New Restaurant Promises Friendly Local Experience


Bryan Rubin

Dana Juliano, Brad Pickens, and Allen Wilson are the owner and chefs for Oberlin’s newest restaurant, The Corner Joint, on East College Street, which opened April 20.

The Corner Joint has opened on East College Street as one of the newest restaurants in the area. Employing an eclectic, farm-to-fork menu, the restaurant opened its doors April 20 and has already attained a five-star rating on Facebook and Yelp.

The Corner Joint is in the location formerly occupied by India Garden, which closed its doors in February after serving Oberlin for just under two years. Owner Dana Juliano and her boyfriend, Head Chef Brad Pickens, hope to revitalize the space and make The Corner Joint the go-to spot for high-quality, locally-sourced food. The two run the restaurant with co-chef Allen Wilson.

Pickens draws from both his experience cooking for Michael Mina at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and his San Francisco upbringing, which Juliano fuses with her East Coast roots in Atlantic City. Meanwhile, Wilson brings a local touch, since he hails from Ohio. These varied backgrounds have resulted in what Juliano calls a “classic and new-age food concept.”

All three formerly worked together at Black River Cafe on South Main Street, and have been looking for a venue in which to start their own restaurant ever since they left after a change of ownership.

“Everybody’s enjoying the food,” Pickens said. “I just need more people to come because nobody seems to come to this end of the block, and I want to change that. I’ve been wanting to have my own place because I know what I’m doing, we make really good food, and I just like making people happy. It’s a lot of work, but I get satisfaction out of it.”

Originally, Pickens had attempted to buy Oberlin Kitchen, formerly Main Street Diner, but was stymied by the owner of Black River.

“When the owner of Black River Cafe heard [about Pickens buying Oberlin Kitchen], he went and paid cash for it,” Juliano said. “We saw his car there that Sunday, and [the sale] closed that Sunday. He paid $75,000 cash; the [seller] never returned Brad’s phone call.”

Despite that obstacle, staff are unfazed. With two weeks under their belt, Juliano feels confident that The Corner Joint will be a game-changer in the community.

“It’s not about the name, it’s not about the people as much as it is about the food,” Juliano said. “And then, of course, it’s about Brad and his vision: … good people, good business, local food, locally sourcing, local lettuce, local coffee — like, keep it here in town. This is a beautiful area for farming and everything, so we have the community in mind, we have the food in mind, the farms in mind. So I’m blown away by the success.”

Pickens spoke about how The Corner Joint ended up where it is today, which has been a long time coming.

“One of our regulars from Black River is the owner of the building where we are now, so she’s been trying to get me in here for a couple years,” Pickens said. “We finally made it happen, trying to do what we used to do there — everything from scratch, as much local and sustainable product as possible. I like to keep things simple yet perfect, very consistent. That’s what brings people back: consistency.”

The commercial front on East College Street has seen relatively high turnover in recent years. Before India Garden opened, Magpie Pizza closed in the spring of 2016. In fall of 2016, Tree Huggers Cafe also closed its doors while Cowhaus Creamery took the cafe’s space to downsize. Despite the patterns of turnover, Pickens said he has confidence that his establishment will last due to its inexpensive food and high quality.

“Things are just falling into place — it’s like the old Black Rivert’s The Corner Joint, that’s what it is,” Juliano said.

Juliano added that the cornerstone of The Corner Joint will be community, as the trio aims to bring folks together through their restaurant.

“We have the community in mind, we have the food in mind, we have the farms in mind,” she said. “I mean, I’m blown away by the success. I thought we were going to be sitting in an empty restaurant. This is about appreciating people.”

“Everyone was really friendly and accommodating,” said College senior Josh Biales, who ate at The Corner Joint for the first time earlier this week. “I hadn’t realized that there was even a storefront over there until India Garden hosted its closing banquet, so I was excited to find out that a new place was already coming in. Whenever I’m with friends and we don’t feel like waiting for a table at The Feve, someone’s always said, ‘Well, uh… how about Black River?’ with a bit of a shrug. Now, we have a much better alternative — and the mac and cheese is unbelievably good.”

Black River Cafe employees and management declined to comment for this article.