Pappas Bros. Steakhouse and Wine Director Jon Walker Are The Perfect Pairing

by Martin Ramirez on April 19, 2024 in Food+Drink,

The famed Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is celebrating 25 years in Dallas with a few world-renowned accolades. 

Along with being a top-rated steakhouse in the city—which says a lot for a town that loves fine dining in a state that loves steak—the local favorite has won the World of Fine Wine “World’s Best Long Wine List North America Award for 2023, in addition to the prestigious Wine Spectator “Grand Award” for 2023. Newly named Wine Director Jon Walker recently sat down with TLM to discuss how he and Pappas Bros., along with their wine cellar containing more than 31,000 bottles, are continuing to improve the dining experience.

Wine education, fair pricing and service have contributed to Pappas Bros. award recognition. Photo Jane Yun.

Many patrons and fans may not know about your recent award for “World’s Best Long Wine List” in North America for 2023, along with the Wine Spectator “Grand Award” for 2023. As the Dallas flagship steakhouse, how does it feel to win these prestigious awards and how was this accomplished?

It feels great to be recognized for such an accolade! This was accomplished because of the commitment the Pappas family has to the “Known for Quality” mentality illustrated with everything they do. I have to acknowledge Barb Werley MS, my first mentor who for 15 years managed this program and was the reason for its routine awards. We share the goal of being the best through our pursuit of elevating knowledge and service.

Pappas Bros. wine list features 3,900 selections from around the world. Photo Jane Yun.

This recognition also means that you have provided exceptional wine education and service. In the spirit of education, can you provide us with some insight on this?

Education is paramount to a successful wine program. We invest heavily in our sommeliers and wait staff and believe the return on the investment will be realized when we are able to deliver a better hospitality experience to our guests. The focus of the wine team is structured around routine theory work, blind tasting and refinement of service skills, giving each team member the ability to reach their individual goals. Education is also extended to the wait staff with weekly classes and tastings that help them deliver a better guest experience.

Pappas Bros. serves a bounty of favorites, from dry-aged, prime beef to succulent side dishes and rich desserts. Photo Jane Yun.

To be continually awarded a top-rated steakhouse after 25 years, and in Dallas of all places—an area known for upscale dining in a state known for steak—is a feat that does not come easily. How was Pappas Bros. Steakhouse able to achieve this?

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse continues to be highlighted as a top steakhouse because they are always looking to be better. In every aspect of their operation Pappas is never satisfied with resting on their past accolades, but always pushing to make it even better. The commitment to being adaptable and evolving while also maintaining tradition creates new ways to bolster the known-for-quality brand and maintain their status in the Dallas dining scene.

Jon Walker’s career spans from a server at Pappas Bros. to a floor sommelier and to a sommelier at three-Michelin-starred Manresa in the Bay. Photo Jane Yun.

You started your career as a server for Pappas Bros. before working your way up to a floor sommelier and then becoming a top sommelier at the critically acclaimed three-Michelin-starred restaurant Manresa. Can you tell us about this journey? What does it take to be a successful sommelier?

I am fortunate to have had a fantastic sommelier career! Wine was always a hobby for me in the earlier days which is why I gravitated to it with ease. Pappas Bros. Steakhouse was the best place to begin my journey into wine because they promoted and encouraged education. Barb Werley MS was my first mentor and helped me to understand the trade and what being a sommelier was really about. After years of tutelage and an internship at Kistler Vineyards, I was extremely lucky to land a job working alongside Jim Rollston MS at Manresa Restaurant. It was there that I further refined my skillset as a sommelier and learned that true success only comes after your best effort, which at the highest level is difficult and demands that you continue to push with a hospitality focus in mind.

Based on the idea of sourcing the highest quality product, Pappas Bros. elevates each dish for an exceptional dining experience. Photo Jane Yun.

What’s in your wine cabinet right now? What do you prefer as a daily indulgence and what do you serve your guests?

A few old dirty bottles from the Rhone Valley, a few bottles of Muscadet, and some PBR are currently in the cellar here at home. I like tasty wines that offer value from producers like Julien Cecillon and Domaine de la Bergerie in France. I often feature the wines I like to drink at home to our guests, in addition to the enormous selection we have available. 

Jon’s reenergized focus on Pappas Bros. wine list includes emerging producers and lesser-known varietals. Photo Jane Yun.

As the newly named wine director, what are you focusing on now? Where would you like to take the selection and what can guests look forward to?

In my new role I am currently focused on training the sommelier team and helping them through the exam process by offering the best test prep I can. I am also continuing to challenge the waitstaff to elevate their service skills even more. Additionally, I am focused on our many wine events for 2024, which kick off with a Rhone Valley tasting in April and a wine dinner not to be missed this fall!

Four to five sommeliers are on the floor every night at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, offering insight on pairings and price points to every guest. Photo Jane Yun.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is part of the Pappas Restaurants family of restaurants. For more information about Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, visit their website. Be sure to join the wine team for an exclusive selection of wines from the Rhône Valley on April 26, 2024, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Register here to experience the curated selection brought to you by the award-winning staff.


Cover Photo Jane Yun

Martin Ramirez is a brisket-eating, Shiner-loving, road-tripping enthusiast of all things Texas. This Dallas-born writer / adventurer is ready to take his ‘78 El Camino to find the best in food, fun, and fitness throughout the Lone Star State.