The Mt Laurel area now has a pizza shop, a Mexican eatery, a Piggly Wiggly and a coffee shop, and now an upscale casual restaurant has been added to the mix. Oak House officially opened for business on Jan. 14, with a goal to open for Sunday brunch later 2022. You can learn more at oakhouseeats.com or follow Oak House Bham on Facebook and Instagram, and by reading our chat with the visionary behind the restaurant, Travis Grappo, below.
Can you tell us about your background in the restaurant industry and where the idea to open Oak House came from?
My father has been in the restaurant business since I can remember. I helped at his restaurants growing up, washing dishes and doing prep. I am from Tampa/St. Pete and worked at the original Outback Steakhouse in college. I went into management and became a partner for them. I ended up going to Fleming’s Steakhouse, and that’s how I needed up in Alabama. I was a partner at The Summit location from 2007 to 2013, and then I was the director of operations for Metro Diner in the state of Alabama. We went from 27 to 45 restaurants in 12 months and then to 70. COVID wrecked everyone in our industry, and my position went away. Then we moved back to Birmingham. Even when we lived here, my wife and I talked about doing our own thing in the Dunnavant Valley area since we have lived out there since 2007. I met a local landlord of the Dunnavant Valley Square who had a space available for a restaurant, and I gave him my business plan.
What is your vision for Oak House?
I want it to be a neighborhood restaurant where people can get high quality food without driving to The Summit or downtown Birmingham. It will be American fare: hand-cut steaks, seafood, chicken. We will be serious about quality and have a good liquor beer and wine program.
Tell us about the chef you are working with?
My chef, Oliver Robinson, was at Fleming’s for 15 years, and we were partners there for six years. We were not only great friends but even better business partners. We were in the top five Fleming’s in the US at the time because of the synergy between us. He is an extremely hard worker and good with people and team members, and he has the ability to work the front of the house as well. He’s also good with food, was born and raised in Alabama, and understands southern cuisine and fine dining.
How did you pick the name?
The name was the hardest part of this deal. We really wanted something that identified the area and spoke to the population and the neighbors in this market. We wanted the word “oak” to be in it because Double Oak Mountain and Oak Mountain surround this area. We did a focus group with friends and family and our marketing director, and Oak House stuck out. Now I know it’s the right as it’s becoming more and more real.
What will the look and feel of the inside be like?
It will be very clean and modern. We just had a marble bar installed with brass pendants. It’s very inviting and sleek. It’s beautiful. There will be 85-90 seats inside plus a bar and a community table that will be first-come, first serve, and will have a patio in the spring that will accommodate an additional 20-25.