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Joey's Pizzeria opened along Film Row April 1, as additional eateries and a coffee roaster are setting up shop Downtown. A count by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber showed 69 Downtown retail establishments have opened, plan to open, or have expanded since 2007.
As once-forgotten areas such as Film Row and MidTown have been revitalized after years of blight and neglect, restaurateurs have brought concepts ranging from $1 tacos to fine dining.
Jane Jenkins, president of Downtown OKC Inc., says a mix of restaurants is helping the area attract a variety of diners. While those with deep pockets might frequent places such as Red PrimeSteak or Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse, many flock to McNellie’s in MidTown on Wednesdays for $3 burger night or Iguana Mexican Grill for $1 tacos on Tuesday evenings.
Jenkins says many have found success Downtown with homegrown and tried-and-true concepts like Hideaway Pizza, Joey’s, and local restaurant owners who have expanded.
“It’s great that Downtown is the place for entrepreneurship,” she says. “But it’s not like someone is trying to open something new; a lot of these are established businesses.”
Russell Kendrick’s wife, Irena Avdalovic, owns Joey’s after purchasing the former store at NW 18 and Classen Boulevard about three years ago. Kendrick says while they are getting the business up and running, he is helping out with everything from managing the restaurant to delivering pizzas.
Chip Fudge, owner and developer of several buildings along Film Row, first spoke with Avdalovic about a year ago. He extended the opportunity for her to open the area’s first restaurant. Fudge says he loves the district’s old buildings, and wants to bring businesses that will complement those spaces. He does not have other eateries lined up yet, but would like to bring some culinary diversity to his corner of the Downtown area.
“I would really like to see some interesting ethnic restaurants, say a Cuban, Ethiopian or Caribbean restaurant,” he says. “Something interesting that would be a positive draw.”
Joey’s new space, 700 W Sheridan Ave., can hold 115 people in comparison to the old location that had seating for 46. So far, Kendrick says the busiest times have been at lunch. He expects the full liquor bar to begin drawing evening visitors.
“We hope we’ll gain a later crowd after games and functions,” he says.
But Joey’s isn’t the only new pizzeria in the area. Sammy’s Pizza is set for Bricktown, and Hideaway Pizza is set for Automobile Alley. Those seeking healthier options might enjoy locally owned salad and wrap chain Coolgreens, which will be located in the City Place building. In other food and beverage options, in early May, Elemental Coffee opened its Alley Bar in MidTown.
Jenkins says most that have opened eateries Downtown know their market and have brought in concepts that meet those needs — from high-end steaks to a quick lunch.Eat constructively
In response to restaurateurs feeling the pinch from Project 180 construction limiting access to their establishments, Downtown OKC Inc. has launched the “Eat Constructively Downtown” campaign. The initiative specifically mentions 10 restaurants that DOKC encourages patrons to visit, even if they are a bit harder to get to than before. Those on the list include Trattoria Il Centro, Coney Island, Johnny’s Lunch Box, La Luna Mexican Café, Dimitri’s Peacock Greek America Restaurant, Pizza Town, Thai Kitchen, Joey’s Pizzeria, Markies Deli and the Colcord Café and Bar.
Joey’s Pizzeria opened in the midst of Project 180 work and a new streetscape along Film Row. Manager
Russell Kendrick says it was tough at times when the restaurant opened in early April.
“You never know with the construction what’s going to be open when,” he says. “We were glad the street was open when we got here.”
Dimitri’s Peacock Greek America Restaurant has been Downtown for 37 years, and at 517 W Reno for the last quarter of a century. With Reno Boulevard torn up, Michael Komis, the restaurant’s manager, saw fewer lunch diners.
“We’ve seen a drop-off, but what can you do?” he says. “Our customers have been sympathetic.”
When Reno opened in late April, Komis says he was pleased with the look of the street, and with many people venturing back to the eatery.
“Things look better now,” he says. Despite obstacles along the way, Casey Cornett, account executive for Jones Public Relations, leaves his Downtown office most days for lunch. He says the walk is often a bit longer to get to some of his favorite haunts due to construction, but it hasn’t forced him to start packing a sack lunch.
“It might take a few minutes longer to walk, but for those of us Downtown, we don’t want to get in our cars and drive somewhere,” he says. – KC