Visionary ideas turn family owned restaurants into unique dining experiences

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A nice glass of Syrah wine, an eclectic cheese board filled with premium cheeses, olives, fruit and chocolate, and bacon-wrapped shrimp grilled to perfection is an enchanting combination for a light evening meal. Now, there are two places where you can have an experience like this in venues that sets them apart from any premium restaurants in San Diego County.

A nice glass of Syrah wine, an eclectic cheese board filled with premium cheeses, olives, fruit and chocolate, and bacon-wrapped shrimp grilled to perfection is an enchanting combination for a light evening meal. Now, there are two places where you can have an experience like this in venues that sets them apart from any premium restaurants in San Diego County.

With the new edition of the Proprietor’s Reserve East wine bar at the Riviera Supper Club in La Mesa, it is an all for one, one for all establishment. It remains a destination for families with its large dining area and its trademark cook-it-yourself grill center stage. In the back, the Turquoise Room is a full service bar with entertainment almost every night of the week with musicians, karaoke and comedians.

Proprietor’s Reserve East adds an intimacy that suits those looking for a quieter setting. All three works well on its own, but with each venue, patrons have access to everything that the Riviera offers.

A family of entrepreneurs, Proprietor’s Michael and Barbara Rammelsburg, three out of four of their children and one grandchild are all part of the evolution of creativity that sets it apart from other dining experiences.

Barbara Rammelsburg said that it did not come all together overnight, but she always remembers what her son told her, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Failure is not in the Rammelsburg’s’ vocabulary, and it is their awareness of the community they serve and the vision to create an atmosphere that suits a diversity of clientele that makes a combination for success. Also, the proprietors of Rosie O’Grady’s Irish Pub in Normal Heights since 2002, which is now a number one destination for those in and around that community, Barbara Rammelsburg said that when they took over the Riviera in 2011, that was not the original idea.

When they acquired the Riviera, the idea was to turn it into a beautiful big wine restaurant. But, they quickly realized the popularity of the original concept of the restaurant, and made the decision to mimic O’Grady’s in creating a separate venue within. They understood sacrificing prime real estate is bad business, and the only logical thing to do was to fashion a separate scene that would complement the whole. Their love of wine is seen throughout the restaurant. With more than 85 selections of bottled wine to choose from and more than 25 available by the glass, the wine racks throughout are as symbolic as the grill it yourself attraction.

The wine bar design at O’Grady’s took time and hard work to see it become a money making venture with Proprietor’s Reserve West addition. But with its success, they lifted the front patio at the Riviera, used wine staves, bought antique furniture and turned them into wine racks, built a bar and placed a roof on top.

“It’s a small cozy place for a gathering. This is very European and people like that.” We call them, ‘San Diego’s most Intimate Wine Bars,’” with full service, she added.

Rammelsburg said now, it is only open a few days a week, but La Mesa really does not know that it is there yet. They are still working on prominent signage and outside artwork to attract the community.

“People just see the Riviera. But we’ve gotten a few dedicated customers, and when we get really busy, people come out to the wine bar to eat dinner. The overflow has really helped, and the wine bar is dog friendly, so people can bring out their bow-wows. We’re beginning to promote it, for example if you bring a friend to the wine bar, when you buy a drink, you get a drink free.”

The wine bar is available for private parties, 25 maximum. It is perfect for a small birthday party, getting with your friends, business gathering at a reasonable minimum charge at a La Mesa price, not San Diego prices, she said.

She said she is looking for lighter music for entertainment at the wine bar, someone that can play some guitar in the background and add to the cozy ambience. She is also excited to start introducing specials tested at O’Grady’s. such as half-off open bottle hour where they take all the opened bottles of wine and sell it by the glass for half price. Rammelsburg said this is just the beginning of the many things that she believes that Proprietor’s East has to offer the community.

“That way we have music in here until about the time that the music starts in the Turquoise Room. As it grows, we will eventually increase the hours and I would like to see it open more hours including Sundays,” she said.

Other than the familiarity of the Proprietor Reserve wine bars, each restaurant has its own flavor. O’Grady’s is much more of a Chicago style pub/sports bar atmosphere, with an extensive Mexican/American menu, with Friday and Saturday entertainment and San Diego’s Best Brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Never a cover charge. It offers more than 70 varieties of beers, including many local favorites, and a full-service bar. Rammelsburg said that it took some years of trial and error, but being a family business, the support was always there even when the belief of the concept was not. And it worked. So they incorporated a lot of ideas and ideals into the more family atmosphere of the Riviera.

“That is how that wine bar got started in Normal Heights, and it is the granddaddy of this wine bar at the Riviera,” she said.

Both enterprises are remarkably affordable, but Rammelsburg said she does not believe in high prices.

“I’m a farm girl, and I know what a good steak taste like,” she said. “I just don’t like or understand it when I go to a place and they overcharge so much.”

To find out more about everything La Mesa’s Riviera Supper Club and its venues, menu, entertainment and specials, visit www.rivierasupperclub.com. For Normal Heights Rosie O’Grady’s Irish Pub, visit www.rosieogradyspub.com.

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