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Memories of The Cellar at Hightower

Haute cuisine below the downtown ground



 


 

Fifty years is a pretty long time in the life of a city, especially if that city is only around 126 years old to begin with. Consider Oklahoma City in the 1960s: The clothes were different, the cars were different, the politics were different … and dining out was about to reach new heights by going underground.

In 1964, Chef John Bennett took a small tearoom in the basement of the Hightower Building at 105 N Hudson and turned it into one of Oklahoma City’s premier dining establishments. The Cellar at Hightower introduced Oklahomans to fine dining unlike anything they had seen before.

“We set the standard,” Bennett recently told 405 Magazine. “There was nothing like it in Oklahoma City then. It was elegant, it was pricey and it was a totally new experience.”

Diners entered via stairs or an elevator into a foyer with black and white marble floors. Down the hall was the main dining room.

“Mr. Hightower wanted everything to be opulent,” Bennett says. “He owned The Store at Hightower, which was next door to the restaurant, and it carried Waterford china and Baccarat crystal. Downstairs in The Cellar, the red carpeting had gold wreaths, the tablecloths were snowy white and the damask napkins complemented the china and silver, which was stamped with the Hightower family crest.”

Chef John Bennett (second from left) and a staff of skilled cooks and waiters created marvelous dining experiences in The Cellar at Hightower, a culinary jewel beneath its namesake building.


The menu was equally elegant. Cellar specialties included New England clam chowder, Filet of Beef Lucius Beebe and Chicken sauté with Scotch whiskey, morels and cream. The dessert cart featured Mama Bennett’s four-layer coconut cake, luscious chocolate mousse and Cellar three-layer chocolate cake with fudge filling and White Mountain icing.

Notable patrons included everyone from Boston Pops maestro Arthur Fiedler to legendary Broadway star Carol Channing.

The Cellar closed in 1984, but Bennett says it remains today just as it was when they turned out the lights.

“It is really like a time capsule,” he says. “The fine paintings that hung on the walls are still in storage there; the stock pot remains, and on a recent trip back, I opened a cabinet and found about 150 fish knives,” he laughed. “Those were good days.” 

 

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March 2019

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Cost: Free

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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
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Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
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Cost: $12.50

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Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

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Cost: $28.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
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Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

From March 18-22, we are having a BLAST and celebrating the ultimate Spring Break! Buy an Ultimate Fun Wristband for anyone aged 8 and under and they can enjoy our additional attractions, the...

Cost: $28.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
Norman, OK  73072
View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Contact Name: Andy Alligator's MLK weekend fun!
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

From March 18-22, we are having a BLAST and celebrating the ultimate Spring Break! Buy an Ultimate Fun Wristband for anyone aged 8 and under and they can enjoy our additional attractions, the...

Cost: $28.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
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View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Contact Name: Andy Alligator's MLK weekend fun!
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

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Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

From March 18-22, we are having a BLAST and celebrating the ultimate Spring Break! Buy an Ultimate Fun Wristband for anyone aged 8 and under and they can enjoy our additional attractions, the...

Cost: $28.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
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View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Contact Name: Andy Alligator's MLK weekend fun!
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

From March 18-22, we are having a BLAST and celebrating the ultimate Spring Break! Buy an Ultimate Fun Wristband for anyone aged 8 and under and they can enjoy our additional attractions, the...

Cost: $28.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
Norman, OK  73072
View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Contact Name: Andy Alligator's MLK weekend fun!
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

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Cost: $12.50

Where:
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Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

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