If this is the golden age of Oklahoma City as oklahomariver.com assuredly says, then entertainment districts could be the key to its success. Look at districts in other states that have proved popular. Williamsburg in Brooklyn, The Plaza in Kansas City and Austin's 6th Street, have become Meccas of nightlife and entertainment for those cities. While Bricktown and The Paseo Arts District were once on the short list to areas to visit, the host of new developments keep OKC entertained. Midtown and Classen Curve are examples of the newbies to the block. We've compiled a list of entertainment districts, the key destinations, areas and trends as a guide to set you on your journey through OKC nightlife.
Midtown (Plaza Court, Automobile Alley, that general area)Area: 387-acre area extending from N.W. 13th Street south to 4th Street and from one-half block east of Robinson Avenue west to Classen Boulevard What's it like: Recently revitalized, the Midtown District is host to many restaurants, art galleries and small eateries. Its location in Plaza Court has a rich history as being the first home of WKY radio, as well Kaiser's Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, which opened in its current location in 1917 and was once the oldest continuous eating establishments in the state. It's still around today as the Grateful Bean Cafe. The restaurants in the Midtown District are diverse, with an Irish pub, Brazilian restaurant, upscale Latino eatery and an old-fashioned hamburger joint to name a few. Just a few blocks down on Broadway is Automobile Alley, historically home to many automobile dealerships and service companies. Its current architecture is still reminiscent of that time, the brick fronts and big garage doors remain to this day, and is growing with a bicycle store, Coffee Slingers coffee house, Red Prime Steakhouse and a dance studio as well as apartments and a host of other businesses. Key destinations: Coffee Slingers (coffeeslingers.com), James E. McNellie's Public House (www.mcnelliesokc.com), Cafe Do Brasil (www.cafedobrazilokc.com), Midtown Deli (778-8887), Irma's Burger Shack (www.irmasburgershack.com) Who goes there: Diversity fills the Midtown District with the unique local businesses. People looking for a good rooftop bar go to Cafe Do Brasil and beer drinkers choose Mcnellie's for the 350 plus options. An older crowd will choose Grateful Bean in the mornings with breakfast beginning at 7 a.m. Trends: Midtown District's website notes the success of the future will be "the creation of a lively, visually exciting, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use urban environment, offering housing types that will appeal to a variety of lifestyles, ages and income levels. In this new environment, urban living, businesses, and retail services are all located within a comfortable walk of each other." This is evident with three brand-new apartment complexes. Website: www.midtownokc.com
BricktownArea: E.K. Gaylord Ave. on the west, Stiles Ave. on the east, Reno Ave. on the south and Main St. on the north What's it like: "It's an old restored warehouse district that courtesy of public dollars has become the face of Oklahoma City," said executive director Jim Cowan. This district is appropriately named, with brick buildings and streets throughout the area. The warehouses were first filled in 1915 after Henry Ford opened an assembly plant, and within the past 20 years it has grown to be the heart of OKC with the Bricktown Canal, Harkins Cinema, AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center, Bass Pro Shops and more than 35 restaurants and bars. Key destinations: Tapwerks Ale House & Cafe (www.tapwerks.com), Rok Bar (okcrokbar.com), Red Pin Bowling Alley (www.bowlredpin.com), City Walk (www.citybrickwalk.com), Wormy Dog Saloon (wormydog.com), Maker's Cigar and Piano Lounge (www.makersokc.com), Bricktown Brewery (bricktownbrewery.com), SkkyBar Ultra Lounge (405-272-9222), Red Dirt Emporium (www.reddirtemporium.com) Who goes there: Depending on the time of the day, the Bricktown audience changes. The young adult crowd flocks to the district around 9 p.m. on a typical Friday and Saturday night. Being event-oriented with the ballpark, movie theater, Ford Center and the Cox Convention Center, different groups and types come out to Bricktown, whether it's a family going to see a baseball or basketball game or a concertgoer coming to the area for Lady Gaga, Carrie Underwood, Tool or the multitude of other upcoming concerts at the Ford Center. Trends: According to Cowan, "significant developments" will come to Bricktown in 2010 both regionally and nationally, and he credits the OKC Thunder as the reason. "The Thunder played the Lakers recently, and Oklahoma City is being talked about in a positive manner," he said. Cowan also says the new rock college ACM@UCO has been a significant development, and you can read the article about the impact on businesses here. (http://www.newsok.com/article/3459240?searched=candy%20co.&custom_click=search). Deep Deuce District and Film Row surround Bricktown creating a wider area for entertainment in the area. Website: www.bricktownokc.com
Western/Classen (Classen Curve, Classen Circle, Western bars/restaurants)Area: NW 37 and Shartel to NW 75th and Western/NW 58 and Classen/NW 58 and N Classen Circle What's it like: Out-of-state visitors tend to skip over North OKC, which is a shame because it has so much to offer. The nightlife is booming, and the new openings are getting to be pretty exhausting for the social butterfly. Western Avenue has coffee, pizza, concerts and of course, bars. Classen Circle is all about bars, bars, bars with hands-down staples to the city -- Edna's and HiLo Club. Classen Curve is the latest development brought to you by Chesapeake Development. Designed by Architect Rand Elliot, the modern feel of the 90,000 square foot space delivers a fresh look to the area. Restaurants have already opened up as well as a high-end bar, Republic Gastropub, and it's only a matter of time before a pizzeria and Balliets clothing do, as well. Key destinations: VZDs Restaurant and Club (www.vzds.com), Cafe Nova (525-6682), Drunken Fry (www.drunkenfry.com), Hi-Lo Club (843-1722), Edna's (www.ednasokc.com), Republic Gastropub (www.republicgastropub.com), Lobby Bar (604-4650), 51st Street Speakeasy (www.51stspeakeasy.com), The Wedge Pizzeria (602-3477), Flip's Wine Bar & Trattoria (www.flipswinebar.com) Who goes there: Walking into a bar, you'll find many regulars having a lunchbox at Edna's or drinking a beer at the Speakeasy. Patrons at Classen Curve seem to be a mixture of young professionals and older singles. Trends: The popular retail store, Balliet's, is moving locations for the third time in 74 years to Classen Curve in September. Cafe 501 and Upper Crust plan to open Fall 2010. Also in development at Classen Curve is Metro Shoes, Red Coyote Running and Fitness, and Uptown Kids so this is just the beginning of a blossoming district. Website: www.visitwesternavenue.com/www.shopclassencurve.com
Plaza DistrictArea: NW 16, between Classen and Pennsylvania. What's it like: The Plaza District today looks completely different than it did just three years ago. It's grown into 32 businesses ranging from a performance theater to hair salon, clothing shops and even a knitting store run by Lindsay Zodrow. "It's a really neat area because it's being renovated...and it's awesome being with local businesses that support each other," she said. Think of the Plaza District as the East Village of OKC. The area has recently managed to move beyond its tough reputation while also keeping its roots intact. “We are a diverse district, and we embrace the ‘rough around the edges’ qualities that give our district that diversity,” Executive Director Kristen Vails said. She describes the district as a “local creative hub, filled with an array of small businesses that truly show off Oklahoma City's unique flavor.” Key destinations: Cafe Evoke Catering *note: Free Coffee Monday, each Monday morning from 7-9:30 (www.cafeevoke.com), Lyric Theatre (www.lyrictheatreokc.com), Collected Thread (www.collectedthread.com), Warpaint Clothing (www.myspace.com/warpaintclothing), Velvet Monkey (www.velvetmonkeysalon.com), LIVE on the Plaza every second Friday of the month. Next event is May 14. (www.urbanpioneers.net) Who goes there: The Plaza District brings a wide range of young creative people including artists, local musicians, and neighborhood residents Vails hears the next-generation district being called "'young and hip.'" “Either way, the energy from the young people attract a much broader audience,” she said. Trends: Since the district is so new, foreseeing the future is exciting to think about. Vails would like to see a restaurant open to "add to the district's night time atmosphere," but also sees more basic stores coming in to satisfy the neighborhoods needs. Website: www.urbanpioneers.net
The Paseo Arts DistrictLocation: Between N.W. 28 to 30th and Walker What's it like: The oldest district we'll talk about in this issue is The Paseo Arts District, created by G.A. Nichols in 1929 and consists of Spanish-style brightly colored stucco buildings. The 1960's and 70s turned the former shopping center into more of an arts district. Today it has 20 galleries/studios, three restaurants, two boutiques and several other commercial businesses as well as the annual Paseo Arts Festival. Key destinations: Sauced (www.yoursauced.com), Picasso Cafe (www.picassosonpaseo.com), Red Rooster Bar & Grill, Paseo Grill (www.paseogrill.com), Craig's Emporium (405-524-9447), Ghostlight Theatre Club (ghostlighttheatreclub.com), First Friday Gallery Walk (www.thepaseo.com) Who goes there: Artists visit and work in The Paseo, but the age range of the artists, is wide-ranging. Paseo Arts Association Executive Director Lori Oden says there is a wide variety of people visiting galleries and eating at the restaurants. "We boast our area as a great place for families and individuals of all ages and backgrounds," she says. Trends: The Paseo Arts District has gained and lost businesses in the past few years. They've lost Galileo Bar and Grill and Isis, but have gained Picasso Cafe and increased events including aMAYzing Paseo, Dog Days of August and Valentine's Day Walk. New renovations will help Paseo continue to grow. "We are excited about the renovation of the last building on Paseo, which will be the new home of the Paseo Arts Factory," Oden said. Website: www.thepaseo.com
Memorial CorridorArea: Memorial Road and Kirkpatrick Turnpike between Pennsylvania Avenue and the Lake Hefner Parkway What's it like: It's the home of Quail Springs Mall as well as a plethora of other retail businesses and restaurants. Chain restaurants are plentiful on Memorial with Red Lobster and PF Chang’s (a favorite of South Park's Randy Marsh) in full force. After the chains close for the evening, Baker Street Pub & Grill, Buddha Tao and Fox & Hound Pub & Grille are filled with those looking for a good drink. Key destinations: Buddha Tao (www.buddhatao.com), Kush Lounge (607-0777), Fox & Hound Pub & Grille (www.fhrg.com) Baker Street Pub & Grill (www.sherlockspubco.com), Mahogany Prime Steakhouse (www.mahoganyprime.com), Dugout Bar & Grill (751-0700), Northfork Bar & Grill (752-4484) Who goes there: Located near the University of Central Oklahoma, Memorial Corridor is a popular destination for college students. Concert goers visit Baker Street Pub & Grill for the live local and regional music talent, being in the suburbs brings in many locals. Trends: Memorial continues to boom with the vast shopping centers and being right off of the Kilpatrick Turnpike keeps the area growing with more diverse nightlife from Buddha Tao's night club "Opium Lounge" to Kush Lounge's Hookah experience.
CommerceArea: S 7th and Lincoln Blvd/S.W. 14th to S.W. 11th and S. Agnew Ave./I-240 between Shields and May What's it like: South Oklahoma City is home to country star Wanda Jackson (Capitol Hill High School graduate) and new NFL player Gerald McCoy (Southeast High School graduate). It boasts a large Hispanic population that is evidenced by the street-side taquerias, grocery stores and retail. While more and more shopping centers fill I-240s service road with chain restaurants and department stores, South Western has the oldest and only drive-in movie theater in OKC, the Winchester Drive-In. The waving cowboy signage makes it difficult to miss this OKC rarity. Just to the west of Capitol Hill area is Stockyards City. Many western boutiques and the acclaimed Cattlemen's Steakhouse take you back to the old West. "Stockyards City" signs light up the area and the Oklahoma Centennial Rodeo Opry hosts weekly country and western entertainment. Key destinations: Oklahoma Centennial Rodeo Opry (www.ohfo.org), Cattlemen's Steakhouse (cattlemensrestaurant.com), Taqueria Los Comales (www.loscomales.com), Langston's (www.langstons.com), Winchester Drive In (www.winchesterdrive-in.com), Who goes there: South Oklahoma City has a large Hispanic population and pulls a large crowd from the livestock industry in Stockyard City. It's not rare to find a cowboy hat or 10 in the area. Trends: With the recent completion of the Chesapeake Boathouse as well as the passing of Maps 3, the future of South OKC is abundantly clear along the Oklahoma River. Maps 3 includes the construction of a floating stage, a whitewater rafting center, downtown park and more. It's only a matter of time before the Boathouse District is full speed ahead. Website: www.stockyardscity.org and www.okchispanicchamber.org These are just a few of dozens of districts making OKC a destination spot and not just a drive-through city. Now it's time to get out and support the districts that make Oklahoma City a city of "cool."