Outside of owner Dave Gustafson, the original crew that opened Warsaw’s Oak and Alley is gone, along with its original cocktails.

The tapas-style small plates are mostly history as well, replaced by a burger-dominated menu developed by Gustafson and his new chef, Chris Prater. Classic cocktails adorn the menu now along with an expanding beer and whiskey selection, and while these changes appear drastic to some of Oak and Alley’s longtime customers, that’s not even the biggest news.

Outdoor dining is coming to this downtown joint along with lunch service and it’s set to change the dining scene in Warsaw, just as Oak and Alley first did when it opened a few years ago.

Oak and Alley's chef, Chris Prater, enjoying a rare moment outside the kitchen. Photo provided by Dave Gustafson.
Oak and Alley’s chef, Chris Prater, enjoying a rare moment outside the kitchen. Photo provided by Dave Gustafson.

I was a little unsettled with the direction Oak and Alley was headed but after attending a burger tasting with Gustafson, my concern melted away with every bite into the new burgers that are now the bar’s standouts. They’re wildly creative takes on a popular American staple, adding flair and zest to a typical bar offering where choices are normally what kind of cheese to slap on it and whether or not to pay the extra two dollars for bacon (I will always pay more for bacon).

At Oak and Alley, it's all about the burgers now. Photo provided by Dave Gustafson.
At Oak and Alley, it’s all about the burgers now. Photo provided by Dave Gustafson.

Burger options include the surprisingly filling and tasty “The Veggie,” a black bean burger that carnivores will be falling over themselves to order in a misguided attempt to convince themselves it’s beneficial to their diet. Also try “The Taproot,” an unexpected delight for my beets-averse palate.

Personal favorites are “The Seoul,” which may seem to be the riskiest to some but whose inclusion of fish sauce sets it head and shoulders above the others, and “The Belgian,” where Brussels sprouts add a fresh crisp finish to an excellent sandwich.

The Seoul burger, one of the highlights of the new food menu at Oak and Alley. Photo provided by Dave Gustafson.
The Seoul burger, one of the highlights of the new food menu at Oak and Alley. Photo provided by Dave Gustafson.

More conservative burgers are also on the menu in the form of “The Diplomat,” where you get to pick the toppings, and “The Republic,” a souped-up barbecue bacon cheeseburger sure to make you forego all other comers.

While the original cocktails might have been usurped by the new brews and scotches now adorning the wall, you can still order some of your favorites, including the Plantation 3 Stars daiquiri, my personal choice to wash down the delectable burgers. You just have to ask your bartenders nicely and they’ll be more than glad to accommodate any requests they can.

Plantation 3 Stars daiquiri, a personal favorite to wash down the new burgers at Oak and Alley. Photo by Tom Westerhof.
Plantation 3 Stars daiquiri, a personal favorite to wash down the new burgers at Oak and Alley. Photo by Tom Westerhof.

Besides the menu changes, Oak and Alley is now adding a lunch service which is set to begin in the next few weeks. Details are yet to be determined but you can check out their Facebook page for the latest updates.

And then there’s that little thing about outdoor dining. The planning for how it will operate is still in the works but this much is known: the alleyway to the north of Oak and Alley and Three Crowns will be closed off to vehicle traffic from May 1 through October 31 and will be converted into family dining space for the exclusive use of those two businesses. That’s right – no more need to find a babysitter to watch the kids while you head over to check out the new burger menu. Alcohol consumption will be allowed in the outdoor space but it cannot be taken out of the designated area.

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