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Trends to Savor



It is a famously competitive and difficult industry. More of its businesses seem to close their doors than open in any given week, month or year, yet it continues to grow in total sales and number of operations. It requires a delicate balancing act combining art and creativity with a savvy business plan and, above all, a commitment to serve.

The good news about the restaurant business in general is that it is becoming more diverse and sophisticated. The better news for local food lovers is that Oklahoma City’s dining scene is thriving.

“Although it’s extremely competitive and always has been, if you are going to be in the restaurant business anywhere, Oklahoma City is a good place to be,” says Jim Hopper, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association. (See “By the Numbers.”)

A delicious duo – Asian Beef Carpaccio and Meatloaf Cupcakes – at Local in Norman - photo by David CobbHopper points to the success of the Thunder, MAPS 3 and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation as factors in the positive climate for restaurants. It is universally agreed in the business that the four pillars of a successful operation are quality food, atmosphere, cleanliness and service. But beyond these, certain trends are becoming apparent on the local scene.

“There is a strong growth in independent restaurants that are concentrating on one specialty area or unique concept, such as coffee, tacos or chicken,” says Margaret Holloway of Café 501 and Boulevard Steakhouse. “There also seems to be a rise in supporting our local resources, local produce and other growers.”

“More and more people are aware of what they consume and they expect their restaurants to provide lots of options,” adds Melissa Scaramucci of Local in Norman. “The modern diner is becoming very well educated.”

Young chefs are introducing new ideas to Oklahomans. Hopper cites the nationally renowned internship program run by Kurt Fleischfresser at The Coach House as a breeding ground for creativity in cuisine. That creativity is moving Oklahoma City beyond its heritage as a “steak and potatoes” town.

“More restaurants than ever have been introducing new and unique items into the market,” says Keith Paul of A Good Egg Dining Group. “We are seeing more adventurous diners than ever before.”

Scaramucci agrees. “I see diners who are discerning and well-traveled and their expectation level for great food is high. They know when their risotto is cooked well, they appreciate a wild-caught fish and they want to know about the bok choy we got from a farm near Tulsa.”

Despite certain very real concerns – the ongoing drought, which has led to higher commodity prices, and the fear of a fallback into recession – Hopper foresees the industry continuing to grow. “Lots of restaurateurs are looking for new concepts, expanding beyond what they have done before. It’s a good time for restaurants in Oklahoma City.”


Trials and Triumphs

Three restaurateurs with varying degrees of experience share some personal anecdotes about highs and lows in the industry

Margaret Holloway, Café 501 and Boulevard Steakhouse

The high: “An elderly lady told me that she had driven to Boulevard to pick up a gift certificate for her son, who had just survived brain tumor surgery. She wanted to surprise him and celebrate his recovery. I gave her a complimentary gift certificate. Six months later she came in with her whole family, and it was wonderful; they had a great time and I could tell it was a special time for them as a family.”

The low: “We try to make a difference in the lives of the employees who work in the restaurant. Trying to decide when they need a break and a second chance or when it is time to say goodbye is difficult. We try to be role models for them, but sometimes their best lesson is the hardest one to swallow. Learning that the grass isn’t always greener is one learned over time.”

Keith Paul, A Good Egg Dining Group

The high: “Our focus from day one has been on our people, so the best moments come when longstanding employees gradually move up through the company. Our lead cook at Cheever’s and very good friend, Juan, has been by my side for all 12 years in business. His son, who was 10 years old when Juan started, is now the lead grill cook at Red PrimeSteak.”

The low: “The most frustrating moment came when another local restaurant decided to question our ethics, our mission and operations via social media. Most of us have a certain mutual bond to stick together, help each other out when needed, [but] this has happened a couple of times and unfortunately, I expect it will happen again.”

Melissa Scaramucci, Local

The high: “We had a web reservation for two on the patio, [but] our patio was booked for a party that same night. The couple had gotten engaged on our patio, though, and were getting married on Friday, and were eating with us to celebrate. So we got some beautiful new plants, some new furniture, moved some of our existing patio furniture and furnishings and created a wonderful dining environment just for them, and for the big party. We made them a little red velvet cake and toasted them with champagne – it was an awesome ‘make it work’ moment and I’m thrilled to say we did it. Being part of someone’s life event is absolutely the best part of owning a restaurant.”

The low: “We constantly strive for perfection. We call it ‘Respect the Soup’ here. We put so much effort into just making soup – from sourcing our food direct from farmers to processing it ourselves. But all that hard work vaporizes as soon as someone has to wait for their water to be refilled, or their ravioli is cold, or someone’s steak isn’t temped correctly; and then that customer doesn’t come back and all the work was for nothing. So constant training, vigilance and flawless execution in the front and back of the house is critical to our philosophy and success. We have to Respect the Soup.”

By the Numbers

» Oklahoma restaurants will generate a projected $4.9 billion in sales in 2012.
» There are over 5,800 eating and drinking establishments in Oklahoma.
» Every dollar spent in Oklahoma’s restaurants generates an additional 95 cents in sales for the state economy.
» In 2012 restaurants in Oklahoma employ over 153,000 people, which is 10 percent of all employment in the state.

(Statistics courtesy Oklahoma Restaurant Association)

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Calendar

April 2019

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 »

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Celebrate Easter with a trip to Andy Alligator’s Fun Park! On Saturday and Sunday, get $5 off an All-Day Pass with our Eggcellent Easter Special. All-Day Passes include Go-Karts,...

Cost: $23.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Pl
Norman, OK  73072
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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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The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
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

The OSU Symphony Orchestra will conclude the 2018-19 season with Schubert's monumental and majestic Symphony No. 9 in C ("The Great"). The concert opens with The European Anthem,...

Cost: General Admission: $10; Students & Seniors: $7

Where:
Oklahoma State University Department of Music
132 Seretean Ctr
Stillwater, OK  74078
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Sponsor: Oklahoma State University Department of Music
Telephone: 405.744.6133
Contact Name: Dr. Thomas Dickey
Website »

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The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
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

Potbelly Sandwich Shop is giving back to the local neighborhood with Feed Your Smile, a fundraiser supporting Concordia Life Care Community.  Show this flyer on your smartphone or...

Cost: Free

Where:
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
8500 N Rockwell Ave
OKC, OK  73132
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Sponsor: Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Telephone: 405-792-5112
Contact Name: Katy Fabrie
Website »

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The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

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...

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

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

"Deliberately silencing the internal chatter and not overthinking. Conscious, but not over-trying. With this approach, things just seem to happen—it’s where all the substance is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Individual Artists of Oklahoma
706 W. Sheridan Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: Individual Artists of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405.412.2541
Contact Name: David Smith

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Shop over 200 vendors at this indoor event with everything from vintage furniture, retro and mid-century decor to handmade goods, antiques, industrial finds and architectural salvage!

Cost: $5 at the door, 13 and under free

Where:
Heritage Place
2829 S. MacArthur
Oklahoma City, OK  73128
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Sponsor: Junk Hippy
Contact Name: Kristen Grandi
Website »

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A Sporting Chance will host the 25th annual Track and Field Meet at Branson Junior High in Branson, Missouri. A Sporting Chance provides year-round sports and recreation programs designed for those...

Where:
Branson Junior High
263 Buccaneer Boulevard
Branson, MO  65616
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Sponsor: A Sporting Chance
Telephone: 404-314-2188
Contact Name: Hannah Schachinger

More information

RexFest will feature an interactive art exhibit called a luminarium created by Architects of Air. From April 25-28, visitors can walk through the inflatable sculpture, which disperses light and...

Cost: $8 for kids; $10 for adults; $30 for families of four

Where:
Together Square
400 W Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Delta Dental

More information

This one-day festival is rooted in the printing of large-scale woodblocks carved by local Oklahoma artists. We bring in a 5-ton steamroller and print pre-carved blocks throughout the day on Tyvek...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Contact Name: Evan
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

The Annual Mentorship Exhibition features pieces from Oklahoma City high school students that visit the Artspace studio each month. Throughout the duration of the program, the students engage with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Sponsor: Artspace at Untitled
Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Andy Alligator's is celebrating teachers! On Saturday and Sunday, teachers with a valid ID will receive a FREE All-Day Pass and $5 off for each family member! An All-Day Pass includes...

Cost: Teachers receive a FREE All-Day Pass; family members get $5 off

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Pl
Norman, OK  73072
View map »

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America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

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Get a sample of the nightlife of Spain at Tulsa Botanic Garden's "Viva La Vida." The Garden is bringing star chef Jamie Bissonnette (Toro restaurants in Boston, NYC, Bangkok and...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Dr
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
Website »

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2nd annual gathering of "The Big Lebowksi" fans at The Dude Abides OKC All Oklahoma City Urban Achievers, Abiders and Coen Brothers fans are invited to join us at Fassler Hall OKC and...

Cost: Free, contests have entry fee

Where:
Fassler Hall
421 NW 10th
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Revolve Productions
Telephone: 405.810.6977
Contact Name: Tobi Coleman
Website »

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