes to shape a popular downtown in Maitland, Mayor Howard Schieferdecker said the restaurant’s location across from Lake Lily is great to attract diners that want to stay local when they eat out.

“Maitland residents are tired of going to Altamonte and Winter Park to eat,” he said. “With restaurants like Antonio’s (La Fiamma Ristorante) and RanGetsu, good quality dining spots are enhancing the city’s downtown. SoNapa is a great niché restaurant to add.”

Estimating $500,000 in renovation costs, Barringer said he hopes work will begin in September.

Renovations to the roughly 6,700-square-foot building will consist of landscaping the exterior, painting, applying a stucco treatment to the walls and maintenance, and providing outdoor seating to the building that holds about 200 people.

California-inspired cuisine

“The restaurant will be very warm and inviting in its ambiance, with woods and colors to make people feel like they have walked into a wine tasting room in Sonoma County,” Barringer said.

Les Callahan, a manager of Antonio’s in Maitland, said that he sees nothing but positives when it comes to attracting more people to the area, despite possible competition.

“I look at the whole Maitland area, and I’m happy that something is going in there,” he said. “Visually it’s not appealing to see rundown and vacant buildings. Although other restaurants are competition, having them creates a destination place for diners to get away without actually leaving.”

Featuring an all-American fare with a northern California theme to it, the restaurant will feature an extended wine list compared to its New Smyrna Beach location, which has been open since 2007. The Maitland location will also have lunch and dinner menus, unlike New Smyrna’s SoNapa, which only features a dinner menu.

Restaurant for wine lovers

Flat breads, soups, salads, fresh fish, hand-cut steak grilled over an open flame, fresh herbs, fried fruits, artesian cheeses and foods centered around olives and grapes will make up the menu.

Having a passion for wine and a love of the Sonoma County region, Barringer, previously a managing partner with Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill for 14 years, said the restaurant is for the economical consumer, but features luxury items as well.

“Diners can spend up to about $200 for a bottle of wine,” he said, “but we feature specials like choosing two items for $9. There’s something for everyone.”

Verl Emrick, executive director of the Maitland Community Redevelopment Agency, said he welcomes the restaurant and believes it will only enhance the city.

“It takes up an empty spot,” he said. “It offers us another place for the citizens to go, and it’s another plus for residents to go downtown.”

Learn more

SoNapa Grille is scheduled to open in January in the former Steak and Ale building, at the corner of Orlando Avenue and Manor Road in Maitland. Visit www.sonapa.com for restaurant and menu information.