ROC Restaurant Series - Next Door by Wegmans

A quick glance through any of my social media accounts, and you know that I am a huge proponent of anything Wegmans. The stores are unrivaled, the service is top notch, and the restaurants are spectacular. As Rochesterians, this we know for sure. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Next Door by Wegmans is high on my list of restaurants to highlight. Next Door was created as a result of Danny Wegman’s desire for a test restaurant – a place where new and innovative concepts could be tried out. Consequently, the dining experience at Next Door is unlike anything else that we have here in Rochester. Not only is the food and wine impeccable, but, as is the case with anything that Danny touches, the level of customer service is truly extraordinary. The relationship between customers and Wegmans’ employees always comes first, and as a result, you will never leave one of their establishments unhappy. Although I don't eat at Next Door as often as I used to, it has little to do with personal preference and everything to do with proximity. If I had my way, I would dine at Next Door multiple times a week!

 

CUSTOMER SERVICE: What I love most about Next Door, more than anything, is the fact that every time that Duffy and I dine there, I feel as though I'm coming home. While I know that this may sound strange, I often find myself longing to go to Next Door after having had a tough day at work. Why? Simply put, the staff there always greets us with such warmth and kindness and makes it their priority that we have an incredible experience, every single time.

Wegmans’ culture of customer service means that Next Door has implemented a system so that, once you've dined there once, the staff begins a record of who you are and what your predilections are. For example, they know that I like to drink Diet Coke with my meal. They know that I don't like cilantro (or Ivory soap, as I call it). They know that I'm not crazy about foie gras. It’s the little nuances like this that separate Next Door from various other restaurants in town. Before guests even arrive, the entire staff gathers to talk about who is going to be joining them that night, reviews the guests' special needs, determine who is going to be dining with the table host, and discusses whether there are any dietary restrictions or special occasions. As a result, this is an incredible place for me to bring business clients, whether it’s to introduce them to Rochester or to thank them for having worked with us. Before my arrival, I'll tell the staff who I'm dining with and why they're important to me. My guests inevitably walk away feeling as though they've received customer care and service unlike anything that they've experienced in the past. 

I know that I may be rambling a bit about their impeccable service, however, much like Char, Duffy and I truly enjoy the interpersonal relationships that we've built with the staff. We celebrate their children's graduation from school, cherish memories that they have of their latest vacation, and even mourn the passing of a loved one. The experience truly is familial and I'm grateful for their many and ongoing kindnesses. 

FOOD: I always tell clients from out of town that as a result of Wegmans, we eat like kings here in Rochester. So, it comes as no surprise that Next Door is constantly offering new and innovative menu items. Duffy and I have enjoyed the food of Brent Williams, the Chef de Cuisine, for years. It seems as though he's never afraid to experiment or try something new. And if you're fortunate enough to have him come over to the table during the course of a meal, you'll realize that, like the staff in the front of the house, he's an incredibly warm and affable guy - and completely modest. Remarkably, Next Door recently added Pierre Morat, who schooled under Alain Ducasse in both Paris and New York. In the many years since Next Door has opened, I can confidently say that I have never had a bad meal there. And, without a doubt, they have the best sushi in all of Rochester! But then again, if you're Danny Wegman, eating incredible sushi in Japan, you too have the ability to convince the sushi chef to come work for you. The last thing that I'll say about Next Door's food is that the presentation is always a work of art! It never disappoints and is truly stunning.

WINE: The best wine list in the area. By far. It spans the globe and is representative of all great varietals. You can purchase anything from a $15 bottle of wine to a $3,000 bottle of Petrus...

SPECIAL EVENTS: As I've stated, Rochester really does benefit from the fact that Wegmans introduces us to great food and to great wine. Their test kitchen at the far end of the restaurant is often hosting interesting food and wine dinners. These may include a guest vintner, flown in from California, who brings with him a number of great bottles for us to enjoy. Or perhaps it features a celebrity chef, flown in from New York. Either way, it's always an unbelievable experience deeply rooted in education. With no more than 50-75 people in attendance, the family style seating and intimate setting allows for you to mingle with two or three other couples that you may or may not already know. This type of experience is one that I treasure and look forward to often!