Liberty Oak gets new owners, new life
The past week has brought some renovations and a revival to a local restaurant that some say, “started it all” in Greensboro. Liberty Oak Restaurant has been a Greensboro institution for decades and now it is once again family-owned. The new owners hope to return the icon to its former glory.
When executive chef and partner Kristofer Reid found out that Liberty Oak was for sale, he, his father, Durwood and his brother, William, decided to buy the restaurant from Eddie Gramisci. Kristofer Reid has worked in many local restaurants such as Jeffrey Adams on Fourth, Fourth Street Filling Station, Finnigan’s Wake in Winston-Salem, Aramark at High Point University and the former Ganache in Greensboro. He joined Liberty Oak as a chef in February and found out Gramisci was looking to sell.
“I always wanted to own a restaurant and really I wanted to start from scratch but found out this was for sale,” he said. “The foundation of business for the restaurant was already there. It’s still a big risk, but Liberty Oak has customers so we saw it as too good an opportunity to pass up.”
The 38-year-old now mans the kitchen and management, his brother is the assistant general manager and their parents manage the finances.
“It really is all family here,” Kristofer Reid said.
There’s no question that Liberty Oak has been a fixture downtown. Located in the Vernon Building, the oldest building in the historic district of Old Greensborough (circa 1883), the vibe, menu, bar and outside seating has made it a go-to since it opened at its Washington Street location in 1999. If you needed to find a spot to eat out with friends or enjoy great patio dining, Liberty Oak was the place to be.
There’s also no question that a few of its patrons will tell you that the restaurant had lost a bit of its mojo recently. Added to that, some stiff competition with the growing restaurant scene in the area. The restaurant that paved the way was starting to get left in the dust. Kristofer Reid said he hopes to keep the restaurant relevant with a new menu and new look.
“We knew that Liberty Oak had a great reputation that was slipping, but not too far gone to get it back,” Kristofer Reid said. They’ve kept some of the top five menu items for lunch as well as dinner. “‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ we said,” Kristofer Reid remarked. But one of the more noticeable changes that folks will enjoy is the Burger of the Week.
“We want to give our chefs some creativity to plan a really cool burger, make it the special that week and give the guests something exciting to take part in,” Kristofer Reid said. “If the burger is a hit, we’ll make it an occasional feature item.”
He said one new menu item folks might enjoy now is the Shrimp Pita, which features their popular dynamite shrimp wrapped in pita bread and served with Asian slaw. More local sourcing of ingredients is also in their future, he said.
“We want to stay as local as we can, but it takes time to get there,” Kristofer Reid said. “We work with providers who can get us local produce and we’ll be adding more beef and seafood from North Carolina as well.”
For dessert, Kristofer Reid has brought on his neighbor at the popular, Cheesecakes by Alex.
Liberty Oak was closed last week for renovations but it reopened July 7, the Reids said they were very pleased with the turnout. Kristofer Reid said they installed all-new, efficient kitchen equipment, which folks will be able to see since Liberty Oak has an open kitchen. They also gave themselves a fresh coat of neutral paint and replaced the artwork on the wall with black and white photographs of other iconic locations around the city of Greensboro.
Liberty Oak bar manager Pete Jackson said he welcomes the new ownership and describes it as a “breath of fresh air.”
“I’ve been at Liberty Oak long enough to have seen how difficult it can be to sustain a profitable business at the local level,” Jackson said. “Seeing the restaurant operate with a full staff, functioning systems in place, and for people who genuinely care is rewarding in a way corporate chains aren’t capable of offering.”
Mary Lacklen of Triad Local First, said she’s also thrilled that the restaurant has been purchased by a local family and looks forward to what’s to come.
“I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Liberty Oak,” she said. “We want them to do well and we’re all for young entrepreneurs who want to be a part of the local movement.”
Kristofer Reid said that Liberty Oak is also now offering off-site catering, boxed lunches and is available for private parties as well.
Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.