Oak & Alley specializes in craft cocktails, eclectic food

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By: AJ Hughes

Jason Bryant/Flavor 574

The craft beer movement is long-established in northern Indiana, so Jason Bodley of Warsaw’s Oak & Alley wants to introduce Warsaw and the surrounding area to craft cocktails.

Oak & Alley, which features a bar and made-from-scratch food by chef Nathan Freiburger, opened April 1. Part of the St. Regis Club in downtown Warsaw, it is located behind Three Crowns Coffee at 114 S. Buffalo St.

Bodley, who previously served as bar manager at Cerulean in Winona Lake, came up with the concept of Oak & Alley, a place he describes as “an informal speakeasy.” The food menu, he says, is “drink-inspired cuisine.”

His drinks include classic cocktails such as Vieux Carré (French Quarter) and East India, but the pride of the drink menu is original mixes developed by Bodley. He says the two unofficial signature drinks are I Got Sol, made from (not limited to) tequila, fresh blueberries and lime, and Turn it Up, concocted with rye whisky, fig preserves and lemon.

“We’re out to seek new converts to the northern Indiana craft cocktails concept,” said Bodley, whose key market is young professionals and food aficionados of all stripes. “Our target is food-loving folks. It’s called a public house because it belongs to the public.”

The bar is not limited to cocktails. It is home to six beer taps (Bodley is considering expanding that number to 10 or 12), and showcases local craft beers and other microbrews he is fond of, including Oskar Blues and Dogfish Head. Also featured are a wide selection of wine and spirits.

Bodley serves as part-owner and barman, and collaborates with Freiburger regarding the menu. “Nathan’s really smart,” he said. “That’s why I grabbed him.”

The food listing is seasonal and eclectic, and raw ingredients are sourced as locally as possible. A featured offering is poutine, a Canadian dish originating in Quebec. Its ingredients consist of fries, topped with a house-made beef gravy and cheese curds. Oak & Alley buys its cheese curds from a Wisconsin company that sells its curds solely for poutine.

Other menu items include sausage made in-house, marinated beef heart skewers, pork tenderloin medallion, roasted beet toast and more. (It’s important to note that the menu here changes often.)

“We strive to offer a high-quality level of food to people that isn’t normally available in this area,” Freiburger said. He described the dining experience as “high-end dining, without the suit and tie.”

“Affordability is something we really worked hard on,” he said.

Freiburger tries to offer new and unique menu offerings in an unpretentious way, and encourages patrons new to this type of dining experience (small food) to experiment.

“That’s why poutine is on the menu,” he said. “It was pretty cool for us to offer something like that.”

Oak & Alley’s bar is reclaimed oak from an old barn. Bodley’s best friend came up with the name “Oak & Alley,” which honors the wood’s significance (oak barrels are often used for aging spirits) and the fact that the bar’s entrance is from an alley.

Through Bodley’s travels in Scotland, Brooklyn and Chicago, he discovered how some of the best places to eat and drink are often tucked away in alleys and side streets. This greatly influenced his concept for Oak & Alley.

“I want to take advantage of the rest of Warsaw that’s not being used. That’s how cities gain character,” he said. “We’re not trying to compete. We want to be different.”

“We’re having a lot of fun,” Freiburger said.

Oak & Alley’s hours are 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday to Thursday, and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

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