That will change Monday when Hubbard’s Off Main — at 20 Choccolocco Street in the city's historic downtown shopping area — opens to the public.
The staff spent Friday flurrying around the restaurant, readying tables and wiping down windows in preparation for a soft opening to take place that evening for friends, family and food vendors.
Owner and Oxford City Councilwoman Charlotte Hubbard also owns Hubbard House Antiques, several doors down from the restaurant.
The restaurant is in a space that once housed Mr. Robertson’s Cash Store, a popular general store during the 1940s and 1950s. The original lettering denoting the former business — left on one of two front windows — and the exposed red-brick walls and rough-sawn timber beams inside reflect the building's history.
“I think the response is going to be very favorable,” Hubbard said.
Shoppers at her antique store often ask Hubbard if there is a nearby restaurant, and she usually refers them to Garfrerick’s Café across Quintard Avenue or to the many chain restaurants around the Oxford Exchange shopping center.
The downtown area lacked a restaurant of its own, Hubbard explained, for people to gather for a meal, to socialize and to shop. Spurred by that fact, Hubbard decided to open her own, and began work on the building in June.
She also believes the restaurant will attract more of those shoppers to the area, and keep them there a little longer.
Larry Fidel, president of the Alabama Restaurant Association, said Hubbard’s belief is well-founded.
“Having a restaurant there will allow people that might want to go shop, take some time and grab a bite to eat, extending their shopping hours,” Fidel said. “There is definitely a correlation between retail and helping restaurants and restaurants helping retail.”
Each dollar spent in the state’s restaurants create an additional 91 cents for Alabama’s economy, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Fidel said that statewide, the restaurant industry has recovered from the impact of the Great Recession.
“As the economy improves there’s more disposable income, and people are eating out more, so the industry is doing well,” Fidel said.
Sam Stinson, one of the owners of Stinson Howard Fine Jewelry on Main Street in Oxford, said he is looking forward to the restaurant opening, and to what it could mean for his and other local businesses.
“We’re excited about it,” Stinson said, adding that there hasn’t been a restaurant in the downtown area in many decades.
“Since I can remember, and I’ve been here a long time,” Stinson said. His downtown business has been there for more than 20 years, he said.
Head chef Brett Jenkins, 34, most recently worked at Effina’s Tuscan Grill in Jacksonville, and has worked in fine dining restaurants in Alaska and at the Isle Royal National Park in Michigan.
Jenkins described the food at Hubbard's Off Main as "upscale Southern." The lunch menu has familiar foods such as hamburgers, sandwiches, oven-roasted chicken and bone-in pork chops, but also less common additions such as a chipotle chicken salad, freshly-made brioche buns and in-house pimento cheese.
The dinner menu includes mainstays such as prime rib, filet mignon and lasagna, coupled with herb-crusted pork tenderloin and Dijon-and-pecan crusted salmon.
The restaurant has a contract with the Honolulu Fish Company, which Jenkins said will fly in fresh, line-caught fish in a days notice.
The Oxford bakery Too Nice to Slice will provide desserts for the restaurant, and there is a large selection of red, white and sparkling wines and bottled beers.
Hubbard said that in addition to regular hours, the restaurant will open off-hours to accommodate patrons of the Oxford Performing Arts Center, two doors down on Choccolocco Street.
Beginning Monday, Hubbard’s Off Main will be open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m to 2 p.m. and for dinner Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. The restaurant can be reached at 256-403-0258.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.