Oakleaf is one of those restaurants that has the ability to draw you in with its charm, and leave your expectations completely shattered with its flawless delivery of innovative and delicious cuisine.
Located in a reclaimed textile mill near Pittsboro, North Carolina – an easy drive from Chapel Hill or Raleigh – Oakleaf is run by Chef Brendan Cox. He prides himself, and his restaurant, on delivering “immediate cuisine” to his guests, which happens only by sourcing from the immediate area’s offering of ingredients.
On a recent night, I was a guest at the restaurant. I entered the building, a cool and understated space that shows signs of its past. Exposed beams, huge windows and pine floors – many elements original to the mill that was housed here. Today, the dining room is warmed by candlelight and the energy of kind servers who bustle in and out of the kitchen.
I sat at my table and was greeted immediately by a lovely woman who stayed with me the entire night. She brought homemade bread and butter, my weakness, and presented the menu and extensive wine list.
I loved the varied wine list, which was composed of small producers from various places. A glass of Pinot Noir from Oregon did the trick that night.
Each day, Oakleaf assembles a menu, carefully. Dishes are seldom repeated, except for favorites, and it always features thought-out dishes. A fair warning is that it is very difficult to choose from the menu as each dish listed appears better than the last. You might find Berkshire pork, homemade pastas – like sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi, duck confit, earl grey crème brulee, pistachio olive oil cake and more. I promise, choosing will be your most difficult task at Oakleaf.
After my meal, I was left completely blown away by the attention to detail and flavors presented. It was one of those experiences that was completely unexpected and left me with the realization that after all of the restaurants throughout the world I have had the pleasure of experiencing, Oakleaf is one that stands out as a true favorite.