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Beverage Director Kala Ellis’ Key to a Successful Bar Program

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Downtown Nashville’s Oak Steakhouse is a modernized spin on the traditional American steakhouse. The intimate dining experience includes a contemporary, chef-driven menu comprised of a variety of Prime Certified Angus Beef® selections, small plates, and entrees that utilize fresh Appalachian ingredients.

Photos by Tim Lenz / Andrew Cebulka

Proud Beverage Director of this Music City Steakhouse, Kala Ellis, gave a firsthand account of the joint, painting a picture of its true charm.

 

“Oak Nashville is one of my favorite spaces. When you walk in, you’re immediately faced with the bar on your right and a staircase that is wide and open. The ceiling is high and full of layered, hanging lights designed to reference acorn tops. There are references to oak trees throughout the space. Our hanging second floor feels almost reminiscent of a treehouse floating above the first floor. There is something immediately nostalgic and inspiring about the space.”

Along with the fantastic ambience, guests can expect a fine-dining experience full of personal touches. Many steakhouses make the crucial mistake of using a one-dimensional dining approach. Of course, that is absolutely not the case at Oak. There, they offer drinks, food, and service that allows you to feel seen as a guest. When you sit at the bar, their bartenders will often recall your order from the prior visit.

“Good service at its core is letting the guest feel known. That’s what you can expect from our team,” adds Ellis.

And that’s only the half of the imbibing experience at Oak. The rest of it is brought to life through an intricate concoction creation process. The foundation of it all is teamwork. Instead of individually coming up with tasty drinks, their team creates drinks together by editing each other’s ideas. In turn, every member’s skillset is combined, leaving no holes in the drink menu. Every type of palate is accounted for because each mixologist claims a spirit, flavor profile, and level of sweetness to work with.

Sharing some important insight on her principles of running a prosperous bar program, Kala emphasized, “I think what it takes now is what it has always been. Adaptability. And taking care of each other—not just your guests but your teammates as well. That is all. That’s the key.”

And as for the bartenders out there looking to sharpen their mixing game, she recommends “It’s important that bartenders know their worth. I like seeing the shift right now where bartenders take pride in their work and their team. Know your strengths. Don’t cling to an ego because it’ll fail you eventually.”

 

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