In March of this year, Marc and Gretchen Garofoli converted the old Murphy's Tavern in Chesterland into Oak and Embers Tavern, a comfortable restaurant specializing in barbecue, bourbon and beer. The couple quickly gained a following for barbecue offerings like baby back ribs, beef brisket and pork shoulder. And then, just three months in, the kitchen burnt down.
The good news is that they have found a great new home, which reopened earlier this month, says Marc.
“The room is great, the building is great and the landlord is fantastic — night and day from where we came from,” he says about the new digs (8003 Mayfield Rd., 440-729-4030), which took the place of Spectators Sports Grille. “I don’t know why we didn’t do this a long time ago.”
Half a mile west of the old eatery, the new Oak and Embers boasts a significantly better kitchen, larger dining room, and a dedicated bar area. Seating jumped from about 100 at the old place to 170 at the new.
Already, notes Marc, business has picked up right where it left off. One of the main reasons for that, he says, is that they took extraordinary measures to keep the old restaurant operating in the meantime, which kept the diners happy and the employees paid. Because only the kitchen (as opposed to the bar and dining room) was damaged in the fire, the owners rented a mobile kitchen from Maryland at the cost of $10,000 per month in which to cook. Other temporary improvements amounted to nearly $100,000.
“We had insurance,” he explains. “We could have easily gone to Barbados and sat on the beach drinking umbrellas drinks. But that’s not how we operate. We have built up such a great reputation in the area, and people around here we have really gone to bat for us. We wanted to keep the momentum going.”
And they have, he says. Customers are devouring about 200 slabs of baby brick ribs per week. Dry-rubbed overnight and then slow-cooked for eight hours in a custom-built Nolen smoker, the ribs are far and away the top seller. Also delicious is the beef brisket, smoked wings, buttermilk fried chicken, and the chicken tacos, which are filled with smoked and pulled thigh meat.
“We have a silly little slogan around here: ‘We do it for the people,’” says Marc. “I know that sounds dumb, but that’s the truth.”