Eateries come, go, evolve and grow in Oklahoma City-area

Food Dude: There's been so much food news lately in the Oklahoma City area that I had to break my most recent gatherings for a little about a lot in two.
by Dave Cathey Modified: July 9, 2013 at 5:04 pm •  Published: July 10, 2013

There's been so much food news lately I had to split up my most recent gatherings for a little about a lot.

So we pick up with news of a fifth S&B Burger Joint, which opens this week at 14020 N May Ave., in a space previously occupied by a Denny's. The new location opens Thursday with a benefit for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. Bring a minimum $5 donation for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and get your food on the house. The team will use the night to determine how quickly regular service can begin. If all goes well Thursday, the new store will open Friday. This gives S&B a presence from Quail Springs Mall to Norman.

While S&B Burger Joint's attack on the local hamburger market increases, the city lost one of its most precious resources, Saigon Baguette, which closed June 24. Also known as Bale Banh Mi, it was owned and operated by Nhung Ngoc Nguyen, who also goes by Mona.

She opened in the wedge-shape building best known as the Townley's milk bottle roost back in 1999. Charging $1.85 for a French baguette stuffed with meat of your choice, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro and jalapeno, Saigon Baguette offered the best value in town every day it was open. Its sausage-stuffed egg rolls were so good my normally vegetarian wife was happy to flip-flop her culinary principles for one. Sometimes two.

Nguyen's role in the rise of Oklahoma City's Asian District is immeasurable. Hers was one of the first restaurants to draw folks of all colors, sizes and shapes from all over the city. Well done, Mona!

Chef Cally Johnson never does anything small. From cheffing up tacos and hot dogs to social media, Johnson goes big or goes home.

The current focus of her attention is Cafe 501 in Classen Curve. Johnson worked for owner Peter Holloway and his wife, Sherie, at Boulevard Steakhouse before leaving for Cheever's and then on to Taco Twindom with Kathryn Mathis at Big Truck Tacos.

Johnson is still a partner in Big Truck and Mutt's Amazing Hot Dogs, but she wanted to return to her cooking roots and push herself and took a job helping out at Oak Tree Country Club.

“I learned a lot,” she said of the experience, which was done mostly to help out a friend. “I learned I never want to be a country club chef again!”

She said the challenges were enormous and helped center her attention on her cooking skills. So, she took a job with the Holloways to fulfill her desire to push herself as a chef.

Since she's joined 501 at Classen Curve, the restaurant has ditched its fast-casual service at lunch time and is now a full-service restaurant full-time. She's also made changes to the menu to fit that style.


by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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