When chef Joseph Royer was young, he dreamed of being an architect. Then he wanted to be an artist. At age 20, he settled on becoming a chef. Today, he’s combined all those interests to build a bridge to divert traffic from drive-through windows to food made from fresh ingredients and using artful traditions passed down over centuries.
The owner of Saturn Grill recently added a second location, expanding on the reputation of serving some of the best pizzas, salads and sandwiches in the city. The sandwiches are the anchor of the restaurants’ success, but that hasn’t stopped Royer, 37, from expanding his menu to include entrees. On the other hand, Royer’s ambition isn’t stopping me from targeting his Seared Caribbean Jerk Chicken as our Sandwich of the Month.
After an apprenticeship at Kurt Fleishfresser’s Coach House and Chris Lower’s Metro Wine Bar and Bistro — two of the city’s top fine-dining establishments — Royer has turned his attention to, of all things, fast food. We’re not talking the kind that comes in a sack and is delivered via a window. Royer’s view of fast food doesn’t abandon his formal training.
"We want to be the embodiment of those traditions,” he said. "We want to be true fast-casual.”
"Consistent, approachable, affordable and delicious.”
The result, Royer said, will help change the food culture of Oklahoma. And when he says change, he means elevate. Royer believes the war against processed foods will not be won by purveyors of fine dining alone.
"Food is powerful,” he said. "It evokes strong emotions, happy memories. But when it’s dumbed down, it loses its power.”
Royer believes Saturn Grill is positioned to reach broader audiences and embolden them with that power. The goal is spreading the word about better eating while adding mystique to the local dining culture, which ultimately helps Oklahoma City find its place on the national culinary landscape.
"Food is part of our survival,” Royer said. "I want people to revel in their survival.”
Originally, Laura Brown opened Saturn Grill, which became so successful she was compelled to sell. Royer took six months to work with Brown and ultimately buy the shop. The sandwiches were the foundation to that overwhelming success.
What sets apart not only the Seared Caribbean Jerk Sandwich but the majority of Saturn Grill’s sandwiches from others is the homemade flatbread.