New Dining Spot
Rileys to open Crimson Oak Restaurant in North Vernon
It will be a sister business to their Stream Cliff Farm
NORTH VERNON, Ind. (November 2020) – Stream Cliff Farm and Winery has been an icon in the area for more than 40 years. The current owners are now looking to the future as they prepare to open an additional restaurant in North Vernon – Crimson Oak Restaurant & Pub – located at 51 N. Madison Ave. in the heart of downtown.
“We spent some time in Colorado this summer and ate at some really neat restaurants and bars. We had already been talking about opening a second restaurant with the type of food and atmosphere that we like but don’t have much of in the area,” said Elizabeth Manning Riley, whose parents, Betty and Gerald Manning, started the winery in nearby Commiskey, Ind. Elizabeth’s brother, Greg, also works at the winery and greenhouses.
Elizabeth and Troy Riley pose in front of their Crimson Oak Restaurant and Pub in downtown North Vernon, Ind. It is set to open soon at the former White Front Cafe location.
Riley, who lives in Deputy, Ind., said she and her husband, Troy Riley, considered opening a restaurant in Madison but wanted to pursue a location where there was not a large number of independently owned restaurants.
Riley also said the decision to open a second restaurant came about with Stream Cliff’s staff in mind. “With Stream Cliff being seasonal, the end of our open season provides some hardship for our employees. Our staff is like family, so we wanted to provide something for them in the off season,” said Riley.
Crimson Oak will be located in an iconic location of its own. “We found that the owner of what had been North Vernon’s White Front Café was interested in selling the building. It was in business for decades but has been closed for the past five years. It was a prime gathering point for the community and anyone from Jennings County,” she said. The building had been renovated and well maintained since the restaurant’s closing. “It was the nicest building you could hope for,” said Riley.
Riley said that Crimson Oak’s name was a group effort and highlights a piece of local history. “A group of us were talking about a possible name and wanted it to have ties to North Vernon and Jennings County.”
Riley said that someone came across an article online about T.C. Steele, one of Indiana’s best-known impressionist painters. Steele spent time painting scenes in the Vernon, Ind., area and is quoted describing the “crimson oaks of Vernon.”
Riley defines Crimson Oak as a “gastropub, with a chef-inspired menu and specialty cocktails.” “We want it to be accessible food with a twist. A lot of the food will be familiar but will have something added to it,” she said.
Crimson Oak will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and for brunch on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. “We’ll have a special brunch menu and lots of unique Bloody Mary’s and mimosas,” said Riley.
Crimson Oak Restaurant & Pub’s kitchen will be led by Executive Chef Nash Frederick (left) and Chef de Cuisine Clint Lunsford, who have a combined 25 years in the food industry.
The restaurant owners plan to have live music on Wednesday and Saturday nights. “The building is mostly divided into two rooms. The larger one will be used as a family dining room, and the smaller will be a pub for those 21 and older,” said Riley. Crimson Oak will also offer a conference room that can be rented.
“Over the winter, a lot of our Stream Cliff staff will work at Crimson Oak,” said Riley. “We have a really good staff already. They’re well trained and dedicated. We hope to add new staff members and have the existing help show new people who we are and our high level of service and friendliness. When we open Stream Cliff in April, we’ll divide the staff.”
Nash Frederick will serve as executive chef at Crimson Oak, and Clint Lunsford will act as chef de cuisine.
“I never wanted to do anything but be a chef,” said Frederick of North Vernon. Frederick is originally from North Vernon and moved back three years ago after attending Sullivan University in Louisville, Ky., and working at several restaurants in the Louisville area, including O’Shea’s Irish Pub and Doc Crow’s. Frederick describes Crimson Oak’s menu as “approachable comfort food with a new imagination.”
“The food that sings to my soul is homespun food. I cook with a lot of Southern influence and like to include a worldly influence in my food as well,” he said.
Crimson Oak’s menu will feature items like Red’s Chicken and Waffles, a smoked and fried chicken dish with a jalapeno cheddar cornbread waffle topped with bourbon-butter maple syrup, and dinner options like the Madison Avenue Strip, an espresso blackened New York strip with black garlic citrus butter and seared sorghum brussels sprouts.
Frederick defines his return to his hometown as a “full circle moment. When I decided to take the leap and get serious, I never thought that I’d be able to practice my craft in my hometown. The world is smaller now, and people are interested in better choices in food,” he said.
“Now there’s a way for me to practice my craft in my hometown the way I want to do so.”
Frederick said he is grateful for support from his friends and family. “It’s been great being in my old stomping ground. My biggest supporters and biggest fans are my friends and family. It’s super exciting to get this going and see where it takes us.”
Crimson Oak Restaurant & Pub is set to open in mid-November with an exact opening date still to be determined. More information may be found on their Facebook page.
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