G-Mac takes a swing atUS restaurant business

GOLF star Graeme McDowell has opened his first restaurant and sports bar in the United States.

G-Mac, in partnership with Bistro Concepts LLC, has launched Nona Blue, an upscale gathering hub where a sports bar shares space with high-end dining featuring the finest food and drink imaginable.

After a soft opening, the restaurant, just outside the gates of the upscale Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando where he lives, opened on March 15.

McDowell said with a smile. “I do know that with many wins ahead of me, my hope is to give a call to the restaurant every time and buy a round of drinks.”

The restaurant bug bit McDowell a few years ago. A successful restaurateur in Northern Ireland approached McDowell with an offer to come aboard if the recession took a toll on his existing places. The recession, however, did little to the man’s businesses and McDowell never became a partner.

“But since then I’ve had this desire to be a part of the restaurant scene,” McDowell said. “On my weeks off, going and hanging behind the bar and hanging with customers is something I’d love to do. Owning a restaurant and being part of that scene is something that has always been with me.”

He didn’t just want to be a part of any old restaurant. He wanted a place that would draw an eclectic crowd, a seamless lure for the beer-and-burger set and the steak-and-wine crowd.

Located in the Lake Nona Village shopping centre — Lake Nona residents can drive their golf cart to the place if they like — the 5,618-square-foot Nona Blue, which is open year-round and can seat up to 299, does just that. With both indoor and outdoor dining, there are plenty of seating options to choose from. Privacy is granted with drawn curtains in a few areas.

There is a 40-seat bar, and an intimate dinner won’t be ruined by a gathering of sports nuts cheering on their favorite soccer, football, baseball, basketball and hockey teams in the sports bar. Golf will make numerous appearances on the TVs, as well.

In the bar there are 49 wines, 24 beers on tap. There is steak, fresh fish and lobster. Light fare includes deviled eggs with apple wood smoked bacon, oysters and numerous sandwiches.

Of course, considering McDowell’s Irish roots, there is a Shepherd’s Pie and an all-day breakfast with an Irish theme. And the must-try dish has got to be the G-Mac and Cheese.

“It appeals to all comers,” McDowell said. “We’re really trying to hit every market. Our theme is we do good food done well.”

McDowell said he wanted to “dull down” any golf theme, but the restaurant will still display some golf mementos, perhaps even a replica of the U.S. Open trophy he won at Pebble Beach.

There will also be golf-themed photos featuring what McDowell said are “iconic” quotes that resonate with him. Among them are his father’s words after McDowell won the U.S. Open: “You are some kid.”

“This will be a nice hobby for me,” McDowell said. “It will be a nice little sideshow for me. I think people will enjoy it. I will enjoy it. It’s going to be a win-win.”