Fall 2003

Frank Talk

Richard N. Frank explains how Lawry’s played a role in the popularity of wine and the trend of restaurants offering wine by the glass.

The Mediterrania's wine by the carafe was a trendsetter in the '60s. The Mediterrania's wine by the carafe was a trendsetter in the '60s.

In my 50 years as a restaurateur, I’ve seen the public’s interest in wine grow from practically zilch to what amounts to a love affair. I’m proud to say Lawry’s has played a part in that. We have not only gone along with the burgeoning love of the grape, we’ve helped it along, and even pioneered some of the trends.

Our company didn’t begin seriously incorporating wine into its offerings until the early 1960s. In fact, we did not serve alcohol at all until 1938, when my family opened the original Lawry’s The Prime Rib. The emphasis then, and through the 1940s and ’50s, was on hard liquor. Our guests, like most Americans of the time, were uneducated about and disinterested in wine.

I decided to try to simplify the process and make our guests feel more comfortable by adapting the European practice of serving “table wine”

In the early 1960s, I opened a fanciful Southern European-themed restaurant in Beverly Hills called the Mediterrania. By then, the average American had a modicum of experience with wine, at least to the extent of knowing whether they preferred red or white. Most, however, rarely ordered wine in restau­rants, feeling intimidated by wine lists and at a loss to choose one label over another.

I decided to try to simplify the process and make our guests feel more comfortable by adapting the European practice of serving “table wine” (akin to what would later become known in American restaurants as “house wine”). We narrowed our offerings to a good-quality California red, white and rose, which we served in specially ­designed carafes. Because the wines had been selected by the restaurant, our guests felt reassured they would be good.

To make the ordering fun, rather than foreboding, we served our wine from a cart outfitted with a hurdy-gurdy (a mechanical musical instrument) imported from Sicily. Our “wine girl” would crank it up and push the merrily playing cart around from table to table, pouring carafes to guests’ orders. It was a huge success!

In the restaurant business, one is able to be original for only about six minutes. Word spreads quickly about any successful new idea, and it is picked up instantly. That was certainly the case with our carafes; in what seemed like the blink of an eye, restau­rants from coast to coast were offering carafes of red, white and rose, and people began to view wine as a good accompaniment to dining out.

In the early 1980s, Lawry’s helped start a trend that continues popular today, by being among the first to offer premium wines by the glass.

Soon after, we began helping the public learn about wine through weekly classes and tastings at Lawry’s California Center. The classes were such a hit, we also began offering wine dinners in our restaurants, where guests could sample vintages, meet and talk with winemakers, and enjoy gourmet meals that compli­mented the wines being poured. (Although Lawry’s California Centers and its classes are no more, wine dinners are still going strong in all of our restaurants, and I urge you to try one.)

In the early 1980s, Lawry’s helped start a trend that continues popular today, by being among the first to offer premium wines by the glass. Americans had grown far more knowledgeable and discrimi­nating about wine, and we wanted to make our finest as accessible as possible.

Serving by the glass enables guests to more easily explore new wines, and is a great alternative to having to purchase and consume an entire bottle in one sitting. Guests across the country have taken to the idea.

Our restaurants are always adding exciting wines to their lists and thinking up ways to enhance your enjoyment of them. So come join us, taste what’s new and raise a glass! Salute!

From the desk of Richard N. Frank

Illustration of two women clinking wine glasses together

Upcoming Events

Browse all events

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Beverly Hills

Los Angeles

Every Saturday & Sunday

11:30am – 2:00pm

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Dallas

Dallas

April 23 – 27, 2021

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Las Vegas

Las Vegas

April 23 – 27, 2021

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Beverly Hills

Los Angeles

April 23 – 27, 2021

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Dallas

Dallas

Friday

April 30, 2021
7:00pm

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Las Vegas

Las Vegas

April 1 – 30, 2021

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Dallas

Dallas

April 1 – 30, 2021

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Beverly Hills

Los Angeles

April 1 – 30, 2021

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Wednesday – Thursday

May 5 – 6, 2021

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Sunday

May 9, 2021
11:00am – 8:00pm

Mother’s Day Celebration

Celebrate Mom with dinner at Lawry’s the Prime Rib! We look forward to serving good food with world-class hospitality.

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Dallas

Dallas

Sunday

May 9, 2021
11:00am – 3:30pm

Mother’s Day Celebration

Celebrate Mom with dinner at Lawry’s! We look forward to serving good food with world-class hospitality.

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Beverly Hills

Los Angeles

Sunday

May 9, 2021
11:30am – 8:30pm

Mother’s Day Celebration

Celebrate Mom with dinner at Lawry’s! We look forward to serving good food with world-class hospitality.

Want to Find Out About Future Events First?

Sign Up For Event Notifications

By signing up, you'll receive an email notification when a new event is posted to restaurants near you.

Get Notified

More From Fall 2003