“The Little Oak” – A Sequel to Binghamton’s Beloved Red Oak Diner
The Broome County woman who helped operate the Red Oak Diner in Binghamton for decades is preparing to open a new restaurant.
Julianne Ludka and her daughter, Maria Olsen, are busy setting up a place in Conklin they plan to call "The Little Oak Neighborhood Bistro & Bakery."
Ludka operated the Red Oak on Front Street in Binghamton with her partner Michael Kapogiannatos for about 35 years. The restaurant closed its doors in October 2020 after dealing with challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kapogiannatos died in July 2021. Ludka considered reopening the Red Oak but she decided she couldn't do it without her longtime partner.
Ludka said she "tried to work a normal job" but that didn't work out. She still had a desire to run a restaurant and decided to start a new one with her daughter.
A few months ago, they settled on a building at 1108 Conklin Road which most recently had housed Tonarlo's Pizza. After acquiring the property a short distance from Susquehanna Valley High School, they and other family members began preparing the place for their new venture.
As she discussed "The Little Oak" on Tuesday, Ludka stressed "it's not the Red Oak." It will be smaller than the diner that became a fixture on Front Street in Binghamton. But the new eatery will have some of the features that made the Red Oak popular, including homemade soups.
Ludka said The Little Oak also will offer some late-afternoon family-style takeout specials designed to provide affordable meals. She also is promising a "Sicilian Special," in the tradition of a memorable item that was featured by Pino's restaurant on Binghamton's South Side.
Renovation work is continuing and kitchen equipment still must be installed at The Little Oak.
During a tour of the place on Tuesday, Ludka said: "I'm a little scared." Olsen said: "I'm really excited."
They don't have a specific opening date yet but they expect the restaurant will be open by the end of the year.
VIDEO: Julianne Ludka and Maria Olsen discuss their plans for The Little Oak.
Remember the Red Oak Restaurant in Binghamton
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