Get ready West Homewood—one of your neighbors is bringing a new open fire dining concept to the former Oak & Raleigh location at 705 Oak Grove Road.  “We want it to be a place to have friends in and get to serve them,” Mark says. Starting sometime in early 2018, Ash will be serving lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday as well as breakfast on Sundays. Until then, here’s a preview of what you’ll find.

Tell us about your background in food.

I grew up in North Alabama with a lot of family who had farms, and I had a grandmom who cooked exclusively from scratch. She’d start on Saturday and have paper bag after paper bag filled with beans and corn and everything else. We’d eat there every Sunday after church—a smorgasbord. I never processed how much work went into that at the time until later in life when I was cooking. I went to college and found a job as dishwasher, and I started cooking because they needed me to cook one night. That’s how it all began. I went to culinary school at Johnson and Whales in Charlotte. I came back and started worked my way up to sous chef at Highlands Bar and Grill, and they later moved me to Bottega Café to be a kitchen manager. And then I went to Brick and Tin and helped Mauricio Papapietro open the Mountain Brook location, and I was the kitchen manager there. Now I am at Time Inc. where I am the food studios director and test and develop for Southern Living and Coastal Living.

Why open a restaurant in West Homewood? Why now?

The dream was always to have my own place. I am an English major, creative writing minor, so I have a creative drive in me and it all comes out in food. The best way for me to express that is to cook for other people. That location opened up, and it is three blocks from my house. Getting to share that with my neighborhood, getting to share that with people that I know and love and care about and being close to home is why it’s now and where it is.

What is the concept behind Ash?

Open fire, smoky, rustic, comfort food more elevated is where we are going with it. I want it to be a neighborhood joint. Part of that reason the name is Ash is we are going to have a wood fire grill in the kitchen, and my wife’s name is Ashley. An element of every plate—that could mean the protein, the vegetable or the sauce element—is going to pass over that grill. It will be American food but heavily influenced with Southern flavors and ingredients. Areas globally that use open fire cooking inspired me to use something with a lot of flavor and depth from the fire with something very fresh like a salsa or a harissa.

Can you give us a menu sneak peek?

At lunch we will have a burger we will do in-house, grind our own meat, cut our own fries. We will have another one or two sandwich options that will rotate out. We will have a signature salad and another that will rotate out seasonally. Everything else will rotate out. That’s the way I cook. For dinner we will have some small bites and snacks, $2-5 for a deviled egg or skewer. We will have some small plates that will be more composed and then we will have some more fine dining feeling dishes. But we still have a burger and a salad, and we will have a kids’ menu.

What will be the feel of the interior?

We are looking for an indoor cookout/picnic feel but more elevated. We will also have a picnic idea where people can come in, get a picnic basket and blanket, pay a small deposit so we can get our blanket back, and you can go across the street to Patriot Park and have a picnic.