“I apologize for having to abruptly end our phone conversation earlier, but I was trying to multitask and I ended up cutting myself pretty bad and had to go get a couple stitches really quickly.”
This was the message left by Oak Steakhouse’s executive chef Joseph Conrad on Monday, five days before the restaurant debuts in Old Town Alexandria.
Conrad was teaching another chef how to debone a pork loin during a call with this reporter, and while trying to balance the phone between his shoulder and ear, the knife slipped through his left thumb.
“I’m on my way back to the restaurant … now that I’m not bleeding all over the place,” he finished his voicemail.
The next day, he’s back in the kitchen, five stitches later, an appendage wrapped in gauze and a rubber glove. There’s a family-and-friends night to prep for, and a VIP pre-opening party and then a 5 p.m. start for the first night of service on Friday, July 12.
This is the sixth Oak Steakhouse in the country, and what makes this less of a cookie-cutter operation, is Conrad’s control of the menu. A core steak program is the throughline—more than a half-dozen cuts, from a 14-ounce New York strip ($54) to a 75-day dry-aged, 38-ounce tomahawk that can feed a double date for $130—but the rest of the dishes reads more like a page from the modern American handbook.
Find burrata, grilled octopus, corn agnolotti and a beet salad with a walnut-black garlic puree, next to more steakhouse staples like beef tartare, roasted bone marrow and a classic wedge. Sides are familiar, though updated: sauteed kale, fried Brussels sprouts, cauliflower in a chermoula sauce with almonds and raisins. Of course there are three types of potatoes: pureed; roasted, fried and covered with American cheese; and french fries tossed in beef fat, garlic and herbs.
Originally from Iowa, Conrad has cooked in the DC area for the last five years, with stints most recently at Bourbon Steak and The Lafayette inside the Hay-Adams Hotel. “We’re not really trying to recreate anything crazy,” Conrad, who lives in Montclair with his family, says about this suburban restaurant. Compared to other steakhouses, he says, I’m “trying to do things in a lighter in tone.”
Alexandria is always in a restaurant tug of war, recently gaining cool, casual places, like Chop Shop Taco, but also losing what was the epitome of the dining scene, Restaurant Eve. Conrad says Eve was his favorite restaurant in town. “They’ve left a void. Hopefully we’re going to fulfill that.” // Oak Steakhouse: 901 N. Saint Asaph St., Alexandria
Craving more food stories? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.