James Beard winner Anne Kearney to open Oak & Ola in Armature Works

Published September 6 2018
Updated September 6 2018

TAMPA — It was always part of the plan for the 22,000-square-foot Heights Public Market at Armature Works to have two anchor restaurants in addition to the fourteen quick-serve vendors. The developers debuted Steelbach, a sprawling steaks and chops beauty overseen by Tampa native Nathan Hardin, just weeks after the rest of the vendors were up and running.

Then, for months, nothing. Until now.

This week it leaked in an email to her followers that James Beard award-winner Anne Kearney from Dayton, Ohio is coming to Tampa to open Oak & Ola on the west side of the building close to the west lawn. Kearney is currently traveling from Dayton to Tampa and unavailable for comment, but Armature Works director of marketing Lauren Mooser fleshed out some of the details.

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With the temporary tagline of "Curiosity Awaits," the cuisine will have Euro-American roots and seat 100. Kearney got her start at Bistro at the Maison de Ville and Peristyle with John Neal and as line cook and culinary assistant at Emeril Lagasse’s Emeril’s, eventually buying Peristyle from Neal’s estate in 1995. She won a Beard award as "Southeast Regional Best Chef" in 2002, largely on the strength of her French Provencal fare.

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Increasingly, high-profile and celebrity chefs from elsewhere in the country have begun looking to the Tampa Bay area as fertile ground for expansion or trying out new concepts (from Michael Mina’s Locale Market in St. Petersburg to the soon-to-open Top Chef Fabio Viviani’s Osteria in Tampa). It is not known yet what drew Kearney to Tampa and Armature Works, although in her email to her followers she compared this Tampa venture to her stint in New Orleans.

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"Looking forward to expanding my culinary reach with a whole new group of restaurant industry professionals, plus a vast new clientele base to tap into," Kearney wrote, "plus the constant moving flow of tourism and conventions."

According to her email, menu tastings begin Sept. 11, but that sure sounds ambitious.

According to Mooser, the menu and concept are still under development. Above Oak & Ola, a rooftop bar will be among the next additions to Armature Works.

Contact Laura Reiley at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.

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