Hank Kraft got the call first; then it went to chef Brad Johnson: varied words carried the same message: Redrock Canyon Grill is on fire.
That was last spring when a pair of storms converged over Oklahoma City to duke it out. The only winners were roofers and construction general contractors.
When Redrock Canyon Grill, 9221 Lake Hefner Parkway, reopened Monday, it marked again how temporary defeat at the hands of chaos can blossom into long-term gain when folks unite to restore order.
“Redrock is a 1999 restaurant,” said Hank Kraft, chief operating officer for the Hal Smith Restaurant Group. “We wanted to update a few things to move the restaurant forward.”
That entailed some lighter coats of paint, updates to the bar, a true wine cellar and converting the covered patio into a true indoor-outdoor patio.
“We enclosed the patio and installed garage-door style windows,” Kraft said. “This allows us to keep furniture out there year-round.”
It also means the climate in the room can be controlled either by man or God. Now those spectacular sunsets can be enjoyed in full comfort. The outdoor bar areas were virtually untouched and remain among the most attractive spots in the city to relax with a libation.
The food went untouched.
“We haven't changed anything on the menu,” Johnson said. “You don't mess with success. If I took the Cluck n Moo off the menu, I'd have a riot on my hands.”
Specialties remain the same: rotisserie chicken; steaks, meat loaf, pork chops, salmon, ribs, steaks and enchiladas.
Starters still include a stuffed poblano, calamari, iron-skillet cornbread, tortilla soup and shrimp.
My favorite thing to get is the steak and enchiladas. Skirt steak and couple of expertly prepared Tex-Mex-style enchiladas is my kind of comfort food.
On the night of the fire, which was caused when high winds and hail damaged a neon light that ignited the flames, employees had just exited the restaurant and saw the flames on the roof.
“We were very fortunate in a lot of ways,” Kraft said. “Most importantly, nobody was hurt. Then we were lucky the fire was noticed right away. Finally, we have excellent insurance that allowed us to not only remodel, but covered our lost revenue and paid our staff while the restaurant was closed. I'd say we've retained about 99 percent of our staff.”
Redrock Grill's reopening is indicative of the restaurant's 13 years of unmitigated success.
When Redrock opened in 1999, it marked the beginning of a new direction for the Hal Smith Restaurant Group.
Previously, Smith and Kraft had made their fortune bringing national chains to the market. Chi-Chi's, Outback Steakhouse, Krispy Kreme, Chili's, Steak & Ale, and On the Border came to Oklahoma City by way of one or both of them.
Smith was so successful as a franchisee he was invited to work in corporate and ascended to chief operating officer of Steak & Ale Corp. He moved from there to Chi-Chi's, where in two years he raised profits from $18 million to $38 million. When Jack in the Box bought the company, the stock windfall allowed Smith to realize a new dream.
Chasing the dream
Smith moved his family back to Norman in 1992 and founded the Hal Smith Restaurant Group, which would serve as a restaurant development company. The first addition was Charleston's, which Kraft opened in 1986. Then came exclusive franchising rights for Outback Steakhouses in five states.
By the time Smith and Kraft met Randy Hogan on a patch of wooded acreage overlooking Lake Hefner, the Hal Smith Restaurant Group had expanded Charleston's, sold its Outback stores back to the parent company and dominated the Ed Noble Parkway in Norman.
“Randy had showed us his plans for the East Wharf right there in the cold, and said we needed to open a restaurant there,” Kraft said.
Kraft said Smith showed immediate interest.
“Randy asked what we'd call the place, and Hal said, ‘Redrock.' Then I added in ‘Canyon Grill.'”
Redrock gave Kraft the opportunity to create the Southwest-theme concept he'd had in mind a while. It became the first top-to-bottom concept they created since the group's creation, leading to the openings of Mahogany, Mama Roja, The Hefner Grill, the reboot of Hollie's, the Bob Stoops idea Louie's, Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, Upper Crust Wood-Fired Pizza, and The Garage Burgers and Grill.
The group still operates Krispy Kreme stores and purchased and expanded the Ted's Cafe Escondido concept several years ago. The next big concept is the recently announced Kevin Durant project, KD's.
But this week is all about the return of the original Redrock, which also has locations in Tulsa and Wichita, Kan.
If you go
Redrock Canyon Grill, 9221 Lake Hefner Parkway, is open for dinner only and Sunday brunch. The Flying Chicken takeout menu is available as well; just call ahead, and when you arrive, drive up to the back door for what the menu lists as “deluxe curbside service.” Phone number is 749-1995.