Summer is going to be busy on the food scene in the 405. The big hospitality companies are opening familiar names in new places, and some independent operators are diversifying the foodscape. We start with two sad notices, though. We wanted to take a brief moment to acknowledge the passing of Kefren Arjona, one of the wonderful humans who owned Unwind Cafe in Uptown 23rd. His smile and hospitality will be missed by all who knew him, and we are grieved for his wife Maria and friend Chef Mikel Pichs.
The newly repurposed Union at SoSA has already shuttered. Business never reached the level necessary to keep the doors open in spite of the excellent food, and so the building — which has yet to see a successful tenant — is vacant again. The staff has already found other positions in and out of the company, thanks in part to the staff shortage still troubling the industry.
Saj Lebanese Cuisine is now open in the space left vacant by Cultivar a few years ago. The Mondalek family are the new operators, and operating partner and daughter Lauren Mondalek said the restaurant will serve “authentic Lebanese food,” and reports that both her grandmothers are in the kitchen because the menu is based on their recipes. They are open for lunch and dinner with a limited menu for the first couple weeks. A full bar is the goal, but they are still stocking the shelves. The kefta was the standout from our first tasting. It’s in the running for best in OKC. The saj bread will also be a highlight. It’s a large flatbread made on a dome-shaped oven, called a saj.
Momocha. This charming new spot between McNellie’s and Hacienda Tacos in Midtown adds something relatively unique to most locals: mochi donuts. It’s a popular Asian fusion of cake donut and mochi, a Japanese treat made with glutinous rice flour or gluten-free tapioca powder. The texture is unusual to fans of traditional donuts, but once you experience it and know it’s intentional, it’s easier to enjoy. The mango donut was excellent, and they’ll be cycling through several different feature flavors. They also have a large menu of boba tea and specialty drinks.
Birdie’s Fried Chicken. We reported on this last month, but Chef Kevin Lee’s Korean fried chicken concept is open in Edmond. The twice-fried chicken is crunchy and flavorful, and the boneless thighs are a marvel. A full bar offers solid cocktails, a nice wine list and local beers, and don’t leave without getting the one dessert.
On the Way
Harlem-based Dado’s Pizza will soon be in NW Oklahoma City when Killer Squid Hospitality (Cafe 7, The Hamilton) brings NYC-style pizza to town. The operation includes a water treatment system to replicat NYC water, making the pies taste as much like the original as possible. Expected date is September.
Empire Slice House Edmond opens June 22. The newest pizza joint from Rachel Cope’s 84 Hospitality will be the full service model, not the slice shop. Adjacent to The Railyards, the newest Empire will have all the favorites, including local beers from surrounding Edmond breweries to supplement the list. 84’s next slice shop in Mayfair Village is still awaiting a building permit.
Gilded Acorn is Chef Andrew Black’s next concept, and it’s due in August. Located on the northwest corner of The National complex, Gilded Acorn will feature a diverse selection of chocolates, pastries, teas and gifts. Chef Black said he’s going for a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s vibe” with the space. He’s currently awaiting the arrival of the furniture.
Formosa, a Chinese street food concept, will take the space formerly occupied by Unwind Cafe. Operating partner Ivan Wong – also of Szechuan Story – said Formosa will offer traditional street food from Taiwan, including scallion pancakes, dumplings and other small plates. He said there will be no entrees on the menu of nearly 30 dishes, and there will be a full bar. Opening is expected in the second week of July.
Noun Hotel. The boutique hotel owned by Scott and Chris Lambert will have its grand opening in September. The Campus Corner property will have 92 rooms, of which two are suites, a bar and restaurant. Supper Club, a modern American concept, will feature an eclectic mix of chef-driven cuisine from executive chef Greg Lopez, a recent arrival in OKC from the West Coast. GM Jason Ludlow will oversee the restaurant and One Bar, the second-story bar that overlooks the OU campus.
Our bar scene will get some major players this summer and fall with the opening of Lunar Lounge (Midtown), Rad Bar (Plaza) and Flycatcher Club (Ironworks District), all of which we’ve reported on previously. The former, a dive bar concept with better-than-dive-bar booze and aesthetics, is from Barkeep owner Julia McLish; Flycatcher Club, a whiskey-centric “honky tonk,” is the creation of Bar Arbolada owner Riley Marshall; and Rad Bar, a neighborhood bar with an arts and small plates focus, is the work of industry veteran Melissa Yohn and partner and artist Kristopher Kanaly. Lunar and Flycatcher should be ready to go in July, and Rad Bar is looking at a September opening.