Oxford Canteen is bringing fresh, seasonal ingredients with a twist. The former pop-up restaurant in the alley next to The Lyric Oxford has moved to North Lamar, joining in the restaurant nook that includes the likes of Volta, Big Bad Breakfast, Neon Pig and Handy Andy Grocery.
“The alley location brought an urban sensibility that Corbin has from working in places like New Orleans and Philadelphia, and that was interesting and unique to Oxford, but ultimately, it wasn’t always convenient,” co-owner Cynthia Joyce said. “There was no roof, no climate control and inherent limits to what could be done. The space and the style of the food is all matched up, and it makes sense where it is now.”
Chef Corbin Evans has worked in the culinary arts for almost 30 years and has been with the restaurant both in its original and updated location, introducing new dishes and bringing with him experiments and experiences abroad.
“There’s room in Oxford to build the things you want to see and to create the things you’ve seen elsewhere,” Joyce said. “I’ve seen it happen in just the five-plus years we’ve been here. It’s cool to be a part of that.”
Evans is a member of Oxford Community Market’s board and offers seasonal dishes at Canteen that reflect ingredients grown locally to ensure the freshest experience. When the couple stayed in London this past summer, Evans frequently ordered the full English breakfast, a traditional English dish with a popularity most akin to America’s morning bacon and eggs. He brought the idea to Canteen, serving the menu item as a vegetarian option with white beans, roasted mushrooms and tomatoes, braised turnip and kale, and two eggs cooked to order.
“Corbin gets really excited about changing up the menu frequently and adding specials every day — a different soup or salad based on what’s available nearby and fresh,” Joyce said. “That really informs his cooking as a matter of habit. It’s not even him trying to adhere to a philosophy. It’s just the way he’s always cooked.”
More than just the location changed in the move from the Square to North Lamar. Canteen is now serving beer with lunch and is working on being open for dinner with an independent menu that includes wine options.
In August, Canteen participated in a collaborative supper with Grit, a Southern-style restaurant owned by husband and wife Nick Reppond and Angie Sicurezza in the Plein Air neighborhood in Taylor. Canteen is planning some similar collaborations in the future so follow “The New Oxford Canteen” on Facebook to stay up-to-date.
You can catch Canteen’s food again at the Chicory Market, a full-service grocery located further down North Lamar. The official opening is this Sunday, and Evans will be contributing his dishes.
For vegetarians and gluten-free diners, Canteen offers menu items Joyce assures are not afterthoughts. They are carefully selected recipes that are as seamlessly incorporated into the menu as the more mainstream options.
“It’s not always easy to get fresh salads and dirty grains in the same place as chorizo tacos and brisket grilled cheese, but Canteen offers that kind of experience,” Joyce said.
The new Canteen is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Dinner hours and menu are to be added this month.
“I think what we do is unique to Oxford and provides a different atmosphere from the normal, everyday restaurants and the more well-known tourist destinations,” Evans said. “We’re not trying to be different, but we’re also not geared towards attracting football weekend tourists as much as we want students, business people and the everyday visitor. We have our own niche.”