Fine dining from the owners of Cafe 501 and burgers from local cult favorite Nic's Grill will open up at the Myriad Gardens this fall.
The search for a restaurant operator began two years ago, just before the city completed a $38 million makeover that has transformed the Myriad Gardens into one of the community's top local and visitor attractions. The park is estimated to have drawn more than 1 million people last year.
Maureen Heffernan, executive director of the Myriad Gardens Foundation, worked with foundation chairman emeritus Jim Tolbert to secure an operator for the $2.9 million restaurant that was built as part of the Project 180 makeover.
The challenge Heffernan and Tolbert faced was addressing the demand from families who wanted a simple offering of burgers, fries and shakes.
Heffernan and Tolbert credited Peter and Sheree Holloway, owners of the metro's two Cafe 501s, with figuring out how a building built for ice skate rentals in the winter could double as a family-friendly grill the other eight months of the year.
The Holloways' plan is to open a restaurant appropriate for downtown's workforce, couples on dates and Thunder basketball fans in the restaurant building, which will be called “The Park House.”
Peter Holloway spent two months courting Justin Nicholas, owner of Nic's Grill at NW 10 and Pennsylvania, to open a limited version of his legendary restaurant in the 350-square-foot ice skate rental building.
“It was easy to convince him,” Holloway said. “He was always leery of tying into someone. But he loves this spot.”
Holloway said he and Nicholas have taken a cautionary approach to growth. Nic's Grill has been featured on Food Network's “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” and draws lines of customers for his 17-seat diner on all five days a week it is open.
“He wants to grow, but he's cautious,” Holloway said. “That's like us.”
Nicholas could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Holloway confirmed that the diner operator will man the grill some afternoons at his new Myriad Gardens eatery, which will be called “The Ice House.”
Holloway hopes to open The Ice House sometime in September before closing it for the winter on Nov. 1. Holloway said Nicholas may take a “short vacation” from his grill to help with The Ice House's opening.
“We're going to be open from March 1 through Oct. 31 every year,” he said. “So the idea is to get open for a few months this year, work out the kinks and be ready to roll next spring.”