The death of traditional fine dining has been widely proclaimed, and yet The Refectory Restaurant & Wine Shop has managed to not only persevere but to continue delighting diners. More than two decades into his tenure, chef Richard Blondin continues delicately spinning French classics into clever creations that dazzle on the plate and on the palate. The Roasted Gazpacho Ragout with avocado and shrimp was a summertime standout—simple, seasonal and packed with flavor. But the restaurant has also made efforts to stay relevant and connect with broader clientele in recent years. There are regular 10 for $10 wine tastings, a popular dinner and music series and a more affordable bistro menu. This summer, The Refectory's lobby debuted a retail wine shop with more than 100 labels available across a spectrum of prices, building on the restaurant's unparalleled reputation for wine in a way that all can enjoy.

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Difference-Maker: Dedication to Service

Food will always be the star of great restaurants, and The Refectory is no exception. But this bastion of French cuisine further separates itself with consummate service. Servers are quick to recommend the perfect dish, suggest a wine pairing that elevates the meal's flavors or even to perform small touches of hospitality, like refolding napkins when guests step away from the table. Dedication to the craft of service isn't built overnight; for more than two months, new servers get schooled in the restaurant's layout, guidelines and standards, says Chris Antczak, the lead trainer and a server at The Refectory for 15 years. They also work with the kitchen to learn about the ingredients, the menus and chef Blondin's meticulous style until they understand every dish. Perhaps most daunting, servers must become acquainted with the vast wine cellar of more than 600 bottles. That knowledge is passed down through generations at the 41-year-old establishment. Antczak himself was trained by server John Saunders, still with the restaurant after 36 years. Longevity is common among the tight-knit staff—four years ago, our Best Restaurants story featured a dozen employees, 11 of whom had been with The Refectory for at least one decade. “A lot of people stick around because of that family attitude,” Antczak says, “and most of all, we strive to get better every single day.”