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Oct 21, 2017
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea Little’

Best New Restaurants: No. 3 – Olive & Oak

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened: St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

120116_oliveandoak

 { flank steak }

 

Since Olive & Oak opened to great acclaim in January, eager customers have had to book reservations well in advance. Determined walk-ins order cocktails and prowl the bar, waiting to pounce on a vacant seat. Webster Groves residents who used to drive 20 minutes for a night out now have a dining destination in their own backyard.

Despite the hustle, you’ll rarely see disgruntled or discontented staff at Olive & Oak. In fact, servers look downright cheerful as they weave through standing-room only crowds carrying trays piled with food. After more than a decade in the hospitality industry, owner Mark Hinkle found that poor service was often due to an overwhelmed wait staff, not bad attitudes. “If you never staff to be busy, you’ll never be busy, ” he said.

Hinkle wants his staff to be professional, but relaxed. If they aren’t enjoying their night, neither will the guest. “I look around and they all seem to be having fun … [There’s] a good vibe and a comfortable feel,” Hinkle said.

Dining at the bar best exemplifies this superior hospitality. These multitasking masters are servers, bartenders, bar backs and your best friend. Settle in to an open seat and order a drink from the surprising, well-balanced menu that can hold its own in a city obsessed with craft cocktails. Try the No. 78, made with pear, lime, sherry, Scotch, gin and umami bitters for an unusual concoction with savory notes that you can only find at Olive & Oak. Your bartender will happily chat and simultaneously take an order from the patron standing behind you as she mixes your drink.

While you ponder the menu that entices such a crowd, another bartender sets down The Dip sandwich piled high with shaved leg of lamb, served with a cup of rich jus and fries so crisp, you may be tempted to steal them from your neighbor’s plate (Don’t – that’s rude.). If you can’t decide whether to get the starter of bubbling blue crab gratin, thick and cheesy with a kiss of Calabrian chile oil, or jump straight to the perfectly charred, medium-rare flank steak you just saw flying past on its way to another table, the solution is simple: get both.

Order another round. Take your time. You’re a guest at this classy yet laid-back dinner party.

 

More about Olive & Oak

Top Shelf: 5 bartenders you should know

New and Notable: Olive & Oak

• Sneak Peek: Olive & Oak in Webster Groves

• The Scoop: New American eatery Olive & Oak to open in Webster Groves historic building

Photo by Carmen Troesser

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