Regional and national chains are moving to Oklahoma City this year, likely as a response to continued restaurant development, but locals are still dominating the scene (for now). Both Uncle Julio’s Mexican and Black Bear Diner are heading for Memorial Rd., and both list spring opens with no more specifics. Uncle Julio’s, which will be in the Chisholm Creek development, is well known to frequent Dallas travelers. Oklahoma will be the eighth state for the Irving, Texas-based concept that specializes in Tex-Mex food and swirl; the latter is a mix of frozen Sangria and frozen Margarita in one drink.
Black Bear Diner is a Redding, Calif., chain that offers all three meals on the menu but is best known for breakfast. The Midwest City location is already open, and the old Mimi’s Café on Memorial will be home to the Oklahoma City location. The menu is full of traditional favorites like biscuits and gravy, waffles, and omelettes, but there are less “Okie” items mixed in as well, like Portuguese Linguica sausage and a Parmesan-Sourdough cheeseburger.
Midtown is long overdue for a specialty dessert concept, and Capitals Ice Cream intends to fill that gap. Landon Ferguson and his team of co-owners are bringing Oregon-based Tillamook Creamery ice cream to Oklahoma City, as well as signature coffees from capital city roasters around the country, including local roasters. Ferguson said the open date is tentatively May 18, but final inspection has not happened as of press time. The concept will offer up ice cream mixes, featuring cereal, fresh fruit, and other ingredients to personalize the ice cream desserts.
Julia McLish is bringing serious bartender gear to Midtown in June. Barkeep Supply in the Midtown Plaza building—home to McNellie’s and Esca Vitae—is expected to open in mid to late June, and McLish said she will have the best selection of bitters in the city. Until the law changes in October, retailers cannot sell alcohol and non-alcoholic items in the same store, but McLish will have a bar with liquor license for on-site tastings and classes. She will sell bar gear for professionals and home bartenders, work with the U.S. Bartenders Guild Oklahoma City chapter to offer education and tastings, and sell a wide variety of set-ups, books, glassware, etc.
Another new addition to Midtown is The Kitchen at Commonplace Books, a neighborhood restaurant and bar adjacent to Commonplace Books in the Edge Apartments development. Co-owner Ben Nockels said he expects a late June opening for the concept, which he said will “feel and function like a home kitchen.” In other words, daily breakfast and dinner specials, and after they are sold out, everything will be based on the “On Greens, On Toast, and On Polenta” structure of Chris Castro’s menu. In early May, part of the bookstore wall was removed to create a passage between store and restaurant, so that patrons will be able to read in the café. The Kitchen will have full bar and full coffee service as well, and the menus will include breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Ambassador Hotel in Midtown is in the process of reworking their ground floor restaurant this summer. Viceroy Grille will be transformed into Café Cuvee over the next couple months, and executive chef Taylor Desjarlais will helm the French brasserie concept. The menu will focus on “super classic French bistro cuisine,” according to Kurt Fleischfresser. He described the food as “not hoity-toity, but comfortable and accessible, like Parisian working people would eat daily.” As a temporary measure during build-out, operations will be moved upstairs adjacent to O Bar, and food service will continue at the rooftop bar when Café Cuvee finally opens downstairs. Funding for the project was secured in early May, so the concept should be open by mid to late summer.