In the end of the 80’s business in Manchester was forced to change how it was done. With the opening of the Buckland Hills Mall, the Parkade (a strip mall in the center of town) lost half it’s business and hit equally hard was Main Street. A lot of mom and pop stores were forced to close in favor of big box retailers and huge national brands- a trend seen around the country.
In the last few years though, we have seen a come back of the American Main Street and Manchester is no different. Events like “Art in The Park”, a massive annual car show, 15,000 person road race, an art gallery (MCC on Main), and numerous new and exciting restaurants like Corey’s Catsup and Mustard featured on Diners, Drive In’s, and Dives have all paved the way for the reemergence of Main St.
The newest of these restaurants is 21 Oak, a vegetarian resturant with vegan and gluten free options. 21 Oak is located on Oak St just off the beaten path. It is the creation of Shawn Dickinsheets, a chef with an impressive resume.
-Studied at Le Cordon Bleu
-Studied at Culinary Institute of America
-35 years experience
-Certified Executive Chef of the American Culinary Federation C.E.C (think black belt of chefs)
-cooking vegetarian for a year and a half
-worked in 28 states as well as England and Canada
-featured on Food Network’s “Chopped”
As a guest on Chopped he was cut on the dinner round after he stumbled with the brussel sprouts. Shawn said, “I vowed never to be beaten by a vegetable again.” So when I saw brussel sprouts at the top of the menu, you know I had to try them. I can vouch of Shawn, he will not be beaten by a brussell sprout or any other vegetable ever again. They were pan seared in unfiltered extra virgin olive oil with corriander seeds, cumin, lemon and topped with vegan parmesean…you read that right vegan parmesean. They were amazing. I also tried the Navajo Chili which was root vegetables, heirloom bean blend, Chef Shawns chili spices, and chreme friache.
Shawn sources his food locally, uses cheese from Cato’s Corner and gets local eggs and fresh vegetables. He also uses vegan cheese, the same that topped the brussel sprouts (the base of that is cashews). It tastes great and you certainly wouldn’t assume it’s dairy free.
Although I just met Shawn, I sat at the counter and we talked like old friends. It was a honor to watch such a talented chef and Chopped contestant prepare high quality food for me without the stuffy atmosphere. Well done sir!
Bill Grimmeisen and Keith Press of the radio station y102.5 were there for the grand opening, which seen steady traffic all day long. 21 Oak is the only vegetarian restaurant in Manchester and its definitely one to try
21 Oak is located at 21 Oak St Manchester CT 06040 and their website is
Buy Local, Eat Healthy,
Live Fit CT!