At The Local Oak, a new neighborhood hangout, you can get Texas Surfers—these sliders made with grilled Spam, house-made pineapple relish, and slaw. It’s gutsy for a chef to bring Spam into Oak Cliff, but The Local Oak has some pros in the house. Chef Aaron Courtney just came from Nick and Sam’s Steakhouse, and he’s also a protege of Stephan Pyles and Acme Food and Beverage.
The Oak’s owners are Alycen Cuellar, Felix Garcia, and Paul Delgado, the latter who’s also a chef there. Garcia put himself through college working at restaurants and is no stranger to the hospitality culture. Delgado spent more than 25 years working for the original Chuy’s, Taco Joint, and Hacienda on Henderson. And if you suspect that Cuellar is related those Cuellars across the street at El Corazon de Tejas, you’re right.
But the Cuellars aren’t just about Tex Mex. They apparently do Spam, too. Three sliders come per order, as does a delicious heap of sweet potato, waffle, and French fries. It’s perfect for sharing, but I could easily down the whole thing myself for dinner. I also couldn’t say no to the Bucket of Love, a bundle of crispy and candied bacon.
There’s only six entrees on the menu to choose from, a fact that’s as comforting as the food itself. Garcia describes the entrees as a “good mix of core items,” and I concur. There’s meatloaf, a chicken Caprese sandwich, Cobb salad, and a grilled cheese BLT. I go for the namesake TLO Burger, which has aioli, bacon, cheese, and a fried egg. It’s a delicious beast to devour.
I persuaded my companion to try the green chili chicken enchiladas. I expect them to be perfect if there’s a Cuellar involved—and because there’s no place in Oak Cliff for wimpy Tex Mex. They’re savory, smothered with veggies, and come with a cilantro rice that my friend devoured before the enchiladas. The Cuellars would approve.
The restaurant is large enough to seat almost 100 people. Described as “midcentury modern rustic,” the décor evokes a feeling of calm with chandelier lighting, dark wood, exposed brick walls, and pier-and-beam ceilings. The bar faces two large TVs and has only 12 beers on tap—another unencumbered menu. Josh Losinger is the resident cocktail master and created the namesake drink, which features Tito’s vodka, pickled red onions, basil, thyme, and a hint of lemon. I also enjoyed Losinger’s FireChata, made with Fireball, rum, and horchata. Though it comes in a shot glass, I’m already planning to request a pitcher of that for my next birthday.
Even though my friend and I were stuffed like Thanksgiving turkeys, we tried the lone dessert item: a hot apple tart. Before it came to our table, I was wishing for a chocolate option. I changed my mind after a couple scoops. A second FireChata to wash it down would have been perfect.