Oak Hill Cafe now open on Poinsett Highway

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Oak Hill Cafe. Photos by Will Crooks / Upstate Business Journal

After nearly two years of planning and months of construction, Oak Hill Café has opened at 2510 Poinsett Highway next to Hakim Rugs.

With two days of soft openings for friends and family before inviting the public in, Oak Hill Cafe opened June 17 for breakfast, lunch, and late afternoon cafe service. The much anticipated experimental, tasting-menu dinners will come later, once daytime service is solidified.

A former residence, the white house up on the hill across from Dixie Gem has been transformed into a bright and airy restaurant that includes a substantial commercial kitchen addition and outdoor patio.

The first level of the newly renovated restaurant is 2,356 square feet and includes the kitchen, two common dining areas, one private dining room, service nooks, bar, and market shelves with pastries, produce, and other grab and go items at the entrance.

Reupholstered church pews provide wall-length bench seating. Local art of a variety of styles is displayed on every open wall. Two closets in a dining room have been transformed into cozy dining nooks for two. The effect is a Scandinavian-leaning European style that is both casual enough for a coffee meeting and formal enough for date night.

The second floor will be used for office space and the “space lab” where the kitchen staff will experiment with different ingredients and uses to challenge preconceived notions about what can be done with food.

The restaurant is a partnership between Costa Rican chef David Porras and Lori Nelsen, a retired lab manager at Furman University in the earth and environmental sciences/sustainability sciences department. Their garden partners — Chris Miller (That Garden Guy) and Aaron von Frank (Tyrant Farms) — designed a garden and greenhouse on the back acre of the property that will provide much of the produce used in the restaurant.

Porras and Nelsen have said from Oak Hill’s inception that they’re committed to using fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create dishes with only housemade components. The menu reflects that.

The menu also includes French and Spanish influences reflective of Porras’ culinary training and Nelsen’s baking background.

For breakfast and grab and go, pastries include croissants, brioche, baguettes, almojabanas (corn flour and cheese bread) and alfajores (corn starch cookie). Various grain bowls, breakfast tacos, sandwiches, pancakes, and OHC Specialty Dishes — Gallo Pinto, Huevos Rancheros, Corn Tostada — topped with eggs are all designed for short ticket times.

Beverages include a coffee program by Due South Coffee Roasters, agua frescas, smoothies, and fresh-squeezed juices.

Lunch includes similarly-themed items. Quick Appetizers are pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, chicken chalupas, and escabeche. Bowls feature various proteins and vegetables over grains. Four soups (tomato, crab, and basil; and ajo blanco were recommended) and two salads offer lighter options alongside sandwiches and burgers that range from a vegetarian friendly garden burger to a chicharrón sandwich on housemade ciabatta.

Oak Hill Café is open Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. with the full menu and 3:30-5 p.m. with pastries, grab-and-go, and coffee; Saturday brunch runs 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

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