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Two Oklahoma City restaurants turn the big 5-0

Oklahoma City’s Jamil’s Steakhouse and The Haunted House both turn 50 in 2014. The Food Dude has the details plus news and notes from around Oklahoma City’s growing dining scene.
by Dave Cathey Published: July 16, 2014

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.

>>Read: Happy birthday Haunted House and Jamil's

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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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