The Tampa restaurant scene is no longer a secret. Food and Wine is shouting out the Bay along with other major publications. The arrival of James Beard award-winning chef, Anne Kearney, and the opening of her new restaurant, Oak & Ola, in the southwest corner of Armature Works is another confirmation that Tampa is putting itself on the culinary map.
Before her arrival in Tampa, Kearney was named the “Best Chef Southeast” in 2002 by the Beard Foundation – the equivalent of the Academy Awards for restaurants and chefs – for her French Provencal fare at New Orleans’ Peristyle.
Kearney was taught by Emeril Lagassé
The now closed New Orleans bistro was famously helmed by the talented, John Neal, and then assumed by then 27-year old sous-chef, Kearney, who borrowed money from her mentor Emeril Lagassé to purchase the restaurant from Neal’s estate after he passed away at age 38.
The Ohio native, Kearney, took Peristyle to even greater heights before selling and returning to her hometown Dayton to open Rue Dumaine, an inspired New Orleans concept restaurant that racked up even more Beard nominations.
Kearney’s newest venture, Oak & Ola, is described as a local, independent EuroAmerican restaurant meticulously planned with a group that includes Chris Arreola, a former executive at Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill, and Trudy Cooper, a local restaurateur and co-founder of Outback Steakhouse.
Serving up new versions of European classics
This high-profile group is not looking to start another empire, but rather create a first-class, cozy and old-world-feeling eatery – the decor is actually based off Kearney’s former home in New Orleans!
And perusing Kearney’s menu, a diner can see a decadent homage to classic European dishes that travel to Spain, Italy and Germany, but arrive on the plate with an inventive American twist. For example, Oak & Ola’s airy Belgian Waffle is not served sweet, but rather as a savory dish with goat cheese, shallots, mushrooms and Portuguese Madeira.
On the cocktail menu, Kearney fervently nods to her time in New Orleans with a cheeky version of a Sazerac called “Ca’Cora” infused with a unique bouquet of floral bitters.This cocktail is seemingly based off the female goddess of the kitchen and first female Iron Chef, Cat Cora – mind the other luxurious libations that are all penned after a “female culinary genius.”
Visit Oak&Ola at 1910 N. Ola Avenue