From working in a family-owned restaurant at age 16, to taking a desk job in corporate America, Brooke Krizbai realized working for someone wasn’t an option anymore. Today, she owns two Oxford restaurants – Volta Taverna and Track 61.
“I’ve always loved the dynamic of people working together in restaurants, experiencing individual personalities, and I really, really love feeding people,” she said. “For about six years during undergrad and grad school, I worked for the Ajax Diner owner, Randy Yates, and one day he asked me if I wanted to open a restaurant with him.”
Without hesitation, she agreed. After four months of renovations and time spent crafting a menu, Volta Taverna opened in July of 2005. Krizbai later bought the restaurant from Yates.
Volta serves Mediterranean-inspired appetizers and entrees, such as Hotty Toddy Balls, Lemon Chicken Gyro and Volta Pizza. Don’t forget their famous margarita in many flavors and the popular patio.
“One morning, I was driving to Volta and saw a ‘For Rent’ sign in the Midtown Shopping Center across the street,” Krizbai said, “and my first thought was let me go check it out.”
She realized how much potential the large space could have and decided to open a second restaurant. After living in four New Jersey cities and visiting New York City, Krizbai developed a love for Italian food. She wanted to bring a fun, unique NYC-inspired vibe to Oxford.
The unique name came from the infamous secret subway station beneath the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan allegedly used as a secret escape train for presidents visiting the city in the past.
“Originally, I was supposed to be sharing this space with someone that was going to have half of the building for another business,” she said, “but everything worked out, and that’s why we now have the Waldorf/Sinatra bar for private events.”
Walk inside the restaurant, and you’ll see vibrant, eye-catching murals. Krizbai has a creative outlook with art and elements that evoke emotion.
“From the outside of the building, you don’t really know what to expect,” she said, “but when you walk in, I wanted people to feel like they weren’t in Oxford anymore.”
Track 61 offers daily specials and serves sophisticated drinks, appetizers, salads, main course meals and desserts. Some include the Strawberry Limoncello Prosecco cocktail, Arancini Balls, the Midtown Salad, Penne Alla Vodka, the Chicken Parmesan entrée, Uptown Alfredo, and the Lemon Ricotta Cookie served with vanilla bean gelato. Menu prices range from $8 to $30.
The menu is seasonal. Krizbai enjoys surprising customers with new entrees.
Andrew Sargent, Track 61’s kitchen manager, has worked his way up in the past year.
“Becoming a kitchen manager has been extremely tough, but well worth it,” he said. “I enjoy having the opportunity to work alongside Brooke Krizbai and help her create yummy meals for our customers.”
Sargent tries to ensure that each customer is satisfied. Each morning, he helps prep the kitchen to work that evening.
“The morning prep work is tedious,” he said. “Preparing the kitchen for evening service consists of chopping romaine lettuce, stemming spinach, creating different sauces for pastas, making our Italian meatballs, making/delivering catering orders, baking cookies, and that’s just to name a few,” he said.
His favorite menu items are the Uptown Alfredo and the Steak Diane meal. The Steak Diane is a Friday/Saturday steak special served with garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, and the steak is topped with a buttery cognac sauce all for $29.
To become a successful kitchen manager, Seargeant said you must put in many hours. “Be the first to arrive and the last to leave,” he said.
Employees refer to Brooke to as “Boss Lady B.” Goal-driven and charismatic, she said communication is key to running two businesses.
“I really value what the staff thinks,” she said, “and there have been many times that my staff has come to me to share their ideas regarding the restaurant…whether it could work or couldn’t. I still take the time to listen to my team.
“For any business owner, I think it takes a certain personality to do so, and you have to keep going, stay positive, relate to your employees to make sure they are also happy, and listen for any other helpful suggestions that could help your business.”
Krizbai said running a successful business is about finding people you work well with and can depend on. You need people with great communication skills. “And having managers with great leadership skills is really the key to success,” she said.
Track 61 is open almost every day for dinner, Monday through Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. with extended hours on Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and closed on Sunday.
For more information, visit www.TrackSixtyOne.com