Sorrento Grille's flame to go out

After 23 years at the corner of Glenneyre and Mermaid streets, Sorrento Grille will close its doors Aug. 31.

Sorrento's Executive Chef Ryan Adams, 37, bought the restaurant from owners Philo and Diane Smith and is planning to reopen it as the Common Table in September.

General Manager Lori McLean announced Sorrento's closure to the public last week. Patrons were invited to the restaurant for its "last hurrah."

Adams has been with Sorrento Grille since 2008, and he oversaw it before then as corporate chef at Culinary Adventures, the restaurant group that previously owned it. He's opened 22 restaurants to date.

Adams said Sorrento had a good run as a community restaurant. After seeing Hush and Five Feet close, he said he believes some eateries just have a certain lifespan.

"When we were in the heyday, we kind of set ourselves apart as a special-occasion restaurant," Adams said.

Over the last couple years, he and McLean said they tried to make the restaurant more approachable, a place people would go to on a monthly or weekly basis.

They started locals' nights and offered a 50% off happy hour, but Adams said he believed Sorrento still had that stigma of being for special occasions.

He got a reminder of that during a recent event. He spoke to a man who told Adams that he and his wife go to Sorrento Grille once a year for her birthday. Adams asked if the restaurant was too expensive; he was trying to figure out why it was only a once-a-year destination. But the man said no, replying with "we just think of it as a special-occasions place."

The chef said he'll be sad to see Sorrento go.

"I've been inside these four walls for I don't know how long…," he said.

It's bittersweet, he said, to have the opportunity to bring new life to the space.

The Common Table will be a completely different eating experience, he said.

The eatery will be "food-focused" and driven by an ever-changing menu created by Adams himself.

He calls it edgy, comfort food with an approachable price point of $38 to $44 per person, including drinks. However, he said, it's not to be confused with a gastropub, which is centered around beer culture.

"It's a restaurant," he said.

Adams said he plans to use domestic products and uses the phrase "globally influenced, domestically sourced."

"Our growing regions are amazing here," he said. "People need to be aware of that."

McLean won't be going anywhere, either. She will be staying on to help Adams and will work at the new restaurant.

The property will be closed for renovation for 22 days and plans to reopen in September.

"I'm going to do a couple things that I haven't seen done yet in Orange County," Adams said.

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