Eight years after the Texas Legislature named Roanoke “The Unique Dining Capital of Texas,” the small town continues to live up to that name, attracting more new one-of-a-kind restaurants.
Though only 5.3 square miles in size, Roanoke boasts more than 50 restaurants, putting it on par with cities five times its size.
The newcomers include chef Erin Miller’s The Wharf Steak and Seafood, which is scheduled to open mid-January. Miller said she is excited about joining the abundance of locally owned eateries downtown.
“I love the fact that there’s no chains there,” said Miller, previously of Texas Bleu Steakhouse. “They embrace the self-owned kind of business and I love that. I’m an independent and an artist. I don’t want anybody to tell me what to do.”
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Roanoke officials have made a deliberate effort to bring locally owned restaurants to Oak Street. Craft & Vine Taproom & Eatery, Foster’s Sushi/Seafood Bar & Grill and Wise Guys Pizzeria are among the restaurants that opened recently in downtown.
“In the downtown area we strive to maintain the unique, eclectic, small-town charm with smart, selective growth,” said Cody Petree, director of community and business development for Roanoke.
Other restaurants coming to downtown include Chop Shop Live and Stack’s Biscuit House. The U.S. 377/Texas 114 junction continues to be a hot spot for restaurant growth, with Sunny Street Cafe and The Brass Tap currently under construction.
“We have numerous business negotiations in the works that are confidential at this point, but once finalized will add to the unique, vibrant destination that Roanoke has become,” Petree said.
Miller is a fourth-generation chef who has been working on every facet of the menu, decor and hiring for The Wharf, so that she can open by mid-January. The 5,000-square-foot restaurant will be on the first floor of the new building at 310 S. Oak St.
Miller built Texas Bleu from the ground up, but she had partners for that venture. She has since broken ties with that restaurant, freeing her up to focus entirely on The Wharf, where the design will be heavily inspired by Irish pubs. Her great-grandfather had a tobacco shop on a wharf in Ireland, hence the name of the restaurant.
“I’m making it feel like home,” Miller said.
The menu will feature fish from Norway and certified Angus beef. The fish won’t be chopped up until someone orders them. The lobsters are from Brazil and will be kept in a live tank. And the kitchen will be open for all to see.
The location puts The Wharf in the heart of Roanoke’s restaurant row and right next to the future City Center project, which will feature mixed-use development.
“I love all the stuff that’s coming to Roanoke,” Miller said. “The location of The Wharf is killer prime.”
Breakfast all day
Also coming to Roanoke is Sunny Street Cafe, with its fifth North Texas location. It is expected to open in February at 1212 N. U.S. 377. The 3,000-square-foot restaurant will serve breakfast and lunch daily, from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
“We think Roanoke is a great market for what we’re doing,” said Mike Stasko, vice president of Sunny Street Cafe. “It really has a mix of offerings there.”
Ohio-based Sunny Street also has locations in Little Elm, North Richland Hills, Haltom City and Weatherford. About a quarter of the company’s restaurants are in North Texas.
A sixth location is planned in Dallas next year, Stasko said.
Sunset views, gastropub fare
Tim Nystrom, owner of Nystrom Hospitality Group, saw the growth in Roanoke and surrounding areas and knew it would be the perfect place for his next concept.
“It’s a destination place, so we get a lot of local traffic but also have people coming in from outside the area,” Nystrom said. “There’s a lot of culinary diversity in Roanoke.”
He opened Craft & Vine Taproom and Eatery on Oct. 2. It has an enclosed patio, providing a perfect view of the setting sun, and the upscale gastropub’s atmosphere is relaxed and casual. There are 72 taps featuring a mix of craft beer and wine, with many of the former coming from Texas.
Aside from his restaurant, Nystrom also is excited about all the other new restaurants that are coming to downtown Roanoke, like new Stacks Biscuit House. The restaurant will be all about biscuits, with from-scratch jams, honey and gravies and is expected to open in early spring.