Oak Tavern's wooden tables are worn — their faded chocolate surfaces fashioned out of reclaimed lumber, their corners burnt with the logo of a majestic oak. Outside, a courtyard envelops the eponymous tree. Inside, red brick walls guard a precarious past. In less than a decade, the Design District space has housed several restaurants: the neighborhood hangout Piccadilly Garden for years, Jonathan Eismann's Pacific Time from 2008 to 2010, and a Spanish joint named Andalus, which lasted less than a year in 2011. The spot's latest reincarnation debuted in November 2012.
But this long history is not what makes the restaurant feel comfortable. Instead, it's the rosemary-roasted almonds served at the bar. It's the baskets of fresh buttermilk biscuits, flaky orbs of dough with brittle crusts and puffed centers that smell and taste like home. In a city where most places charge exorbitant prices for water, Oak Tavern proffers these leavened cakes, alongside rich bacon-studded butter, for free.