OGDEN — An 8-½-by-11-inch piece of paper taped to the front door. Talk about your soft openings.
Last Wednesday, The Oaks — one of the most iconic and beloved restaurants in Weber County — quietly reopened.
“We opened super-soft,” admits Chris Bowler, who with his wife, Christina, are now running The Oaks. “We didn’t really tell anybody we were opening. If someone stopped by and read the small 8 ½-by-11 sheet of paper on the door, it said we were open.”
Bowler and his wife opted for the stealth opening because they suspected business would blow up once area residents found out The Oaks was back. And indeed, despite the rather secretive way of reopening, Bowler says they still served about 75 people that day.
The Oaks had been a fixture in Ogden Canyon since the early 1900s. The restaurant at 750 Ogden Canyon became locally famous for its killer breakfasts, picturesque outdoor patio seating beside the Ogden River, and frozen treats starring Farr’s ice cream.
Owners Keith and Belinda Rounkles, who purchased The Oaks in the early 1980s, closed the restaurant in January 2019. That decision was heartbreaking for a lot of folks in the area, including Chris and Christina Bowler.
“We were just part of a group that didn’t want to see it closed,” Chris Bowler explained. “My wife’s parents live in Eden, we’re in Ogden, and we drive that canyon all the time. We just didn’t want to see it go down; it’s such a part of the history and legacy of the area.”
Bowler admits the idea of reopening The Oaks was just an idea. He had no intention of trying to buy the restaurant when they first looked at it. But when the Realtor showed them the property, the couple instantly fell in love with it.
“The minute I walked in, I said, ‘We’re gong to do it.’” Bowler recalls. “We really felt attached to it.”
The new Oaks staff has been Bowler and Christina, her parents (who help with the ice cream) and Christina’s brother and sister (who wait tables). They also hired a chef and three other cooks.
Although the Bowlers have quite a bit of business experience, they’ve never worked in the food service industry. To help navigate those waters, they hired Jake Danielson as the head chef. Bowler says Danielson has worked at Sundance Resort in Utah County and at The Homestead Resort in Midway.
“He was critical in the whole process,” Bowler said. “We have a lot of business experience, but not on the food service side.”
Bowler said the menu is similar to that of the previous incarnation. He calls it a “new take on the same idea.”
“And it’s a similar style,” Bowler said. “It’s still American cuisine, burgers and fries.”
And like The Oaks of yore, they offer a full-service ice cream counter featuring 32 flavors of Farr Better Ice Cream. The new restaurant has also partnered with The Daily Rise Coffee to serve a special Oaks blend of coffee, according to a social media post.
To comply with current social distancing requirements, the eating establishment’s tables are spaced six feet apart, and sanitizing stations have been installed.
The Oaks is currently offering a breakfast and lunch menu, and Bowler said they expect to add a dinner menu within the next couple of weeks. When that happens, they’ll begin taking reservations, he said.
Once the website is up and running, they’ll also take online orders. In the meantime phone orders can be made at 385-333-4748.
Bowler said his own personal favorite menu item is The Oaks Burger, which he calls “killer.”
“I’ve already had probably 15 of them, he said. “I’ve tried everything, but if I have a choice, I get the burger.”
The Bowlers say they intend to continue the tradition of fine food in a casual atmosphere.
“We want to make fine food family-friendly,” Chris Bowler said. “It’s not a five-star restaurant, but we’re trying to make really good food cooked by a really good chef. ... It’s high quality, but we’re making it accessible with the pricing.”
The Oaks, in Ogden Canyon, is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.