“I love late-night dining,” Cope said. “Oklahoma City doesn’t really have a whole lot of that.”
“We had a lot of ideas in the beginning, but they were kind of abstract and never really came together,” Cannon said.
“We really thought we could fit that late-night niche,” Cope said.
That niche is one part pizza-and-beer and one part attitude. There is no pizza shortage in Oklahoma City, nor is their a shortage of tasty, independently owned gourmet pizza like Hideaway, Papa Angelo’s, Humble Pie, Pizza 23, The Wedge, Upper Crust, Joey’s Pizzeria and Jo’s Famous Pizza. Each of those places has its strengths, but none of them are open until 2 a.m. daily nor do they offer the largest selection of canned beers in the city. And none of them have a life-sized cut-out of Ernest Borgnine in full “McHale’s Navy” regalia on the men’s room door or a like cut-out of Bea Arthur in her “Maude” garb to direct ladies to the privy.
Cannon did the majority of the decorating, Cope said, but much of what you see on the walls, behind the bar or populating a nook or cranny was donated by diners.
“People just started bringing stuff in,” Cope said.
Those donations helped fortify the atmosphere Cope and Cannon sought.
“We wanted the place to look like it’s been here, and it’s gonna continue to be here,” Cope said.
Mission accomplished, but all the concert posters on Amazon.com wouldn’t help if the pizza wasn’t any good. So, Cannon and Cope went about sourcing the highest-quality ingredients they could and spent months perfecting a crust with plenty of crunch without losing its identity as pastry.
Because they wanted to emphasize pizza by the slice, Cannon and Cope decided on a one-size-fits-all pie.
“So, we arrived on ‘Pizza as big as your face,’” Cope said.
While that phrase is memorable, it’s not terribly accurate unless your face happens to be etched on the face of a mountain or on a stone memorial. Whole pizzas are cooked in 20-inch pans, which could conceivably feed eight people.
To show they were intent on avoiding stagnation, Empire hosted its first special beer dinner on Tuesday, and Cope said they intend to offer at least one every quarter. Brunch is also in the planning stages.
For now, Empire Slice House is open daily until 2 a.m.
It opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and at 4 p.m. on Sunday. There is seating inside and out.