Oak Steakhouse is, first and foremost, well designed: spindly lighting hangs through the roof like low-hanging branches, and a giant wooden structure all-too-intentionally resembling the trunk of a beloved old tree rises from floor to ceiling in the center of the low-light space.
And the unmistakeable smell of freshly grilled angus beef wafts through the air. It’s an attractive scene, but it’s not until that charred-to-perfection ribeye arrives, sizzling in front of you, that you’re fully aware of what’s made this originally Charleston-based restaurant so successful.
The Indigo Road (the same group responsible for SouthEnd’s latest exceptional Asian fusion spot, O-Ku) first tried its hand in the restaurant scene with the first Oak Steakhouse on Charleston’s historic broad street. It’s been a popular venture: The group has expanded Oak to Atlanta and Nashville, finally bringing the steakhouse to Charlotte by way of South Park’s Phillips Place.
Oak in Charlotte looks destined to capture exactly what makes its original incarnation so darned memorable: locally and regionally sourcing from sustainable farmers—and Carolina fishermen, in particular—to accent all the classic beats of the American steakhouse menu.
Oak Charlotte’s Chef Alex Jenkins says his careers owes much to Chef Jeremiah Bacon of Charleston’s Oak. Jenkins’ menu will pull from the all of the bits that make the Holy City menu, while infusing it with something of Charlotte and, of course, his own tastes.
“I created the menu using recipes I have gathered from my culinary journey,” Jenkins says, but he’s focused on making those recipes from what he can find nearby. “Our shrimp comes from the coast of North Carolina, and most of our produce is grown by local farmers.”
While Jenkins is taking the Oak concept and making it definitively Charlotte’s and his, he says this newest Oak is also a very much a team effort.
“The Oak kitchen is unique,” he explains, “because everyone comes from different culinary backgrounds. It’s amazing what you learn from the people you work with. I am very open-minded, and I appreciate the cooks’ input when it comes to the menu. For example, the cook who is working on the sauté each night decides our market catch.”
And that’s just the kitchen. If our experiences in the cozy, shady reaches of this new Oak are any indication, the hospitality here is something for Charlotteans to be equally thrilled about. Summer may be here, but there’s little need to grill out.