Sip N Spin Dining at Vinyl Steakhouse, NYC

Vinyl Steakhouse NYC
The colorful and eclectic interior of Vinyl Steakhouse, NYC

Q&A with Sofia and Kevin Flannery, Husband and Wife Duo + Sommeliers + Owners, Vinyl Steakhouse, NYC

Vinyl Steakhouse is NYC’s multi-sensory and inclusive restaurant that is rewriting the traditional rules of steakhouses with a heavy focus on music and the local arts through a Sip N Spin curated experience where sommeliers pair food and wine with songs based on the flavors of the food and wine and notes of the musical album and course.

The DJ Sommeliers carefully craft an experience for guests from their chef-driven menu, four in house sommeliers and the over 2,700 records that adorn the walls at Vinyl Steakhouse. Kevin and Sofia Flannery introduce us to the Sip N Spin experience.


Sofia and Kevin Flannery Vinyl Steakhouse NYC
Sofia and Kevin Flannery

What’s your background and career path that led you two to become Sommeliers and Restaurant Owners?

Kevin:  My Sommelier story began in Washington, D.C., around 2006 when the corporate beverage director for Morton’s The Steakhouse went to an auction and purchased about $250,000 worth of cellar worthy wine and I was tasked with listing it and ultimately being the person to sell it.

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I am a bit of an overachiever, so I asked the company if I could be their first ever Court of Master Sommelier trained manager.

After securing that role, I fell in love with wine and the process and became the first ever Certified Sommelier in the company at that time.

My path toward Restaurant Ownership started long before even becoming a Sommelier.

I felt the urge to conceptually create what would come to be called Vinyl Steakhouse when I was just 23 years old working in fine dining Steakhouses that were ripe with stuffiness including bow ties, tuxedos, white table cloths, strict dress codes and exclusively Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin being played.

However, they were also ripe with incredible beef, outstanding service standards & expectations and an intimate dark setting.

I kept all three of those things and took away the stuffiness of a typical steakhouse to create Vinyl Steakhouse, a fine dining steakhouse that pairs the best in steak and seafood quality with genuine hospitality and service in an elegant yet real setting, while being casually welcomed and having no dress code and guests can come as they are to dine with us and be welcomed no matter what.

Sofia: I fell in love with wine on a fateful trip to Sonoma Valley where wine started to make sense to me. The wine making, the culture, the chemistry, the indescribable feeling of having a sip of a delicious wine on rolling hills while the sun is setting- all of this combined with being married to Kevin who is a certified Sommelier, led me down the path to becoming a Sommelier.

He would start by telling me all about the wines we would drink with dinner and slowly over time, I started to get enamored with the idea of wine being so much deeper than anything I had ever thought before.

Now I love talking about wine tableside and bringing my own unique take on being a restaurant Somm.

How did the concept for Sip N Spin at Vinyl Steakhouse come together?

The Sip N Spin evolved after the concept was created and operating when we realized that our diverse and vast array of musical choices being played could be paired with so many things around us.

We curated the music to the guests in the restaurant, to the volume and vibes of the night, to the weather outside and so many other things to try to enhance the experience for our guests, that it only seemed natural that we could start pairing the music with the wine as well.

So now when a guest chooses the Sip N Spin experience, we utilize our in-house Sommeliers to pick wines that pair best with one of our 2,700 Vinyl Records.

You’re dedicated to dining and music; how does that work?

Our founding vision is a concept we call our ‘Center Lane’ that we stay within. Having the best prime steak around with a bold glass of Napa Cabernet or an exquisite Bordeaux while the sounds of Can’t You Hear Me Knocking by The Rolling Stones is playing off the Sticky Fingers Album.

This was the song we modeled the music of the concept around because it is full of energy, bravado and astoundingly good Rock & Roll.

In general, we work around that original motif to now keep our center lane to 1960’s and 1970’s Rock & Roll.  I grew up In Akron/Cleveland, Ohio, near the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and have always felt this music is the greatest genre and full of energy, excitement and perfect for a steakhouse environment.

We have over a thousand of our best selections from our collection recorded into Discogs, an app which we give out to our guests on iPads if it’s a special occasion for them or if they really love music and request to get in on the fun.

We do our very best to honor their requests and the guests then become part of the experience and love it!  Our collection includes many Jazz, Funk, Disco, Motown, Country, Hip Hop , Rap and R&B selections.

Tell us about the innovative Hospitality/Beverage programming.

We try to take Hospitality to new levels by first of all, providing genuine hospitality that is real and authentic, our staff isn’t doing this only for a paycheck, they are bought in on the concept and experience and want to genuinely take care of guests.

How do we achieve that?  They love and appreciate that we are making a steakhouse approachable to everyone. But really it starts by hiring for attitude over experience. We want nice people working for us that treat each other well.

Our first motto of our mission statement is that ‘We value each other’ which puts this golden rule at the forefront of everything we do every day is to value one another and then our guests.

The second thing we do to enhance the hospitality is tell our associates to ‘think like an owner.’ Our associates are empowered to make very big decisions without having to find a manager or owner.

We have had employees decide to buy a round of drinks for a table or send out an array of desserts because they know it’s the right decision.

We have had employees decide to run out to the local store to get a guest a beverage they wanted that we didn’t carry.  The list goes on in the ways our associates know that they are welcome to make decisions, even if they are ones that financially don’t benefit the company, to ensure every guest leaves extraordinarily happy.

The third part of our hospitality program is that we ‘strive tirelessly for 5-star reviews’ which is proven in our ratings as one of the only Steakhouses in NYC to be rated 4.8 on google with over 300 reviews and constantly being in the top 1-3 in highest rated on Yelp.

As of right now we sit at #1 highest rated on Yelp.

Who makes the selection of the music, the chef-driven menu, the wines? 

The music is a nightly setlist picked out based around our center lane, but we are always adding new music to the collection and never play the same records any two days in a row.

We do allow our guests to pick out selections as well, especially if it’s a birthday/anniversary or special occasion.  We read the room as well, if it’s filled with Business / Corporate men & women, we produce a setlist that will cater to that crowd being able to have some much-needed conversation, nothing too overbearing or loud.

If the place is packed with couples on dates, we will choose a setlist that matches that ambiance better with good present volume and more Funk, Disco or date night hits.

The food menu showcases beef and classics that have a small twist to them. Our cocktails are more aligned with a speakeasy, as we utilize unique ingredients and glassware.

The wines from France, Italy and the Americas are on our two-page wine list – with prices you can afford.

Which POS system do you use?

Aloha by NCR

Kitchen equipment you couldn’t live without?

Hands down 100% it is our Montague Legend RADIGLO Steakhouse Broiler. This $20,000+  piece of equipment is a beast and it generates heat upwards of 1,800 degrees with its ceramic plate heating technique.

This allows us to create an incredible sear and crust on the steak while protecting its perfectly cooked interior to the desired temperatures.

It also allows us to stay in business by cooking steaks at a temperature that doesn’t take our giant 38-ounce Porterhouse an hour to cook so we can get it out to the tables on time and perfectly made.

Share an example of a Sip N Spin curated experience.

Sample pairing with Champagne:

Prince’s 1999 album paired with an M. Haslinger Champagne from France – I explained all the complex ways that champagne is made- the secondary fermentation, the dosage, the bubbles and how many different small details and nuances are needed to create a Champagne which has a small symphony of activity going on in the bottle.

Much like this, so did Prince’s album 1999, his first with his band The Revolution. The Revolution brought along the use of synthesizers and drum kits and nuances complexity rarely yet seen in music and propelled Prince’s career to stardom.

The amount of activity in the glass surely matches with the amount of nuanced talent creating music in the band.

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Joyce Appelman
Joyce Appelman is the SCOOP News Editor and Senior Contributing Writer for Total Food Service and previously the National Communications Director for C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Program. An industry leader supporting education and scholarships, she has been instrumental in opening career opportunities for many young people in the foodservice industry. Email her at joyceappelman@gmail.com

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