Grill gives back to community in a savory way

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Texas barbecue — cooked for hours in a smoker — is the inspiration behind OakFire Grill restaurant, which opened in September on Highway 49 in North Auburn. “I’ve been smoking meats for 15 years,” co-owner Frank Welch said this week. Welch and his wife, Teresa, have put together a menu of traditional barbecue, Southern favorites such as collard greens, New Orleans’ red beans and rice and even veggie wraps and vegetarian pizza. The menu is a work in progress. “We had five friends-and-family nights where everyone would come in and make comments,” he said. “We built recipes around the community.” This is the couple’s first foray into the world of food service. Teresa Welch was previously a high school teacher and Frank Welch runs Commercial Restaurant Services, a company that builds eateries. They’ve completely remodeled the building, infusing it with a Western-style atmosphere. “We redid the walls, floors and many of the windows, and added a patio,” Frank Welch said. Centerpiece in the kitchen is a 500-pound smoker. “It runs pretty much 24 hours a day and smokes up to 500 pounds of meat,” he said. That includes pork shoulder, brisket and buffalo wings. “We use a rub and then smoke them for four hours,” he explained about the buffalo wings. “It’s a different type than your traditional fried wing and a lot more healthy, too.” The pastries and desserts, like everything else on the menu, are made in-house, Frank Welch said. And one night a month, proceeds from the sale of pastries and desserts go to help the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn. Randy Tooker, chief professional officer at the club, is appreciative of the contributions. “We’ve used the money from them to help support the Power Hour,” he said. “We need the support of individuals and old and new businesses in the community to support youth development programs for the kids.” The Welches donate to other local organizations as well, including having an evening for the Bear River High School wrestling team, where they gave back 15 percent of the proceeds, Teresa Welch said. Kitchen administrator Dean Haitt, previously with BJ’s Brewhouse, joined the restaurant staff, and Louisiana transplant Charles Brown was brought on as executive chef. “He’s a New Orleans barbecue chef and he’s done some great things with authentic New Orleans dishes,” Frank Welch said. Brown is looking to add even more spice to the selection. “I have a couple of ideas, possibly a barbecue shrimp dish,” he said. A 2,500-square-foot brewpub and full bar addition to the restaurant opened Jan. 29 and will feature live music on weekends with local groups like The Krates, Lightning Hand and Double Shots. All three groups have performed at the restaurant in recent weeks. For Valentine’s Day, the duo of Billy Bensing and Kellie Garmire will perform soft romantic music, Teresa Welch said. For Teresa, the interaction with the community and giving back are the most satisfying parts of the venture. “It has been a good feeling for Frank and I,” she said. “We enjoy meeting our guests. We’ve spent a lot of time talking to our guests. We’ve donated to at least 25 charities.” The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia. com or comment at OakFire Grill Where: 2515 Grass Valley Highway Hours: Open 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday with bar open until midnight. Closed Monday. Reservations recommended for dinner. Takeout service and catering also available Call: (530) 823-7600 Web site: