The entrance to Flight Restaurant & Wine Bar on South Main is hard to miss.
Venture around the corner onto Monroe Avenue, however, and you may not notice a small enclave in the building.
Inside the notch is what looks like a grungy, steel service door. Through the door and down a set of stairs sits a banquet space, the rebranded Wine Cellar, operated as a subsidiary of the restaurant. It's replete with several large wooden wine racks, tile floors, and the type of low lighting that makes the place feel like old Southern money.
Flight has operated the space for years, offering private dining, but converted it to the Wine Cellar last summer. Ownership since has remade the kitchen, expanded the banquet menu, and hired Melissa Nichopoulos as the banquet coordinator.
"We feel like we're ready to expose the room more," co-owner Russ Graham says.
In addition to an extensive wine menu and hors d'oeuvres, the banquet space offers a popular flight concept that parallels the restaurant's offerings. For $59 per person, guests can choose one of three pre-selected entrées. Choice is a primary draw for the Wine Cellar banquet experience, both for the layout of the room and the menu, which can be altered upon request.
"[Nichopoulos] is trying to find out what's important to you and how can we make this work for you. People really enjoy choices, and we're here to offer that to you," co-owner Tom Powers says.
As he spoke, the staff set up the room for a gathering of Nike executives. The space hosts celebrations of all kinds, including wedding ceremonies and can also handle DJs or bands.
- Justin Fox Burks
"The room is extremely versatile and flexible. A smaller party is not eaten up by the size of the room," Graham says. "You can have a 15- to 20-person party, and it feels intimate, but you can also seat 100 people, and it works."
The space originally served as the packing and shipping hub for Brodnax Jewelers, which opened the building in 1916. A historical plaque claims Brodnax "at one time sold more Rolex watches than any other retailer in the world."
The corner of the Wine Cellar still holds an old-timey safe, nearly a century old, with two thick, heavy plated doors.
The history is a great conversation piece, but the staff maintains that the Wine Cellar's flexible dining experience delivering quality taste and good service is the real draw.
39 S. Main (598-3992)
In an ongoing effort to modernize Gold Strike Casino Resort and upgrade it to the level of the MGM Resort property in Las Vegas, the casino opened TEN10 Wine & Whiskey Bar last month in Tunica.
Management converted what they describe as an "old and tired" lounge called L.A. Bar, using bright colors and sleek lines that would make George Jetson feel at home.
"We just wanted to create a nice place for our guests to come, relax, and enjoy their favorite wine, their favorite whiskey in a nice, modern setting," says Elizabeth Slade, the resort's public relations manager.
The venue boasts an extensive list of about 60 whiskeys, scotch blends, and wines. It includes Jim Beam White Label, Noah's Mill small-batch bourbon, American Honey (a flavored whiskey made by Wild Turkey), Elk Cove Pinot Noir, and Clos Pegase Chardonnay.
TEN10, named for the resort's address, will offer an alternating, complimentary wine or whiskey tasting the first Thursday of each month, with free food and a 2-ounce pour.
The music in the lounge is a "chill-out" instrumental blend, according to executive director of food and beverage Anthony Caratozzolo.
The resort also includes a stage bar, but the ultralounge provides a mellow setting that management hopes will include live music from a saxophone or piano player.
"We've actually gotten that younger demographic to sit down and enjoy some cocktails and some wines. But it's more of a relaxed setting," Caratozzolo says.
Almost every piece of the property has been touched up or remodeled in some way, including Chicago Steakhouse, Buffet Americana, and a smoke-free gambling area on the second floor.
The resort staged a country Christmas trivia show in December and will welcome a Cirque-style show this summer in an effort to appeal to families and offer more events.
"We're taking slow steps. We've still got a long ways to go, though," Caratozzolo says.
"I'm new to this area, but Tunica has a dated feel. The casinos are very old school. What gaming used to be. We're trying to transform and align ourselves with our Vegas property.
"With gaming opening up in many areas surrounding us, we need to transform more to a resort than a casino."
1010 Casino Center Drive in Tunica, Mississippi (888-245-7529