O’So Eats is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year with a revised menu and updated dining room.
The restaurant was opened in September 2009 by three brothers — Pete, Jimmy and Spiro Strates, the sons of Duke’s Restaurant owner Paul Strates — plus their friend Sammy Gianopoulos. Gianapoulos left to work on other restaurants, including Fratellis Italian Steakhouse in Winston-Salem and Three Bulls Steakhouse in Clemmons. Three years ago, the Strates brothers took on a new partner, Johnny Faulkner, who started there as a server.
The four partners also own Sherwood Restaurant in Sherwood Plaza at 3348 Robinhood Road, and people visiting both restaurants will notice a few similarities, though the restaurants have distinct identities. (The Sherwood has a fifth, on-site partner, Kosta Janos.)
Earlier this year, the partners gave O’So’s dining room an update with new paint and artwork. They also revamped the menu to reflect the changing times and tastes of its loyal customers.
“We’ve adjusted with the times. We’ve added a lot more quick, casual items,” Pete Strates said.
“We felt at a certain point that we were starting to become stagnant,” Faulkner said. O’So used to be more formal, he said, which some customers misinterpreted as expensive. “So we had to change to be that family, neighborhood restaurant.”
O’So’s new slogan is “Casual American & World Flair.” The menu is as big and broad as ever. “I tell people the only thing we don’t sell is sushi and pizza,” Strates said with a laugh. That’s a slight exaggeration, but o’So does offer a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, entrees and pastas.
“We’re known for our pastas,” Strates said.
So such dishes as the Bayou ($8.59/$10.59), pasta with Cajun cream sauce, onion, bacon, mushrooms, tomato, spinach and choice of protein made the cut onto the new menu.
All in all, the new menu offers more sandwiches and salads. O’So also switched to one menu all day instead of separate lunch and dinner menus. As a result, all of the salads and pastas and some of the sandwiches are offered in small and large portions.
The Yasou salad ($5.29/$8.39) is essentially a Greek salad with the addition of dried cranberries. The Brie or Not to Brie ($5.29/$8.39) has spinach, onion, pecans, strawberries and brie with raspberry vinaigrette.
A new salad, the Yoko ($8.09/$10.89), has chicken salad with cranberries and pecans, plus apples, spinach, hard-cooked egg, grapes and creamy Italian dressing.
The new Club o’So ($8.99/$12.39) features turkey, bacon, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayonnaise. Also new is the Philly Philly ($9.69), with steak or chicken, mushrooms, onions, peppers, mozzarella and queso sauce on a sub roll.
There are several vegetarian options, including a vegan wrap ($8.79) and black-bean patty wrap ($9.49). And o’So makes its crab cakes gluten-free, with no bread crumbs — just crab, egg and mayonnaise.
Returning staples include the Plum Ribeye — along with the Drunken Ribeye the most expensive item on the menu at $24.99. The Drunken steak has a bourbon marinade and oysters; the Plum has an Asian plum-sauce reduction and shrimp.
Strates, 43, and Faulkner, 30, said that the Sherwood and o’So share a handful of dishes such as the Shrimp Bang ($8.29/$11.09), a salad of shrimp with Thai chili sauce, and the Heidi Jo chicken salad ($8.99). The Sherwood also has a cousin to the Club O’So, made the same way but with pastrami instead of salami.
“In general, the Sherwood is more home cooking,” Faulkner said. O’So, in contrast, is more fusion food, with a lot of sautéed items cooked to order.
Strates said he is grateful to his loyal staff and customers over the years. “It hasn’t always been easy,” he said. “But we take pride in what we do. It’s been a great 10 years. We’ve learned a lot.”
To show its appreciation, the restaurant will announce some anniversary specials this fall through its Facebook page.
Strates and Faulkner said that every restaurant is always trying to find its identity — one that clearly speaks to customers. “We’re still working on it,” Faulkner said with a smile, noting how the restaurant business is constantly evolving.
“But we want to be that Cheers kind of place, a family, neighborhood restaurant,” Faulkner said.
Or as Strates put it, “I don’t have a marketing plan. But I do have a following.”