New restaurant offers more choices for Oskaloosa
Story and photo by Dennis Sharkey
A few months ago Oskaloosa was filled with void on choices for residents to dine out. The void has been filled.
At the end of last year the Mast Bakery and Deli announced they would cease operations, leaving an empty building and fewer choices for dining out. That’s when The Fork and Cork operators Julie Rich and Milissa Dake saw an opportunity.
“We had wanted this building four years ago,” Dake said.
Dake said she and her mother, Rich, had plans to open a restaurant similar to what Mast was doing but didn’t act quickly enough to secure the location on U.S. 59 Highway.
After the announcement the idea of opening a restaurant was alive again but the two ladies wanted to do something different.
“We tried to make a place where we ourselves would want to go hang out,” Dake said. “We wanted the community to have different options, because we wanted different options.”
The restaurant is built around a sit down experience that allows patrons to have a beer or a glass of wine with their dinner hence the name The Fork and Cork.
The ladies also wanted to do something that other establishments were not already doing.
The Fork and Cork’s menu does not include anything that is fried or deep-fried.
“We didn’t want to do anything anybody else is doing,” Rich said.
The ladies said they spent time looking over the menu of other establishments in town not for ideas but to cross off items others were already doing.
The menu features items such as fresh salads, soups, sandwiches and a black bean chipotle burger that Rich guarantees is delicious.
They also feature nightly dinner specials that include chicken enchiladas, spaghetti with meatballs, and all you can eat pancakes on Sundays.
The ladies will also cater to regular customers. Dake said they have a couple that comes in every Wednesday for a specially prepared meal.
“Anybody that lives here could come here and find something they want,” Dake said. “That was our goal. If we can make it happen we try to.”
The ladies stress that everything in the store is homemade. Soon they will start serving Little Bear bread which is locally made.
“We try to do as much farm to table stuff,” Rich said.
It was also important for the ladies to purchase all of the supplies locally. All of the meat and produce comes from Thriftway and the liquor served comes from Westside Liquor Store.
“We want to keep our money here locally,” Dake said.
So far the reaction to the restaurant has been positive and at times overwhelming. The restaurant quietly opened a few weeks ago but people noticed.
“We didn’t realize we would be so busy,” Rich said.
“We were just going to turn things on slowly and see what needed improving,” Dake said. “We got nailed.”
The ladies have learned from the first few weeks and some changes have already been made with possibly more to come. Currently the restaurant is not open on Mondays but that could change.
“We thought we needed one day off but people are saying, ‘Please be open on Mondays,’” Rich said.
The restaurant will have an official grand opening on April 27.
The ladies encourage those in a hurry to call ahead to have their order ready. Otherwise, have a seat and enjoy the atmosphere.
“We are not fast food,” Dake said. “We want people to come in and enjoy their experience.”
The restaurant also features bakery goods from Sweet Nelly’s.
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