The fire that rushed through Boulder's OAK at Fourteenth in 2011 could have very easily destroyed the then four-month-old restaurant's chances of reopening. But owner and beverage director Bryan Dayton, with his co-owner and chef Steven Redzikowski, wasn't about to let that happen. Instead, the pair saw it as a learning opportunity, and a fresh start.
"We definitely learned how to handle a catastrophe," Dayton said. "We thought we knew a lot then, but we sure know a lot more than we did. Obviously, we would never wish this to happen to anyone, but it's very rare to get to start over like we did."
The pair, who come from many years of experience at Boulder's iconic restaurant, Frasca, knew they wanted to keep one thing the same: the concept. They decided to keep it American modern cuisine, with an emphasis on the beverages. "Through and through, we didn't want to change anything," said Dayton.
As beverage director, Dayton said he aims to make it a well-rounded beverage program. "So often, you go to a bar and they have a great cocktail menu but a not-so-great beer and wine list, or a great beer list but no cocktails," Dayton said. "For me, it was important to bring all those elements to a beverage program." It's why OAK brings not only an extensive wine list (esoteric, he calls it, inspired from his knowledge at Frasca), a microbrew-focused beer list, and a mile-long cocktail list. He doesn't even leave out the sodas: all sodas, like the ginger and root beer, are made in-house with fresh ingredients. "You want everything to be great: from the water, to the wine, beer, to the coffee you finish. That's our approach."
Whats unique about the cocktail list at OAK is that the cocktails are split between the high-alcohol and low-alcohol drinks. The goal, Dayton said, was to aim for a European, aperitif-style of drinking with the low-alcohol menu. "We wanted to give people options of how they go about their night," he said. (And with the plethora of Pearl Street bars just down the corner, we can see why.)
Also notable on the drink list: in addition to house-made sodas, OAK makes four different styles of bitters to use in its cocktail list. Try The Monk's Garden or East Aspen Heights on your next dinner date for a taste.