New view, Old tradition|Oaks Cafe set to open Monday

Published 12:57 am Wednesday, August 26, 2009

By By Lydia Grimes
features reporter

The Oaks Café was once the site of first dates, celebrations and maybe even a marriage proposal or two — and it was the home of what many remember as one of the best burgers in town.
Leigh Najor and her husband Lew — whose grandparents operated The Oakes Café for 62 years — have rekindled the tradition with a new Oaks Café set to open on Monday, Aug. 31.
Situated on the corner of U.S. 31 and Old Castleberry Road, across from Walmart, The Oaks Café has a side porch for outdoor dining that overlooks Dogwood Hills Golf Course.
Clayton Salter opened the original Oaks Café in 1929, and his sister-in-law and her husband, Gladys and Charles Salter, kept the business going for 62 more years. Lew Najor is the grandson of Charles and Gladys Salter, and he said he learned his cooking skills from his grandmother.
The Oaks was famous for its spicy hamburgers and cheeseburgers.
The Salter and Najor families had a hand in another of Brewton’s legendary eateries — the original Ole Willie’s, located downtown.
The menu will offer a 14-ounce ribeye; an eight-ounce filet mignon and an eight-ounce sirloin, cooked to order. The restaurant will also have fresh seafood, grilled or fried, salads, chicken, shrimp and steak, along with a variety of new and old appetizers, including Ole Willie’s Kentucky Special. The Oaks will also have a full-service bar.
In addition to the main dining room, there is a large covered porch looking out over the golf course of Dogwood Hills.
Najor said finding a location was difficult, and even when he and Leigh settled on their current property there was some question about it because of the proposal to put the new Brewton Middle School at Dogwood Hills. But since that plan died, Walmart moved across the street from the new Oaks, and the Najors are looking forward to increased traffic.
A look inside the restaurant shows pine wood walls cut from local pine forests that is used on the inside walls, stacked stone and ceiling fans. The outdoor porch uses teak tables and chairs to withstand the weather, and palm trees frame the view of the golf course.
Najor said that he and Leigh — who also own a construction business together — have gone out of their way to make sure they used as much local materials and help as they could.
George Aust is the new restaurant manager and will be on hand to make sure that every thing is run right.
Najor said the restaurant and bar will seat around 130 people. They have hired some 20 to 25 part-time and full-time employees on two shifts to make sure that the service is the best.
Leigh Najor has created a Facebook page for The Oaks Cafe. She said she wants everyone to sign up, drop by, and tell some of your memories of the past.
The restaurant will operate a full menu from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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