Ira Freedman and Jaclyn Starritt have opened The OAKZ in the Glenwood South space that was formerly home of the sports pub Hi5 for nearly a decade (and more recently, the short-lived Draft Carolina Burgers & Beer). The father-and-daughter team are billing their first restaurant’s menu as “American cuisine.”
By which they clearly don’t mean old-fashioned meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Instead, you’ll find the likes of roasted shisito peppers with kewpie aioli, vegan kale salad with tofu Caesar dressing, and crispy pork belly tacos. When executive chef Jabari Wadlington does turn his attention to American classics, he’s inclined to give them a modern interpretation. Shrimp cocktail with a smoked ginger tomato sauce, say, or mac and cheese made with gouda, gruyere and extra sharp cheddar, topped with pancetta and a Panko crust.
And that’s just a sampling from the small plates list. Highlights of the entree offering include chicken and dumplings pairing free range chicken and herb-fried dumplings, and a grilled Angus beef filet served atop a brioche croustade with confit fingerling potatoes and shiitake crisps. Vegetarians are well-served, too, with the likes of tricolor quinoa-stuffed peppers, and house-made portobello ravioli with smoked cherry tomatoes and arugula pesto.
The restaurant’s website explains the inspiration for its name: “We wanted something to connect us to the Raleigh community. We took the initials of the grandchildren (Oakleigh, Annie, Karli, and Zack) and realized Raleigh is the City of Oaks.” It was perfect, so with the change of one letter, The OAKZ was created.”
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The OAKZ (510 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh; 919-977-6690; theoakz.com) is open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday. The restaurant offers a full-service bar, as well as a private wine room and a larger event space that will accommodate up to 125 people.
Greg Cox, the N&O’s restaurant critic, writes about restaurant news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tune in at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WPTF to hear Greg’s radio show, “Dining Out with Greg Cox.”