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Avant Gourmet | By Kelly Twedell and Rebekah Sanderlin

Tim and Gwen Holtsclaw didn’t mean to become restaurant owners. They only meant to buy and resell some equipment from a restaurant that was going out of business. They made a low-ball bid on the equipment and the sellers called their bluff. “I knew nothing about restaurants,” Gwen Holtsclaw said. “I’d never served anyone food I didn’t share DNA with or was not in love with.” But they knew how to run a business and Tim knew that he longed for a place on the north side of town to go for a great steak, a drink and to watch a game on TV. And the location was terrific rand near where the Holtsclaws live.

Almost by accident, in three days time, they were in the restaurant business. It wasn’t long before they had opened Scrub Oaks, a Ramsey Street restaurant that is popular with the locals and exactly what Tim and Gwen had in mind, even if it is hard to define. “When people say to me, ‘I don’t know if this is the classiest sports bar I’ve ever seen or if it’s a fancy restaurant,’ I take that as a huge compliment,” Gwen said. Even the restaurant’s name is indicative of its eclectic style. Tim said that he struggled for a while to find the perfect name. One day, while playing golf at King’s Grant, he glanced to the side of the 18th fairway and saw a beautiful scrub oak tree. He’d noticed that tree and all the other scrub oaks there many times before, but on that day the tree really spoke to him. “It’s a mutant tree and it grows in all directions,” Tim said. “In the fall the leaves are really gorgeous and then two weeks later the leaves drop off and it looks totally different. That’s exactly like our restaurant. I came home and told Gwen that I wanted to call the restaurant Scrub Oaks.”

Scrub Oaks’ menu is a mix of high-end gourmet offerings and pub grub. The kitchen is just as comfortable turning out burgers and fries as it is lobster penne and filet mignon. The menu is diverse and brings a fresh approach to classic favorites. In the year and a half since it opened, the restaurant, with its private dining area, has become a favorite for military functions, other special events and a favorite stop for north side residents and Methodist University students and faculty. Methodist students can even eat at Scrub Oaks as part of the King Cash meal plan. Tim and Gwen have also proven themselves to be masters at internet marketing. They use social media to get the word out about their restaurant. Using their Facebook page and emails to their “E-Crowd”, they tell Scrub Oaks’ loyal customers about discounts, deals and special events.

Tim and Gwen said that when they opened the restaurant they hoped it would be somewhere they would want to go to hang out with their friends, a place that wouldn’t get boring for them. They seem to have hit their mark. “We are always trying new things, always changing, always moving in a different direction,” Tim said. We’re not any particular thing, but we’ve been able to tie it all in together.”