Chef Erin Miller introduced her newest venture, The Wharf Steak and Seafood, on March 25 on Oak Street in Roanoke.
Miller spent three years as sous chef of The Classic Café just down the street. She was also a part of the team that opened Texas Bleu steakhouse in Keller. When she parted ways from that restaurant group in October 2016, she vowed to return with a restaurant that she could call her own.
The interior of The Wharf, glimpsed during a soft opening the previous Wednesday, is devoid of common seafood restaurant kitsch — no ropes, buoys, fishing nets or mounted trophy fish. Instead, it is clean and unified with a few hits of red, from its logo lobster design to the red lantern candle holders glowing at the center of each table. It is also carried through in some of the button-tufted upholstered banquette seating.
Otherwise, the tone is muted with cream-colored walls, wood-look plank tiles on the floor, neutral brick wall accents and white tablecloths. The feeling is very open, with a wall of windows facing the Oak Street view.
Miller has been embracing her Irish heritage more and more these days, since a DNA test came back with a 97 percent link to the Emerald Isle. She found out on a recent exploration of the old country that she had a few Irish fishermen in her family line. Miller named the restaurant after she got to visit the very spot in Limerick, Ireland, where her great-great-grandfather had his tobacco shop — right on the wharf.
Unique lighting features imported Irish Whisky barrels and hand-made dangling green glass Jameson bottles.
At the soft opening, I was treated to a sample of the Maryland crab cake, which will be on the menu. The crusty cake has no filler, just luscious lump crab meat and a mustard tang in the seasoning. It is served alongside a remoulade sauce with a nice hit of horseradish. This will be served with jumbo shrimp on a ($14) appetizer. Likewise, the bacon blue cheese stuffed mushrooms ($12) had great flavor, filled with blue cheese and bacon, and a crust of bread crumbles and brown butter.
To back up the bold lobster logo which is in neon over the front door, there will be a hearty lobster salad ($19) with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes and red onion slices in a house-made vinaigrette, and a lobster bisque in cognac ($8) with fresh lobster meat bobbing in the rich and creamy soup.
The menu has a couple of steaks and a surf-and-turf offering (with more lobster tail), but the seafood should be the prized catch. The pan-seared salmon ($21) was presented with an attractive and crusty, seasoned top, served skin-on with broccolini, fire-grilled vegetables and an aioli sauce.
Expect grilled halibut with lemon butter, pan-seared scallops in brown butter and a fried platter featuring octopus and jumbo shrimp with grilled lemon on the side to round out the opening menu.
Roanoke, designated by the Texas House of Representatives as "The Unique Dining Capital of Texas,” is exploding at present.
The new city hall, which will anchor bustling Oak Street, is going up quickly. Another recent addition to Roanoke’s dining lineup includes Craft & Vine Taproom & Eatery, which is housed in the same newly constructed building as The Wharf.
Just last June, the Peabody Hotel in Memphis announced plans for another full-service Peabody Hotel (including its famous marching ducks) to be built adjacent to the new city hall.
With around 50 restaurants, and many popular ones dotting Oak Street, Roanoke has parking issues. It has recently constructed more parking lots to help with overflow, but when those are filled to capacity, customers need to wear their comfy shoes and plan on walking several blocks. It might be time for Roanoke to introduce a few valet stands.
The parking issues are just part of the growing pains and will hopefully get sorted out quickly to accommodate the growing throng headed to dine in Roanoke.
The Wharf Steak and Seafood
- 310 S. Oak St., Roanoke
- Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.