There’s something elemental about food cooked by fire. It’s kind of primal, I note. “That’s exactly what it’s like,” agrees executive chef Brad Wise. The cooking grate wheels up to expose the inferno. Flames leap from logs at the hearth grill’s rear and coals smolder beneath. Red oak creates a sweeter smoke flavor and an ideal coal bed, he explains. A Santa Maria-style handcranked wheel provides precision over heat and the Argentinian-esque grill grate supports proteins from land and sea. The custom-built setup is impressive, and it’s ground zero for Wise and business partner Steve Schwob’s newest neighborhood eatery.
Yet, dining at newly opened Fort Oak in Mission Hills is anything but primitive. The bar, which sits in a historic former Ford dealership showroom, and the new mixed-use structure for the main dining room and chef’s kitchen, made out with more than a routine paint job. Hints of midcentury-modern, cobalt and gilded art deco touches feel both invitingly warm and aesthetically cool in the restaurant’s modular spaces thanks to GTC Design’s inaugural hospitality project.
“As entrepreneurs, we remember being in the same position—we were just looking for someone to give us a chance,” reflects Schwob of their initial concepts, Trust Restaurant and Hundred Proof cocktail bar, and their decision to partner with GTC on Fort Oak. And the gamble paid off. A U-shaped bar plays social dining basecamp, while an intimate formal dining room flanks a wedgelike outside patio with the capacity to seat large groups. Wise’s blazing hearth is the focal point of a lively exhibition kitchen, where 14 reservation-only seats give weekend diners a wide-eyed view behind the proverbial culinary curtain.
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