Restaurateur Greg Morris has plenty of ideas about what his latest venture, The Oaks Gourmet, should be. It definitely helps that he owns several other food businesses around town (Belmont, Stonefire Pizza Cos., Spanish Kitchen, and soon the restaurant space at Luckman Plaza on Sunset and Doheny). Perhaps more important, he lives in the neighborhood — which may provide the best insights about how to design the gourmet take-out market and kitchen.
For decades, the northwest corner of Bronson and Franklin in Hollywood has been associated with the deli and liquor store opened by Victor Levy. Morris says he's dedicated to preserving the legacy that Victor's grandson Rick left when he decided to retire and close the family business, but he's giving the space an all-out renovation and concept overhaul to bring “it up a bit.” (The LA Times Daily Dish first mentioned the conversion a few months back.)
An early peek into the still under-construction Oaks Gourmet, named for the adjacent neighborhood that straddles the Hollywood Hills and Los Feliz, shows that it promises to be a lot of things in 1,500 square feet.
There will be food, of course, coming from the kitchen at the north end of the shop, with changing menus, custom meals for pick-up or delivery, and catering. A special oven will churn out pizzas and Morris's staff will design special themed meals for different nights of the week.
The previous beloved neighborhood store used to stock a selection of older familiar wines, which Morris plans to expand to include “a happy mix of crazy new labels,” with prices topping out in the $30 to $40 range, as well as premium liquors and specialty beers.
Morris and his staff are becoming cheese autodidacts since The Oaks Gourmet will stock about 100 artisan varieties. Non-alcoholic drinks and desserts are the focus of the store's south end, where plans and equipment are in place for custom small-batch coffee roasting, shakes, smoothies and, thrillingly, Cake Monkey desserts. Morris is offering the space as a “test ground” retailing opportunity to help broaden Elizabeth Belkind and Lisa J. Olin's fast-emerging sweets brand.
Morris is quick to dispel any myths about price and standards. “Gourmet means quality, it doesn't have to mean expensive,” he emphatically says. The Oaks will be “very, very competitively priced” despite simple yet sophisticated golden-hued building materials that might suggest otherwise, such as teak-wood built-ins and porcelain floor tiles that have the feel of natural stone, and porcelain tile exterior wall treatments that update Victor's old brick cladding. (The memorial plaque, however, remains.) The repaired roof-mounted sign is also spinning for the first time in many years. Morris intends to offer a level of service that, combined with the prices, will make shoppers think twice before they head to a certain supermarket across the street.
A stretch of asphalt with scant greenery is hardly the stuff of pleasant outdoor dining, so Morris is softening the landscape before he puts out tables and chairs. Given Franklin Avenue's already-buzzing sidewalk life, The Oaks Gourmet should blend in seamlessly — and maybe give the other neighboring businesses a challenge to up their games when it opens late this month.
1915 N. Bronson Ave., Hollywood, firstname.lastname@example.org.