EDMOND — In December 1998, while most people between Edmond and Norman were checking off gift lists and preparing for what would be a bone-chilling Christmas, Peter and Sheree Holloway were prepared to unwrap a gift to the public — prime beef.
The Holloways had already built an impressive portfolio of restaurants. Pepperoni Grill was the first in a wave of modern Italian restaurants that would change the way pizza and pasta were served. Cafe 501 was an eclectic mix of flavors turned out from fresh ingredients — whether baked, grilled or tossed — served fast-casual by day and full service at night. There were others, the couple drinking in knowledge passed down from Jim Vallion and Gene Smelser.
But in late 1998, the Holloways unveiled what would be and still is the piece de resistance in their arsenal of eateries, Boulevard Steakhouse.
“This was the first prime steakhouse in Oklahoma City,” said Margaret Holloway, Peter's sister. “We wanted to bring the feel of the Chicago chop house to Oklahoma City.”
Adjacent to the then-3-year-old Cafe 501, Boulevard introduced the metro to a different way of experiencing steak.
“The idea was to show where the steakhouse had been taken in bigger cities,” Margaret Holloway said.
And the man to share the flavor was chef Jimmy Stepney, who has been with Boulevard since day one, save for a short sabbatical to Houston.
“Our goal is to give you a special experience,” Stepney said. “Prime beef is a special beef, so we want everything to be special, from the decor to the desserts.”
Striving for perfection
Warmth greets you as you enter in oak and iron tones. The ceilings are high and the lighting as low as embers. Crisp, white tablecloths drape tables adorned in crystal. Large private rooms beyond the main dining room scream special occasion.
A setting this decadent deserves no less than custom-aged prime beef at the center of the menu.
My favorite is the bawdy Blackened Bone-In Rib-eye, which delicately clings to the bone until you summon it away with knife and fork. Resistance is minimal thanks to Stepney's fire-wrought training.
The cowboy-cut is wreathed in flame, protected only by a tile of cast-iron, before a brief stay in a double-broiler and at least 10 minutes respite from fire before taking residence on a white plate with a trimmed Vidalia onion and tomato, each well-charred top and bottom like the steak. All three offer the pleasing, sultry flavor of flame on the surface with the sweet, tender flavors of the ingredients beneath. Simple food, simple execution, simply perfect result.
The filet takes a different path from walk-in to plate. The lush temple of tenderloin spends its entire transition from ingredient to dish amid the intense heat of the Montague broiler. The result is equally perfect, the difference lying only in the characteristics of the cuts: rib-eye aggressively juicy and flavorful, filet exceedingly tender and elegant.
Boulevard hand cuts its beef, offering two sizes of filet, rib-eyes and strips, with or without bone, and a 22-ounce Porterhouse. Chef Stepney also offers filet tips with mushroom, medallions with crab and brown butter and Steak Diablo, a play on steak au poivre.
The menu also includes a standard offering of seafood, including salmon, shrimp, tilapia and lobster.
Sides are a meal unto themselves. The Creamed Spinach is a must.
The restaurant's signature salad has a creamy vinaigrette atop salad greens, vegetables and an entire strip of bacon.
The Boulevard has traditional Caesar, the renowned Sheree's Salad, plus a soup highlighting wild mushrooms.
Signature dessert at Boulevard is the Brandy Ice — a team of vanilla ice cream, brandy, Drambuie and creme de cacao. Chocolate lava cake has a hot, molten chocolate and highlights another half-dozen choices Stepney takes enormous pride in presenting.
The wine list, lengthy and well-thought-out, includes a signature wine bottled for the restaurant — a cabernet sauvignon drawn from grapes grown in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties in California.
The adjacent Martini Lounge has room for dining and lounging but mostly for sipping from the menu of martini-inspired specialties.
While Boulevard was the first prime steakhouse in the metro, perhaps its most telling success is the number of competitors it has. But a competition like that only has one winner: The dining public. The next time you dine at Red Prime Steak, Ranch Steakhouse, Mahogany, Opus or Mickey Mantle's, be sure to take a moment to thank Boulevard for paving the way to prime time.