First Looks is, well, it’s a first look at a new restaurant (or, in this case, a food hall). This isn’t a review, because it takes a while for new businesses to get their feet underneath them, but it should give you an idea of what to expect if you visit.
That said, after visiting Parlor, I feel pretty comfortable saying there’s a review coming down the line, because I was pretty blown away by the experience.
Okay, so, let’s talk about food halls. The concept is fairly simple to understand. It’s basically a mall food court without the mall and, rather than a bunch of chains, they’re filled with small (mostly) local restaurants. The restaurants make money on food. The food halls make money on the bars they operate inside the buildings. The idea is to be an incubator of sorts for new restaurants as they grow, eventually moving out and into their own spaces.
The Collective already opened and, by all accounts, is doing gangbuster business. There’s one concept open in The Railyard with more on the way.
Parlor comes to market with an advantage, though. It’s not the first Parlor. The concept opened last fall in Kansas City, Missouri and others are planned across the country. There’s still a lot of local in there. While some concepts (Mother Clucker, Providence Pizzeria Co., and Sura Eats) started elsewhere, the bulk of concepts are OKC originals.
Pachinko Parlor, run by chefs Eric Smith of VZDs and Avery Cannon of Wheeze The Juice, was thought long gone. Originally on NW Ninth Street, in what is now Nashbird, Pachinko is a non-traditional sushi restaurant. Smith told me, save one item, the menu all comes from the original concept. That means you can get one of my all-time favorite spicy tuna rolls again: The Incredible Mr. Limpet.
Burger Pig is a burger joint with some twists and turns. The signature item is the eponymous Burger Pig—a cheeseburger made of ground pork and chorizo, topped with manchego cheese, a bacon-tomato jam, pickled red onions, and arugula on a potato bun. Lemme tell you, I thought it was a pretty tasty burger. Even my kids, who are (infuriatingly) picky eaters, took a few bites and deemed it delicious.
Chris McCabe, former culinary director for A Good Egg Dining Group, owns El Guate. Guatemalan food isn’t new to Oklahoma City—see Cafe Kacao and Cafe Antigua—but we can always use more, so far as I’m concerned. McCabe told me his big seller so far are the carne asada tacos, likely because people know what those are.
But I hope you’ll go a little further down the menu, because they’ve got pupusas and a Guatemalan-style empanada I think are going to be big hits. My personal choice, though, are banana leaf-wrapped tamales filled with grilled chicken and topped with a ridiculously good ancho chile sauce.
Recently of Union Wood Fired Grill is chef Jonas Favela and his new concept Graffiti OKC, which serves a menu of Latin-Asian fusion cuisine. Favela’s a real talent, winning the Cluck-Off for making the best fried chicken in the city and making one heck of a sandwich in our Make Me A Sandwich feature.
If you love hot wings, you definitely need to try his sweet-n-sour chicken wings and, goodness gracious, you really must get down on the bread pudding churros. Sweet Croesus those things are good.
One more thing: Providence Pizzeria Co. is doing Detroit-style pies. It’s like pan pizza, but with cheddar cheese fried into the crust. We had the Red Top, which is their Detroit-style pepperoni (Pretty sure Robbie C.’s going to weigh in on this, too) and it is...woo lawd...it’s something special.
It’s good for kids. It’s good for adults. It’s probably really good for adults without kids who like alcohol, but I wasn’t one of those, so I can’t tell you for sure. Something tells me I’ll be finding that out fairly soon, though.