Vast opens: This would've ranked higher if early feedback wasn't so low. While what the anonymous are saying about your restaurant online lacks full-fledged credibility, where there's smoke, there's usually a flame or two. Keep in mind expectations were off the charts for this sky-high restaurant, and chef Andrew Black has the know-how and skill to right the ship at what still promises to be one of Oklahoma City's most important restaurants. Here's hoping Vast makes this list next year for making its mark with inventive, food-forward ideas executed with precision and aplomb.
Christine Dowd (Trattoria closes; moves to Metro): When chef Christine Dowd and partner Maggie Howell closed Trattoria il Centro in early 2012, it was the first really bad news of the year. But then Dowd found a home with the venerable Metro Wine Bar and Bistro, and all was right with the world. Dowd, a born leader, was just what the doctor ordered for one of Oklahoma City's most respected fine dining restaurants. Owner Chris Lower told me the restaurant set a record for covers on one Saturday in December with zero late tickets.
Savory Spice Shop: Able Blakely and his mother Debra opened Savory Spice Shop in the fall, signaling the city was ready to support a “salt and pepper” shop. The returns have so far been encouraging. A specialty shop like this is a good sign the food culture is evolving in the right direction.
These weren't the only 10 cool things to happen, here are some other notable happenings included:
Both Golden Phoenix and Redrock Canyon Grill sustained fires severe enough to shut the restaurants down for several months. In both cases, the concepts returned bigger and brighter than before.
Little ol' S&B Burger Joint opened its second store this year, a shiny beacon of rock ‘n' roll wrapped in bacon and served with spicy mayo. Since then, new stores have popped up in south Oklahoma City and Norman.
We lost one of the city's Mexican food purveyors lost one their greatest and most important figures when Cesar Aita, better known as Nino, passed away last summer. The founder of the Nino's group, which once swelled to five units plus a barbecue joint, was 69.
The opening of Gabriella's Italian Grill and Pizzeria not only breathed life into the old County Line/Kentucky Club space on NE 63 Street, but also brought a taste of Krebs to the big city. Owner Vicki Muhs was born and raised in Krebs in the kitchens of The Isle of Capri, an Oklahoma mainstay for family-style Italian food.
The Mule opened quietly in the Plaza District in October and nary a quiet day has passed since. Owners John Harris, Cody Rowan and Joey Morris thought they had a fun idea, but response is on the verge of historic. The gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches in kitschy-cook environs have captured the imagination of local foodies.
Green Chile Kitchen Route 66 has opened in Yukon. I'll have a lot more about this opening in January, but after two autumn visits it's clear to see why this concept has been so successful for founder and Yukon-native Trevor Logan in San Francisco.
Happy New Year, everybody!