I've always loved October. Flora is in full regalia for its last fashion show, summer's hiccups butt into winter's tentative icy thrusts, and animals are ferociously busy with gathering, storing and various forms of copulation wherever the eye may fall. The best part of October, though, has to be the supernatural event that peeks out from the edge of the calendar - that beautiful, exuberantly wicked holiday that provokes us to worship the dead, revel in the unknown and rally for all that is spooky. Halloween has to be the greatest lasting expression of residual pagan ritual, tapping into our fear, perversion and lust for candy in one simultaneous, glorious, holy night.
Being in the food and drink writing business, I decided to pay all the respect I could muster to this great holiday, and went on the search for a haunted restaurant. Asking around, I could find neither employee nor patron with a story anymore haunting than missing saltshakers and banshee-like head waitresses. So I went looking for a haunted restaurant on my own.
Yesterday, I drove through Oakbrook's notorious enormous puddles of water to the Oakhouse Restaurant & Bar, sure to feel some leftover presence in the surrounding oak trees, or perhaps a specter in the pro shop - but instead I ate my mac and cheese with only a sole happy bartender as company.
Really, food does a lot of its own haunting, and a restaurant is teeming with ghosts - memories so powerful that they seem to beckon from beyond the present time, circumstance and behavior. I don't need a plate of mac and cheese to float across the room to feel the presence of something untouchable at the table with me. The sixth sense is probably the most powerful tool when it comes to eating, and it is created by thousands of experiences, feelings and residual spirit. We're all haunted every day.
I grew up in the Lakewood neighborhood of Oakbrook. The Oakbrook Golf & Country Club was my playground. It was where I experienced my first kiss. It was where I experienced my first dance. It was where I experienced what scotch can do to a body (that's for another scary story day). I was fortunate to have grown up in such a happy, safe environment during the '70s. I also ate a lot of mac and cheese, burgers and fries in the old clubhouse.
Professional golfer Ryan Moore and his buddies bought the Oakbrook Golf & Country Club several years ago and renamed it the Oakbrook Golf Club, opened it up to the public, remodeled the clubhouse's interior, let the weeds have our Turkey Bowl field and sold the pool and tennis courts to condo developers. They saved the golf course from fiancial ruin, but eerie fencing and weeds haunts those who once filled the area with smiles, laughter and first-wedgie screams.
Just as you might be dressing up today, the Oakhouse dresses up its mac and cheese. Named after Moore, its Mac and Moore Cheese takes a pile of fun creste pasta, tosses in Beecher's Flagship white cheddar, thin onion stripes, a touch of garlic and 10,000 toasted bread crumbs, then serves it in a ginormous, heated bowl. This is the stinkiest macaroni and cheese I have tasted or smelled since I began ... but in a good way. The combination of the robust Beecher's Flagship semi-hard cow's milk cheese, onions and tinge of garlic give rise to a unique taste that's a welcome change from standard strong cheddar flavors. Panko breadcrumbs provide a wonderful buttery crunch.
Yes, I prefer the old Oakbrook, but this mac and cheese dish helps create new wonderful memories.
OAKHOUSE RESTAURANT & BAR, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, 8102 Zircon Dr. SW, Lakewood, 253.584.8888