Photography by Michelle Stancil
One Year Anniversary
When The District, Seville Steak & Seafood burst onto the Pensacola fine dining scene one year ago, its principals had a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve. Owner Wilmer Mitchell and his family were already invested heavily in the Seville Quarter entertainment complex and had a vision of solidifying their holdings with a top-tier steakhouse that featured prime beef, the best fresh seafood, and a stellar wine list.
Now, as The District celebrates the first anniversary of its opening, General Manager Gil Carmichael looks back on the challenges and successes of the project and some of the processes that brought it along. “Our first year of operation has been exciting indeed,” he says. “We’ve enjoyed overwhelming acceptance by the community, and we have continually refined and improved everything we do, from our menus, our wine list, and our service.” Carmichael notes that the biggest surprise, and biggest success, was the positive feedback generated by the extensive and carefully curated wine list and the selection of premium specialty cocktails. “Sales and acceptance of our beverage program are significantly stronger than we had anticipated,” he says. “We have had as many as four sommeliers on staff – a tremendous pool of expertise and talent to offer our guests.”
Along with success, there are always challenges in any high-end restaurant operation. According to Carmichael, the critical issue has been finding, training, and retaining top-notch employees. “Pensacola and the surrounding area has become a much more sophisticated dining market, with many fine upscale restaurants,” he says. “We were diligent in our initial talent search and are thorough in our training, and we have great people in the front and the back of the house, and have no problem with retention. Our staff feels like The District takes care of them.” The only change in management over the first year is that Lucas Bowes, a sommelier certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers, joined the team early this spring as manager of the wine and beverage program.
Steak, of course, is the heart of the menu. The District’s dry-aged beef process, which is handled entirely in-house, has evolved over the year. The initial plan was to age the beef in the custom-built, temperature and humidity controlled, meat locker for 28 days. Over the past year, this has changed. “Our Executive Chef, Josh Warner, determined that we can bring our beef to the height of flavor by increasing the aging period to about 34 days, so that’s the process we currently use,” Carmichael notes. “We have added a few items to the menu, and have taken a few off, but it remains a solid, iconic steakhouse menu.” In addition to beef, there are outstanding seafood items, with an emphasis on freshness, and much of it is locally sourced. The Chef’s Selection menu, which changes daily and takes full advantage of seasonal and specially obtained and prepared items, is increasingly popular and allows the culinary team an opportunity to show off their talent and creativity.
The District was initially marketed to the mid-30s and up demographic, but after a year of operation, Carmichael says that the restaurant attracts guests of all ages, from students to seniors, and appeals to locals and visitors alike. As it embarks on its second year of operation, Carmichael and his staff look forward to continuing the successful culinary and beverage programs, refining and polishing as they continue to build a reputation for excellence in the heart of the Seville Entertainment District and Pensacola.
The District: Seville Steak and Seafood | 123 E. Government St. | Pensacola, FL 32502 | (850) 332-5224
Coastal Palate Magazine, all rights reserved.
This is how we eat!