As Judy Hatfield looks forward to having leases signed up in advance at her new Carnegie Centre apartments downtown, she admits she has Keith Paul and his restaurant Kitchen No. 324 to thank for at least one of those future tenants.
When Kitchen No. 324 opened in the ground floor of the Braniff Building at 324 N Robinson a year ago, Paul did the unthinkable by staying open for brunch on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Up to then, most restaurants in the central business district limited their operations to lunch on weekdays, and just a few dared to open for breakfast. Only hotel restaurants bothered to stay open on weekends.
But Kitchen No. 324 drew lines the very first weekend — and those lines have continued ever since.
“It took us by surprise when we opened for brunch,” Paul said. “We were just hoping it would be full for just some point.”
One of those weekend brunch customers was the Hatfield family's orthodontist.
“He went to Kitchen No. 324, saw my sign and called,” Hatfield said. “They drove to downtown Oklahoma City on a Sunday morning and decided they wanted to have an apartment downtown in addition to their home in Norman. They want to feel the excitement of this downtown experience.”
Paul and other restaurant operators downtown are eyeing similar changes as the residential population increases and destination dining is drawing from the greater metro.
One year has passed since Paul Sorrentino, Chris Kana, Jimmy Mays and Stephanie Morrical opened Cafe 7 on the ground floor of First National Tower at 120 N Robinson. The group already owned a Starbucks franchise at their restaurant in downtown Tulsa and could have easily opened for breakfast at First National.
But Sorrentino insisted at the time that opening for breakfast would be risky. Downtowners told him otherwise.
“The phone would ring the minute we opened,” Sorrentino said. “Then we started getting requests for breakfast caterings. So we started doing breakfast caterings.”
By summer, Sorrentino concluded he was wrong — and the market was right.
“We were opening at 10:30 a.m.,” Sorrentino said. “And we realized, we're here two hours earlier anyway, why not open at 7 a.m.?”
Sorrentino believes that while Cafe 7's menu and operation is a proven success both downtown and in northwest Oklahoma City, the location downtown is itself a draw.