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Oak Street Cafe restaurant review, Roswell

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What does every neighborhood need? Maybe a coffee shop, a pizza joint and a cafe. Definitely a cafe — a place to get a sandwich, burger and something a little heartier in the evenings. A place for PTA committee meetings, lunch with a co-worker or dinner with the family.

Review by Jenny Turknett

Review by Jenny Turknett

Roswell has such a cafe, tucked away on a quiet street between the main thoroughfare on Canton Street and the historic square. Oak Street Cafe sits at the end of the SoCA (South of Canton) development, a block behind Krispy Kreme.

Joseph McCaffrey and his wife, Kim, opened Oak Street Cafe in 2005 upon relocating here from New York. Although McCaffrey grew up in Roswell, he revealed that he was no longer familiar with the Atlanta food scene at that time and had to make predictions about the area where he set up shop.

Good call. Roswell’s dining scene has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Oak Street Cafe’s location, a few blocks from the hullabaloo (and parking competition) of Canton Street, helps it retain its neighborhood sensibility.

McCaffrey describes Oak Street as a “classic American cafe,” though you’ll see Italian influences on the menu. The restaurant, a deep raspberry color with dark furnishings, exudes bistro more than sandwich shop. It features a long bar bordering an open kitchen, the perfect place to sip one of the craft beer specials such as the smooth Duck-Rabbit milk stout ($5) or a Bell’s Amber Ale ($6).

The welcoming staff wearing shirts emblazoned with taglines for the restaurant’s popular dishes (“Thrilled Cheese,” “Fry Guy,” “Burger Boy”) takes orders at the counter during lunch and provides full service in the evenings.

Sandwiches, made on bread from Artisan Foods and Buckhead Bread Co., are the mainstay of the lunch menu, with options such as the grilled Virginia ham and Emmentaler ($9), a thick ground chuck burger on a soft challah bun with crispy-edged hand-cut fries ($10.50) and the restaurant’s most popular item, the chicken salad sandwich ($9). The all-white-meat chicken salad is about as simple and as satisfying as it gets: well-seasoned chicken, a little mayonnaise and some celery for crunch on toasty whole-wheat bread ($9). No fruit, no nuts, no fancy.

And then there’s the Ultimate Grilled Cheese ($9), a gooey blend of warm goat cheese with melted Fontina, Emmentaler and cheddar overhanging slices of buttery day-old Tuscan white bread. Be sure to order a cup of the tomato basil soup ($4.50) with that. Although the basil doesn’t get much play here, the bright pop of the San Marzano tomatoes do. Trust me, in the winter when you’re craving warm and rich and hearty, this will be your go-to dish. Dip the grilled cheese in the tomato goodness. Go ahead. No one’s looking.

White bean hummus with Castelvetrano olives. (All photos by Becky Stein)

White bean hummus with Castelvetrano olives. (All photos by Becky Stein)

The dinner menu includes many of these sandwiches but also offers a little added variety. You’ll find appetizers such as the white bean hummus ($9), a play in neutral flavors. A slightly loose mixture of cannellini beans and extra virgin olive oil topped with a mild feta and sweet caramelized onions, it might perk up a bit with some salt. The home run comes with the buttery and fruity Castelvetrano olives served on the side.

Grandma gets credit for the polpettone, an Italian meatloaf.

Grandma gets credit for the polpettone, an Italian meatloaf.

Grandma gets credit for the next home run, the polpettone ($15). McCaffrey’s 84-year-old grandmother prepares this Italian-style meatloaf made with ground beef and pork, Parmesan cheese and a mess of Grandma’s secret ingredients. I confess that meatloaf tops my foods-to-avoid list, but this version bears no resemblance to the mushy ketchup-slathered ones I came to detest in childhood. Instead, the polpettone, more meatball than meatloaf, gets a healthy dose of a zippy “tomato gravy” made of the same San Marzano tomatoes used for the soup. (Insider tip: If you have a craving for the polpettone at lunch, order the meatball sandwich on challah with Fontina cheese. It’s polpettone on a bun. $9)

McCaffrey says Oak Street’s mission is to “keep it simple and at the right price point.” Keeping it simple works. The only major flub I experienced was a well-seasoned but overly cooked (and then cooked some more) pork chop ($19).

Every neighborhood needs a cafe, but not just any cafe. Neighborhoods need one like Oak Street, a place that accomplishes its mission by not being overly ambitious. My neighborhood has such a spot and it just happens to be Oak Street Cafe.

OAK STREET CAFE
45 Oak St., Roswell, 770-594-1300

2stars5Food: Classic American cafe with Italian influences
Service: Helpful and always ready with a smile
Best dishes: Polpettone, meatball sandwich, chicken salad sandwich
Vegetarian selections: Salads, soups and veggie sandwich
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Credit cards: All major credit cards
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 5:30-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays.
Children: Yes, family-friendly
Parking: Yes
Reservations: For groups of four or larger
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Low to moderate
Patio: Yes
Takeout: Yes
ratings_key_febUSE

25 comments Add your comment

stephieZ

August 30th, 2012
9:11 am

I have only been here for lunch, but their tomato soup really hits the spot for me. It’s almost as good as my own recipe;)

Maitre'd

August 30th, 2012
12:22 pm

Overall great comments, but only 2 stars. How does that fare??

TracyH

August 30th, 2012
12:33 pm

Oak Street Cafe is 5 stars. We love it and are regulars.

Nemo

August 30th, 2012
2:43 pm

Maitre d’hotel: It’s consistent with the ratings explanation, if you read the ratings explanation. The place is a worthy addition to its neighborhood, and consistent. It may or may not be worth driving, depending on the drive, so 2-3 stars makes sense. (I’ll make it, since I’m just coming across the river.) It almost certainly does not epitomize fine dining in Atlanta–it doesn’t even make an attempt at such, as the owners know their niche. 2 stars is not bad; it’s solid, if not spectacular. 2 star joints are where I’d prefer to have a good daily lunch or dinner.

James

August 30th, 2012
2:50 pm

We love Oak Street!

The food is always good, The staff is helpful. We look forward to going.

Even with the bustling food scene in Roswell’s upper downtown, Oak Street remains a strong draw. This is a very fair review. They deserve credit for serving interesting and consistently good food pleasantly

Typical Redneck

August 30th, 2012
3:51 pm

There mission is to “keep it simple and at the right price point” yet a grilled cheese and a bowl of tomato soup is $13.50?

Jenny Turknett

August 30th, 2012
4:03 pm

Typical Redneck, they do have a half sandwich/side combo for $7.50.

PJ

August 30th, 2012
4:52 pm

I love Oak Street & love that the focus is on making “regular food” really, really tasty. My husband & I are both very picky about chicken salad and both of us love it at Oak Street. The portions are extremely generous. Even ordering the 1/2 & 1/2 combo at lunchtime, I end up taking 1/2 of it home. I often hear rave reviews of the weekly pizza nights, but haven’t gone then. When it first opened, I feared for its life in the slightly out-of-the-way location, but it was quick to build a fan base and I now know to get there before noon if I want a seat for lunch. It is one of my go-to places and I am glad it is in my neighborhood.

cch

August 30th, 2012
5:12 pm

Who orders a grilled cheese for $9?

Midge

August 30th, 2012
5:58 pm

It’s called the “ultimate” grilled cheese because it has 4 types of cheese and it’s delicious! It also comes with one of their awesome sides. For $9 it’s a deal!

lorielle

August 30th, 2012
6:44 pm

SoCA. Ooh-kay.

Larry

August 30th, 2012
7:10 pm

Oak Street is awesome. The staff is always on point with friendliness & catering to your needs. Food always has a great presentation & the taste across the board is consistently remarkable. I try to get in there once a week. “Joe’s Pizza” night on wednesdays usually draw me in. If you want a chill atmosphere with great food it’s your spot.

Vito

August 30th, 2012
9:43 pm

We have been going to Oak Street for years. Everyone there makes you feel like family. They have the BEST burger and fries, the specials are amazing and you have to try the pimento cheese!

Sam

August 31st, 2012
9:03 am

So every restaurant is “worthy”. Even 1 stars are “worthy”. There is no “unworthy” restaurant that is ever reviewed. It’s impossible b definition. Sounds like Progressive government schooling. Everybody’s deserving and capable. Even the the racist, the stupid, and the psychopathic for all you totalitarian do-gooder busy-body bed wetters. Next we’ll be cheating on our reviews.

Jenny Turknett

August 31st, 2012
9:08 am

Sam, there are two levels below the one-star rating: fair and unsatisfactory. Neither would receive stars. We have reviewed restaurants that fall in those categories.

Art

August 31st, 2012
11:39 am

“Totalitarian do-gooder busy-body bed wetters”? @Sam, did you find something other than milk in your Cheerios this morning? ;-)

Oak Street sounds “worthy” of a visit. It’s too bad that their website doesn’t have a menu available.

Tania

August 31st, 2012
1:15 pm

I found this review very helpful and informative. I wonder if Oak Street would get more stars if AJC rated restaurants by class. When searching for restaurants, sometimes you only have the stars to go by, an 2 out of 5 does imply that it is below par.

AART

August 31st, 2012
1:17 pm

Um Art, all you have to do is click on the “lunch” for the lunch menu and “dinner” for the dinner menu. While I agree there is no Richard Blais trailblazing choices on the menu, not sure who does comfort American better.

I definitely like Artisan Bakery, but I think they actually got three, while the superior Oak Street got two and Wilflour just one. Bizarre.

Art

August 31st, 2012
1:42 pm

@AART, thanks! Those menus were NOT there when I first looked this morning.

PJ

August 31st, 2012
3:53 pm

I completely forgot to add that Oak Street has the best French Fries. One order easily feeds 4-6 people and comes with 3 different dipping sauces, a garlicky one, spicy ketchup & blue cheese. They also reheat well.

Baltisraul

August 31st, 2012
7:39 pm

Midge…….you call a grilled cheese w/ one side a deal for $9.00. WOW

Pujadaddy

September 2nd, 2012
7:34 am

Oak street is great! The owner used to work under Chris Santos (food network) so there is a level of complexity to the food at Oak Street that is not conveyed by just saying “grilled cheese sandwich”. The owners are ALWAYS there to ensure that the food is to their standards. Lots of nice businesses In the same strip (art gallery, dance studio, fine furniture, spa) make this a perfect destination for brunch, or even date night. Definitely worthy of more stars AJC.

AART

September 2nd, 2012
10:44 am

I do find it interesting that the only people complaining about the prices are people who have never stepped foot in the place. I saw the exact scenario for Antico Pizza.

Different strokes for different folks. If you want to save money on pizza, Little Casers gives you 2-for-1. If you want a cheap sandwich, you can get a foot long for $5 at Subway. Places like Antico and Oak Street are not for people who want to eat on the cheap. It’s for those who know quality costs more than prefab commissary slop.

Oak Street Café is not for the Little Casers and $.99 menu crowd. It’s that simple.

Roswell Ed

September 2nd, 2012
8:52 pm

I have eaten at the Oak Street Cafe no less than 10 or more times and I find it a little pricey but welcome to Roswell. They have a thing called overhead that you really don’t have as much of in Douglasville or Tucker.
I like the smoked salmon breakfast, and the hamburgers and the mac-n-cheese.
Great place!!

Jackiev.

September 3rd, 2012
5:37 pm

This is a regular stop on my “girlfriend chat night” circuit. French fries? May be the best in town!!! Everybody who serves legit mayonnaise with real Frites scores BIG in my book. Salads are very good. The Polpettone is a singular sensation. I go to Oak Street for a respectable martini and really good food. I’d love to see you there, too.