Fifty years of doing the same thing is either a sign of success or madness.
Two local restaurants, Jamil’s Steakhouse and The Haunted House, turn 50 this year, and both bear a certain amount of each.
In the case of Jamil’s Steakhouse, 4910 N Lincoln Blvd., success comes from serving quality Angus steaks and Lebanese appetizers in a historic space once known more for ill-repute than tabouli or ribs.
Madness is what ensues if you sit down to chat with owner Greg Gawey, who’s as quick to share a laugh as he is a smoked bologna sandwich.
When you consider that more than half of all restaurants live less than a year, what Jamil’s and The Haunted House have accomplished is inspirational.
Jamil’s was founded by Gawey’s uncle Jamil “Jim” Elias in 1952 in Tulsa.
Elias opened the Oklahoma City location on Lincoln Boulevard in 1964, and bided his time until nephew Gawey was primed to face an offer he couldn’t refuse. That happened in 1976.
“My uncle told me he’d pay for me to go to law school if I’d run the Oklahoma City store for a few years,” Gawey said.
Thirty-eight years later, Gawey is carrying on the tradition his uncle started.
“Jim Elias believed in taking your time,” Gawey said. “We’re Lebanese, and we like to sit down and eat — all day if we can.”
Meanwhile, the secret to The Haunted House’s success is in serving an upscale menu in a remote, intimate location. The madness is in the lurid details that led up to its opening.
Owner Marian Thibault and her late husband, Art, took over the space five decades ago, building a reputation as one of the city’s most popular spots for special-occasion dining thanks to its remote location at 7101 Miramar Blvd. Once upon a time, folks had to call for directions, but neither digital mapping technology nor urban sprawl has made The Haunted House any less exclusive.
Marian lost Art in 1994 and finally had to hire her second-ever kitchen manager when Vidaree King, the restaurant’s original stove-minder, died in 2012 at age 84. Despite those two losses, the Haunted House continues to deliver steaks, chops and seafood in an intimate environment few other restaurants can boast.
The full story of the house the Haunted House includes mystery and murder with a dash of its own ill-repute. We haven’t the ink to reprint it today, but you can find the whole sordid tale online at the Food Dude blog, NewsOK.com/blogs/food-dude.
You can congratulate Gawey, Thibault and the staffs who long have served Jamil’s and The Haunted House by visiting them for dinner. For reservations, call Jamil’s at 525-8352 and The Haunted House at 478-1417.
Heard on the line
Tommy’s Italian-American Grill, 5516 W Memorial Road, has returned from the 1990s. Tommy Byrd’s popular concept was the toast of Northpark Mall for most of that decade. Byrd has resurrected the concept on the fertile restaurant ground west of Mercy Hospital on Memorial. Tommy’s joins Charleston’s and Revolve Pizza Kitchen as recent arrivals to the once-desolate tract of suburbia.
Revolve Pizza Kitchen, 5500 W Memorial Road, is an exciting new concept from the folks who brought Qdoba to the market. But Revolve is a home-grown franchise that looks like it could take the region by storm, serving pizza and house-made pasta in a fast-casual environment. Diners can customize pies or pasta or choose from signature recipes. Either way, the pizza pops out of a high-powered, wood-fired oven in two to three minutes, and you’re barely seated before it arrives at the table.
Nani, the new supper club featuring Japanese-Choctaw cuisine, is accepting reservations for its soft opening. I took part in a dinner this weekend and enjoyed a six-course culinary adventure that featured offerings like freshly foraged greens, fried smelt, oil-poached garlic, fried okra, bonito flakes, catfish roe, and house-made ice cream with fried peach at a communal table with eight other diners.
But our menu might not be your menu. Chefs Andon Whitehorn and Colin Stringer devise a menu for each seating based on what Mother Earth has to offer and what they can source. It’s a great example of how eating out can transform into dining as theater — and the food was delicious. Simply go online to naniokc.com to book a reservation.
A few months ago, I wrote about a new concept coming from Ludivine chef/owners Jonathon Stranger and Russ Johnson that had a location but no name. After serious consideration, the new cocktail-friendly concept will be called The R&J Lounge and Supper Club. The chefs plan to feature quality hand-crafted cocktails with a small menu consisting of fresh intepretations of the American supper club era of the early 1960s. The new high-ballery will open this fall at 320 NW 10 St.
The Plaza District welcomed a new concept sure to further strain the parking situation along NW 16 Street. Chiltepe’s Latin Cuisine and Bar, 1800 NW 16 St., celebrated its grand opening Friday. The restaurant features a full bar, expansive patio seating and a menu featuring dishes from south of the border, namely Guatemala. For more details, go to the Food Dude blog at NewsOK.com.