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HUDSON -- Oak and Embers sits on the Twinsburg Township-Hudson border, but the flavors of the new Route 91 restaurant come from years spent criss-crossing southern states.
Set to open the second week of May in the building that formerly housed Marcelita's Mexican restaurant, Oak and Embers hangs its hat on barbecue, bourbon and beer. The business will employ about 100 people full and part time, seating about 340.
"I've liked barbecue since I could hold a rib in my hand," said owner and operator Marc Garofoli, who, along with his wife, Gretchen, will open their second restaurant of the same name. "It was always a special treat to get barbecue."
The original Oak and Embers is in Chesterland, open since 2014. Patrons can expect to see a similar menu at the local spot, with prices ranging from $10 for appetizers (crab cakes, pulled pork tacos) to the $20+ range for entrees (a full rack of smoked baby back ribs, or the "smokehouse filet").
"No one can touch our burnt ends, pork butt ends that have been slow-smoked twice," Garofoli said. "Our ribs and pulled pork are always popular."
As any pit master knows, sauce and rubs are the soul of good barbecue -- whether mustard- or tomato-based, wet or dry. Gretchen came up with the house sauce at Oak and Embers, a tomato-based bourbon sauce "that sprinkles the taste buds," Marc says, but there are plenty of other options (the farm-to-table restaurant will also offer fresh seafood and a shrimp and grits dish, among other menu choices).
And the flavors have been gleaned from years of research across the south, from Missouri to South Carolina, from Texas to Tennessee to Georgia.
"We've done the 'Barbecue Trail' across the southern states," Marc said. "Gretchen makes a Thai sauce for our smoked wings that will make you forget where you are."
Their culinary research was not confined to food, either. The Chesterland couple with more than 20 years in the restaurant business has also sipped the south's best bourbons. As a result, Oak and Embers offers a choice of between 60 and 70 whiskeys -- from spirits worth a couple thousand dollars to good bourbons at moderate prices.
"We've visited rick houses in Kentucky and toured distilleries across the south," he said. "You can find a great bourbon here that's not a Pappy Van Winkel."
However, if you'd like a glass of the 23-year family reserve from Van Winkel, Oak and Embers carries the $2,800-per-bottle bourbon.
The Newbury couple has more than 20 years in the restaurant business. What began in smaller spots with a smoker that could handle 10 pounds of meat -- even a food truck at one time -- has blossomed to this 8,300-square-foot location with a smoker that can cook more than 3,000 pounds of meat.
"We get the benefit of a great demographic here," Marc said. "We get the families and the hard-working folks. Just like our food, we are not about rushing it for the customer. We want people to come in, sit down and enjoy themselves."