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When Live Oak opens Friday in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, patrons will be able to taste the south. The restaurant from partners Chef Justus Frank, general manager Jeremy Barber, and beverage director Tim Irwin is a love song about the city of Charleston, South Carolina, with its menu dominated by classics like shrimp & grits, fried green tomatoes, she-crab soup, and chicken fried steak. Even the name of the restaurant is a nod.
“Live Oak is a type of tree that exists a lot near South Carolina, Georgia, and parts of North Carolina,” Frank says. “They’re sort of majestic, very beautiful. It’s overwhelming when you see one that’s so huge and has been around for so long.” He says some of the trees he spotted in Charleston during his many trips to the city were upwards of 500 years old. Frank studied for one year at the College of Charleston and the laid-back restaurant scene inspired him.
“Everything about Southern Cuisine and Southern cooking is about over-the-top hospitality, and that’s something we want to bring to Virginia that you might not get in Old Town or Arlington the same way you’d get in a nice dining room in D.C.,” Frank continues. His resume includes stints at Eventide, Fiola, Nonna’s Kitchen, and Copperwood Tavern.
Other highlights from the Live Oak bar and dinner menus include deviled eggs, peel & eat shrimp, rabbit porchetta, and Shenandoah lamb loin with a mustard stuffing and grilled mushrooms. But perhaps the biggest flavor punch will come from a dish of fisherman’s stew with rockfish and Rappahannock clams served with grits and succotash. Sweet-toothed patrons will be met with a blueberry buckle for dessert. The cake-meets-cobbler is served with burnt honey ice cream.
The opening drink menu will feature 14 wines, 12 beers (six on draft, six in cans or bottles), a handful of signature cocktails whose ingredients will mirror the kitchen, and crowd-pleasing sangria. They’ll build from there based on what the neighborhood dictates, according to Frank.
The team hired Griz Dwight to spruce up the space, which was formerly Monroe’s. You’ve seen Dwight’s work at both Fiola and Iron Gate. However, some things will remain from the former tenant include unique two- and six-seat booths. In addition to an 80-seat dining room (including a 14-seat bar), there will be 40 seats on the patio for outdoor dining during brunch and dinner.
Live Oak will serve dinner nightly and Saturday and Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant is taking reservations for Friday night on OpenTable, but it’s possible they could soft open before the weekend.
Live Oak, 1603 Commonwealth Ave., Alexandria; 571-312-0402; liveoakdelray.com.