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Aug 25, 2012 02:28 PM

New restaurant -- Oakleaf, in Pittsboro, NC

My wife and I had dinner last night at Oakleaf, a new restaurant in Pittsboro, NC, just down 15/501 from Chapel Hill.

We had a really fine meal, and encourage folks to check this place out.

They bill themselves as a restaurant that "strives to support local farmers to the greatest extent possible and to serve incredibly fresh, sustainably harvested seafood."

The website is and the restaurant is in Chatham Mills at 480 Hillsboro Street, in Pittsboro.

The place is physically very attractive, in an old mill, with brick walls, high ceilings, and elegant fixtures.

The food we had was really first-class. We had the bruschetta, which is described as featuring "heirloom tomato and shaved vidalia onions, with crumbled blue cheese."

We also had the sauteed NC black sea bass, which was served with a bean cassoulet and chive butter sauce and also the tagliatelle, which came with rosemary butter, a farm egg, and black truffle pecorino.

The wine list was well-chosen, with a number of wines by the glass. Prices are reasonable, given the ambiance and the quality of the food.

We think this place is a real find, an excellent addition to the Triangle dining scene, and well worth a special trip to Pittsboro.

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  1. Sounds really good - thanks for telling us about it. I look forward to some other reports (and to trying it myself).

    1. Great find! Can't wait to try it.

      9 Replies
      1. re: bbqme

        The chef at Oakleaf, I've learned, is Brendan Cox, who won a bunch of awards while working in Washington, DC.

        He cooked at Washington's Circle Bistro and then became the chef at DC Coast.

        He was named Rising Star Chef of the Year and Washingtonian Magazine’s “Best Chef Under 40," before deciding to move to NC to run a small, sustainable family farm and to open Oakleaf.

        So far, I'd say, Washington's loss is our gain.

        1. re: jnwall

          I absolutely loved DC Coast when I was there, back about 8 years ago. I have heard it has gone downhill, so it would kind of matter when he was there, but that is a good thing to have on one's resume. Circle Bistro didn't excite me much the one time I went.

          1. re: LulusMom

            Just did a bit of research. He was chef at DC Coast more recently. But (for any other former DC-ites) he also was responsible for Equinox and seems to have gotten his start at Galileo. These are/were all very well regarded places in DC. Good sign.

            1. re: LulusMom

              DC Coast and Equinox I've heard of. Both getting good reviews for their respective foods. Never was at either. Is this the place you are going? I'd go at some point maybe for dad's birthday...

              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                Yeah, I think we'll attempt Oakwood this weekend. We'll see what happens (babysitters cancel, etc.). We really loved DC Coast, and liked Equinox a lot. Not sure if the latter still exists in DC. Talked to a bartender at Il Palio who fairly recently worked at DC Coast and said it was no longer up to its old standard. Anyway, if we end up at Oakwood I'll report back.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Yes, Equinox is still around. Although, it was started by and remains under the helm of Todd Gray. Cox must have been a sous chef there. Still, these are all quality places in DC, so it bodes well for Oakwood. Thanks all for mentioning this place and the chef as it was not on my radar. I look forward to trying it.

          2. re: jnwall

            He was also the chef at Peak City Grill in Pittsboro.

              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                In Apex. Never had a Peak City Grill in Pittsboro.

          3. Just had brunch there today (they serve Saturday brunch from 10-1). It's a la carte plating, not a buffet. The setting is in a large open room, obviously once the old mill working room. Walls are brick, there are huge glass windows making up the wall, and tables and chairs are wood, without tablecloths. Service was pleasant and attentive.

            Coffee is served in a French press brought to your table, which gives you one mug's worth. My S.O. had their burger and fries. The burger is a 1/2 pound of house-ground beef. The waiter happily said they would cook it as rare as we wanted (improperly using the excuse that house grinding waives the old cooking temperature requirements, but we'll let that pass). The burger was very thick, nicely pink as ordered, and very juicy. I had a bite and liked the beef, although I wasn't crazy about the flavored aioli they spread on the bun. The fries were exactly like you get at the Five Guys burger chain... Skins on and cooked dark brown. She was quite satisfied with her food.

            My plate was a different story unfortunately. I tried a Southern breakfast plate. Two biscuits, honey, maple bacon, and a lightly fried egg. The egg was fine and cooked exactly as I requested. No complaints there. But the bacon was flavorless and almost completely made up of fat. The biscuits took up the bulk of the plate and were the major disappointment. They were thin, dense, chewy hockey pucks. Exactly the opposite of what a good Southern biscuit should be. I was very dissatisfied with my meal. It's not something where I would complain about the food being spoiled or cooked incorrectly... It just did not suit my expectations of what those meal components should be like.

            That's not enough of an experience to pass judgment on the restaurant, so take it as a single anecdotal reference point. Hopefully we'll collect other views (especially for dinners).

            5 Replies
            1. re: klmonline

              The good news on the burgers (sorry about your meal, which doesn't sound at all appealing) is that by the end of this month the law will change and those who like their burgers less than medium can get them the way they like them.

              1. re: LulusMom

                Actuallly, the new rules covering cooking temperatures, and other issues, went into effect today (September 1).

              2. re: klmonline

                Effective Sept 1 restaurants can cook hamburgers as rare as you order them; providing there is a disclaimer that it can kill you :-)
                part of NC's following federal guidelines.

                1. re: winedine

                  Question really is.. is it the rareness that kills your or the stuff they pump into the cows. My mom has eaten raw chopped beef a few times and never once gotten ill.

              3. Maybe this thread should be combined with the "pulling all the stops" thread? Dinner for four, eight glasses of wine, a single malt, 3 apps, four mains, 1 dessert, for $222.
                Menu is online each day, as fresh and local dominates. NC smoked trout app is delicate, and the blinis are lovely. The NC shrimp app was beautifully plated and delicate. The porcini risotto is more explosive than Nana's, and even creamier. Dayboat scallops were cooked precisely, caramelized on one side, and luscious all through. The NC snapper sat on a bed of unusual slaw, fennel included, with a chili aioli. The brined pork chop was large, moist and tender, and sauced in a cauliflower reduction. Wines by the glass plentiful at around $8 per full pour. Service more informal than Magnolia Grill, but Pittsboro friendly. I sure hope OakLeaf catches on -- if tonight was "normal",
                pretty full, and reservations were helpful, and people dressed in all manner from older folks with jackets to younger with jeans and whatever, this place seems happy. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they can keep it up, since it's the food that is the real draw for our group. The chef is serious and talented, in our non-professional tasters' experience, in that the dishes we had all "worked". And surprised. Go and comment -- am I wrong?

                1 Reply
                1. re: walras

                  You are right, in my experience, in all respects. My wife and I had dinner with 2 glasses of wine each for under $100, but we had two appetizers and shared an entree.

                  This is definitely a serious chef. Long may he thrive in Pittsboro.

                2. The original comment has been removed