Oak Wood Fire Kitchen
During the holiday season – which is suddenly upon us – we like to spend time with friends and family. And that includes dining out in restaurants. However, for some of us, it’s also a time when money can be pretty tight. Well, do I have good news for you. I have discovered a really fine restaurant with excellent food and service that won’t put a crimp in your finances. One of the best bang-for-the-buck restaurants I’ve visited in quite some time is in Draper, and it’s called Oak Wood Fire Kitchen.
A very talented and very picky (when it comes to restaurants) chef friend first opened my eyes to Oak Wood Fire Kitchen, and I’m sure glad he did. It’s the brainchild of operating partner Michael McHenry and executive chef/partner Brandon Price. The restaurant is named for the oak (and also fruitwood) that’s used in the wood-fired oven in which many of the menu items are cooked.
Of course, many restaurants these days feature wood-burning ovens. That’s not unusual. What is unusual is to find food of this high quality for the prices charged at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen, where there’s only one dish on the menu priced $20 or more. And that’s a bavette steak with frites, sage and chimichurri ($22). Frankly, I don’t know how they do it, especially given the very generous portions served here.
The restaurant’s menu is mostly filled with pizzas and small plates, plus a handful of “large plates” and a couple of sandwiches: the Oak Burger ($14) and Nashville fried chicken sandwich ($13), each of which comes with a choice of fries, salad or soup.
I really love the treatment that chef Price gives to quail ($13). Whereas most chefs choose to “fancy up” their quail – thus justifying high prices – Price treats it like Buffalo wings; it’s fried and tossed in a zippy Buffalo sauce and served with yummy celeriac and remoulade alongside. I could easily eat three or four servings of that killer quail.
Another excellent small plate – but easily big enough to share – is Shishito Peppers ($7). The scrumptious shishitos are fire-roasted and then drizzled with elderflower honey and Aleppo pepper flakes. Shishitos (blistered, fried, roasted, etc.) are very trendy right now and lots of restaurants serve them. But, I’ve not tasted any preparation of shishitos that were tastier than these.
As you can already tell, Oak Wood Fire Kitchen’s small plates menu is varied and eclectic. It includes the aforementioned dishes, plus tempting ones like Bone Marrow ($11) with sourdough, balsamic onion, and horseradish “snow;” Snake River Farms Kobe Beef Carpaccio ($12); Rocittoa Meatballs ($11), Fried Cauliflower with lemon, pickled chilis, parsley and aioli; and many more.
We really liked the Fire Roasted Squash ($10) “small plate” which, again, was anything but small. The squash wedges were glazed with miso, roasted and slightly charred, then served with fried sage leaves and pumpkin seed vinaigrette. Just another outstanding dish from chef Price’s kitchen. That kitchen, by the way, is open for customers who enjoy watching chefs and cooks demonstrate their skills in public.
I had heard good things about the wood-fired pizzas at Oak, so of course we had to try one … or two. The pizzas were cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of char and pizza crust bubbles. I almost never order pepperoni pizza because most pizza joints use low-quality, high-fat, greasy pepperoni. But not at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen, where the Pepperoni Pizza ($12) comes loaded with thinly-sliced Creminelli pepperoni and mozzarella, topped with hot honey. This is an outrageously good pizza. In addition, enjoyed a classic Margherita ($11) with homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil. I also highly recommend sharing an order of Oak Bread ($5), which is essentially a wood-fired pizza with parmesan, rosemary and olive oil.
Other pizza options include the Funguy ($15) with maitake mushrooms, burrata and speck; The Pastor ($13), which is al pastor-style pork belly, pineapple, pickled red onion and chives; Dr. Pepe ($10) – a pizza version of cacio e pepe, with garlic cream, black pepper and pecorino cheese; Prosciutto & Arugula ($14), and others.
I had heard rumors of Pappardelle Bolognese ($15) at Oak Wood Fire Kitchen, but friends of ours who’d gone there on a couple of occasions were disappointed to learn that it was sold out when they arrived. Not so when we visited. And I have to admit, it’s worth traveling to Draper for. The wide, homemade pappardelle pasta was cooked to perfection and smothered in a rich but creamy beef and pork Bolognese sauce, with crème fraÎche and topped with loads of parmesan cheese.
As good as that pappardelle Bolognese was, the dish that really blew my mind was chef Price’s Short Rib Gnocchi ($16). Normally, gnocchi is served with a basic pomodoro sauce, butter-sage sauce, or creamy Alfredo-type sauce. But kudos to Oak Wood Fire Kitchen for combining oh-so-tender chunks of braised beef short ribs with heavenly homemade gnocchi, charred scallion crema, black garlic, and chives. Simply put, this is one of the best things I’ve eaten, ever.
Now, if all of that good eatin’ isn’t enough to propel you to Draper and to Oak Wood Fire Kitchen, you should also know that they’ve got a nifty beverage selection which includes cocktails, wine and beer. The wine selection, in particular, was surprising (to me) insofar as it was peppered with a multitude of wines that you don’t typically see in local restaurants, many of them natural wines. To wit, you’ll find bottles like Trisaetum Riesling, Subsoil Chardonnay, Garde Manger Syrah, Forlorn Hope Rosé, Château Maris Minervois, Milbrandt Cabernet, Prosecco Redentore, and many other very interesting wines on the list.
Restaurant partner Michael McHenry – who also co-owns Ginger Street – is a very savvy restaurateur, and with Oak Wood Fire Kitchen, he and Brandon Price have a real hit on their hands. I’d be very surprised if within a couple of years there isn’t an Oak eatery in your town.
Culinary quote of the week:
Pizza makes anything possible. — Henry Rollins
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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