January 29, 2021

Fork on the Road: The Puck stops here

3.3 min read| Published On: January 29th, 2021|

By James Combs

Fork on the Road: The Puck stops here

3.3 min read| Published On: January 29th, 2021|

Celebrity chef’s staff serves a deliciously memorable dining experience.

Photos: Nicole Hamel

There’s always a debate when it comes to restaurants. 

Would you prefer amazing food and poor service or mediocre food and flawless service? 

Fortunately, you don’t have to choose one or the other when dining at Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar in The Villages. This is one restaurant that consistently delivers amazing food and flawless service. 

Your memorable dining experience begins with a hostess stepping outside to open the door and graciously greet diners. Next, you’ll be impressed when your knowledgeable server provides detailed information about various menu items. The final piece of proof comes when diners receive a beautifully presented plate of food that makes for an even tastier meal. 

One might not expect anything less from a restaurant that bears the name of Wolfgang Puck, a celebrity chef who has been a mainstay on popular cooking shows. The famed food connoisseur has built a brand that encompasses three companies: Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Wolfgang Puck Catering, and Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc. 

Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar, part of the Brownwood Hotel and Spa, opened last March with much fanfare… and bad timing. Coronavirus forced the restaurant to close until June. 

Villagers say the wait was well worth it.

 “Guests love the atmosphere, the décor, and the service that we provide,” says Nikki Smith, assistant general manager. “We give that fine dining service but in a casual atmosphere.”

The restaurant comes with a few distinctions. First, it’s the only Wolfgang Puck location with gulf grouper on the menu. Second, it’s one of only two Wolfgang Puck locations to offer an open kitchen, allowing the smells, sounds, and sights of cooking to become an integral part of the dining experience. 

“The grouper was created specifically for The Villages,” Nikki says. “The concept behind the open kitchen is that you feel like you’re dining in Wolfgang’s home. Our goal is to make everyone feel comfortable and at home.”

A diverse menu catering to all tastes helps accomplish that goal. Pizzas with unusual toppings—including wild mushrooms, smoked salmon, and basil shrimp—are a big hit. Diners can also choose bacon-wrapped meatloaf, New York strip steak, burgers, spaghetti and meatballs, and a variety of salads. But the most popular item is pork schnitzel served with Austrian potato salad, cherry tomatoes, arugula brandy mustard sauce, and cucumber dill salad.

And if you have trouble deciding what to order, just ask your server. He or she will happily provide precise details of each dish and make each one sound delicious. 

“The French dip is awesome,” says waitress Tina DiBileo. “Once you dip it into the au jus sauce it just melts in your mouth.”

She’s right. The sandwich is layered with thinly sliced New York strip, fresh horseradish, fontina cheese, and onion marmalade. However, the fresh bread is what makes this sandwich truly special. The slight crunchiness on the outside and softness inside are ideal for texture as well as soaking up that delicious au jus broth/gravy. 

A side of onion rings–considered deep-fried kryptonite by many people–is highly recommended with the French dip. Yuengling is used in a beer batter, resulting in the perfect combination of a crispy, light, and fluffy outer crust. More importantly, the breading does not fall apart at first bite.  

Meanwhile, as you’re enjoying lunch or dinner, don’t be surprised if various servers, hostesses, or managers stop by your table to make sure your dining experience is even more enjoyable. In fact, chefs visit the tables of customers with special dietary needs to figure out how these guests can be accommodated. 

The same level of service is found at the open bar, where bartenders Jessica McKenna and Cristal Torres serve cocktails with names like Moscow Mule, Passion Fruit Cosmopolitan, and Kentucky Punch. Consider the Espresso Martini, which will undoubtedly satisfy coffee lovers. “Many guests come in and have this drink as a dessert,” Jessica says. 

Wine connoisseurs are also in luck. A large glass-enclosed wine display features many of the classics—reds, whites, and sparkling. “When it comes to our wine selection, we’re like a candy shop for grownups,” Nikki says.  

At Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar, the debate between food or service has been settled. The recipe for a superb dining experience seems quite simple, actually. 

Delicious food and stellar hospitality keep diners wanting more.  

Let’s do lunch or dinner! → Tell us about a great restaurant by emailing james@akersmediagroup.com. 

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About the Author: James Combs

James Combs was a pillar of Akers Media Group since its inception in 2008. Over the years, he had the honor of interviewing Lake & Sumter County's most fascinating personalities, from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans, bringing their incredible stories to life. Throughout his career, James earned over 50 awards for writing excellence, a testament to his talent and dedication. In 2021, he was inducted into the Akers Media Group Hall of Fame. Sadly, James passed away in 2023 after a courageous battle with cancer. His legacy of storytelling and excellence continues to inspire us all.

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