The new Design District eatery Oak Tavern is as comfortable as a pair of hand-me-down jeans. Brooklyn-born chef/owner David Bracha has been around a while — more than two decades of learning the quirks of South Florida diners. His River Oyster Bar has been a favorite of the Brickell set since it opened 10 years ago.
Here, the low-key veteran and his Hawaiian-born chef de cuisine, Curtis Rhodes, rifle the global pantry to turn out comfort-food fare including cheeseburgers, deviled eggs, oven-roasted meatballs, crispy pig’s ears and kale topped with smoked pimento fried egg, bronzino with Moroccan carrot salad and tasty little bahn mi. Housemade charcuterie and an ample raw bar that includes shellfish, ceviche and oysters every which way round out the something-for-everyone menu. On Thursday nights you can even sample a pho with a hearty broth and loads of fresh salad on top, including threads of young papaya, cilantro and scorching red bird’s eye chilies. Bracha, who was one of the first Miami chefs to embrace the locavore movement, puts out plenty of farm-foraged beauties.
Ambience: Worn brick walls enclose a cozy room lined with chocolate banquettes, rustic wood branded tables, low lighting and funky lamp bases made of tree trunks. The been-there-forever feel contrasts with the clean lines of the modern barrel lampshades and a communal table that can seat 20. But the best seats in the house are beneath the namesake tree where polka dots of shade make you feel like you are on a cool and breezy tropical vacation.
- Heirloom tomato salad – a stunning array of meaty, low-acid sun gold slices, deep purply reds, hunks of tangy French sheep’s milk feta and a scattering of Kalamata olives
- Flaky buttermilk biscuits served with a pot of sweet-salty bacon-studded butter
- Local beets with a pile of perky arugula and airy, whipped goat cheese with a punchy pistachio vinaigrette
- Octopus alla plancha – a muscular tentacle beaten into tenderness, griddled and served atop a homey chickpea salad
- “Thin as crackers” smoldering-edged, wood-baked pizzas with a bendy chewiness that makes them hard to put down
- Fresh and briny, albeit a bit oily, oysters in maple glaze
- Quickly seared yellowtail snapper with a snappy skin, lemon caper butter sauce, emerald green kale and hearty faro with a sprightly pesto
- Crispy roasted suckling pig – a juicy hunk of meat cooked until it resembles the deep golden glow of a beach-addicted sun worshipper
- Parmesan-showered baby Brussels sprouts
- Hand-cut fries
- Light and not overly sweet pumpkin cheesecake made with local calabaza squash
- Incredibly professional, comfortable and competent servers
- House-canned pickles
- House-cured bacon
- A robust bar program with an international wine list, artisanal spirits, microbrews and freshly made juices and sodas
What Didn’t Work
- Charred broccoli with anchovy dressing that felt like campfire food left too long
- Errant orders that found their way to our table and
- Dishes that were whisked away before we had finished