Photography by Kathy Tran
The Local Oak served pineapple cider during a Bishop Arts District-wide promotional event this past summer, and the kitchen came up with the perfect pairing.
Two cereal-crusted fried chicken tenders with a ramekin of honey mustard and a can of Austin East Cider for $6.
They served hundreds of them that day, and while that deal is now off, the Cap’n Crunch tenders are all the way on — the owners added them to the menu.
This is the kind of kitschy dish that sets the tone of The Local Oak.
When they opened six years ago, it was the “bucket of love,” candied bacon served in a little pail, and Texas surfers, Spam-and-pineapple sliders, that got the attention of food critics.
“It’s exactly what we wanted it to be,” owner Alycen Cuellar says. “It’s Texas, but it’s a little Tex-Mex.”
Cuellar is Tex-Mex royalty on her father’s side — her grandfather Frank X. Cuellar Sr. was a founder of El Chico restaurants. On her mom’s side, she has Oak Cliff cred and Texas history. Marcia Styles Cuellar grew up on Tenth Street and is a descendant of the Old Three Hundred Texas families who settled Stephen F. Austin’s colony on the Brazos. Some of the Local Oak’s recipes come from Cuellar’s maternal grandmother.
Cuellar opened the Local Oak with partners in 2013, renovating a 1920s building. She says it was like peeling an onion. As they dug into construction, they found original brick and uncovered windows.
“Everything is original,” she says. “These are the original floors.”
Her grandfather’s blue glass swag lamp hangs in the restaurant, and on the patio are plumerias grown from cuttings of his plants.
The menu contains a solid selection of sandwiches, salads, burgers and fish tacos.
Nothing on the menu costs more than $12. Entrees include Hatch green chile chicken enchiladas with rice and beans, chicken fried steak, meatloaf and huevos verdes served with thick strips of bacon. They recently added a simple mac-and-cheese that’s out of this world. At brunch, there are migas, French toast, and brisket biscuits and gravy, plus a $5 mason-jar mimosa that contains a half-bottle of bubbles.
Cuellar’s business partner, Paul Delgado, runs the kitchen and has his own Tex-Mex legacy. He worked for Chuy’s for 25 years, starting as a dishwasher at the Barton Springs location and making his way up the corporate ladder.
Cuellar calls him a “famously cantankerous rock star,” and says she couldn’t do it without Delgado and cook David Ortiz, who worked for 10 years at the old Tejano and El Corazon de Tejas restaurants, which Cuellar’s family owned.
Both of Cuellar’s parents died within a year of The Local Oak’s opening. Delgado and opening partner Felix Garcia kept the place running during that time, Cuellar says.
“They’re the reason we are here,” she says. “I’ve never been so thankful to two hard-headed men.”
Photography by Kathy Tran
The Local Oak
409 N. Zang Blvd.
Sunday: 11a.m.-9 p.m.
Monday: 4p.m.-9 p.m.
Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.