Okra’s was opened at the corner of Center and Battle streets in Manassas in October 1998. It was the place that brought “New Orleans to Manassas” including the first Mardi Gras parade complete with marching bands, costumes, food and live music. The traditions still continue today and Okra’s growing list of events now includes crawfish boils, local festivals and the addition of a sidewalk café. Over the years, Okra’s has grown into a cornerstone business and has become the heart of Old Town’s Entertainment District. As a popular gathering place for locals and area visitors, Okra’s guests can be found nightly enjoying happy hour specials, chatting around the bar or dining on authentic Cajun cuisine.
Owner Charles Gilliam never envisioned Okra’s as the restaurant it is today. With a current staff of 25 employees, numerous accolades and a major reconstruction under its belt, Okra’s is much different than it was 13 years ago. “The idea was to have a small Mom and Pop kind of place. Okra’s was to be a restaurant where folks could come in and have a relaxing meal on some of America’s best cuisine. Cajun food and Louisiana culture is real…honest, unpretentious and alive with flavor and color.” And while guests today can still get a delicious meal and warm welcome, much about the restaurant has undergone dramatic change.
The building that houses Okra’s was built in 1903 from handmade bricks that were crafted and laid by local brick-mason Donation Libeau. When a 1906 fire destroyed much of Old Town Manassas, Libeau and nearby locals, put up a manual fight to save the structure. The building survived through these efforts and stands proudly as a landmark in Old Town.
In October 2005, Gilliam decided that the restaurant needed a new look and a major reconstruction took place. The result is Okra’s as it’s known today with lively paintings, a fun interior and Nawlins feel. Shortly after the reconstruction, Foundation was opened on the opposite side of Okra’s. Foundation served an upscale, city cuisine and offered nightly seatings and a fabulous Sunday brunch. While it also developed a loyal fan base, Foundation was a contrast to the unique, casual dining experience of its counterpart. With Okra’s growing lunch and dinner crowds, Foundation was closed in 2009 to allow more room for Okra’s expanding clientele and special events.
The Okra’s menu is redone seasonally to offer only the best and freshest ingredients prepared by a highly trained staff that has included Gilliam himself. He served as Executive Chef at Okra’s for the first 8 years and has worked with some of the most famous names of creole cuisine including Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse and Jamie Shannon. Gilliam has been a guest chef at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans and has staffed his restaurant with only the most highly skilled and imaginative talent to offer the finest creole dishes. Most recently Gilliam worked with Carla Hall who cooked for an intimate group at Okra’s.
At Okra’s you are sure to find a restaurant rich in local history and alive with color, flavor and some of the best food in Manassas. Don’t take our word for it. Come on in and experience it for yourself.