Has the OKC restaurant scene hit critical mass?

Not so long ago, the Oklahoma City food scene consisted of major chain restaurants along high traffic thoroughfares, Okie-Mex dives that were almost indistinguishable from the last, and a few mom & pop spots and oil overlord-backed steakhouses.

Nowadays, it’s easy to eat at a new local restaurant every single week. If you follow any local food bloggers, influencers, are our social media addicted mayor, your feed is no doubt clogged with the hottest and hippest new spots. But even with a growing population and younger diners who want to see and be seen at soft openings, we gotta wonder how large this bubble is going to get.

Our favorite curmudgeon Steve Lackmeyer broke the news in the Oklahoman last week that Banquet Cinema is closing after only 6 months:

Banquet Cinema, which introduced the mix of dining and a bar with a two-screen theater to downtown, is showing its last film on Saturday.

Owners Hunter Wheat and Lacey Pritchard opened Banquet Cinema in February in a decades-old former Pontiac and Chrysler showroom and garage at 800 NW 4.

The corner is within walking distance of where dozens of modern homes have been built in Midtown and the West Village mixed-use development along Film Row.

But much of the surrounding area set for development is still in planning, including 700 West, a mix of 138 apartments and 4,000 square feet of retail set to be built immediately east of Banquet Cinema.

Wheat said this week the concept itself proved confusing to patrons.

“The biggest challenge has been that the movies have done really well, but people were confused they didn’t need a ticket to come into the space,” Wheat said. “And then were those going to the movies and not knowing there was this whole dining experience up front.”

There’s a lot of reasons why Banquet wasn’t able to succeed, but the most curious one to me is a reflection of the broader OKC hospitality industry: Do we have too many new places? The location, though not ideal, was still less than a mile from other very successful bars and restaurants. The decor was Pinterest perfect. And the concept was basically the Alamo Drafthouse (with more limited programming), which is something people have been craving in for years.

There are even more new, big money concepts on the way. The Collective just opened up in Midtown, a massive food hall with nearly a dozen different restaurants inside. Parlor OKC is also opening soon, bringing a similar concept of housing multiple eateries under one roof. And on top of this, your favorite hipster neighborhoods have all just opened new restaurants in the last month and have more underway.

Variety is never a bad thing. After all, it’s better to have options than to rely on the same ol’ place every time you dine out. But a lot of restaurateurs, new and old, are going to suffer as dollars become spread out across the metro.

The most obvious solution is the one that most of the business owners are ignoring: Make your business stand out. Almost every spot that’s opened up in the last year is indistinguishable from the last. The same Edison light bulbs, the same metal chairs, the same cocktails, and menus that boast “a refined take on comfort food” (a.k.a white people co-opting another culture’s cuisine).

Hell, even the names all blur together. “Have you been to Social Local Collective Scratch Banquet Parlor OKC yet? The chicken wings cost $18 and they have frozen mojitos!” I met up with an old friend last week and almost went to the wrong place because the names were so similar.

Other than having the variety that comes with sheer bulk of choices, the only real upside I can see with the local food glut is that it might finally end Oklahoma City resident’s obsession with going to bat for every single local business, good or bad, just because they’re local. The homerism here is real, and it’s unhealthy. Just because a restaurant isn’t a chain doesn’t make it great by default. If you didn’t like the $18 chicken wings, it’s okay to admit it and not be greeted by the angry twitterati. That being said, if you like them, there’s nothing wrong with that either. These new places need all the support they can get.

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46 Responses


  1. why we don’t already have an alamo drafthouse is beyond me.


    1. I think it’s because of our past liquor laws. Now that our outdated alcohol laws are no more, maybe they’ll finally be able to bring one to the area.


    2. It’s coming to Chisolm Creek eventually (6-12 months). In the meantime, the lesser version of it, Flix Brewhouse, is being built on the Broadway Extension near the former location of the nearly deceased Oklahoman.


    3. Because Oklahomans probably will boycott it when they learn that it is a University of Texas staple?

      Given that OU is like a constitutionally-mandated religion in this area, I can see how the “spawn of Satan”-endorsed movie theater might be reluctant to move here.


      1. Drafthouse is coming and within a year. I think the folks that have a “everything from Texas is terrible” mentality are primarily going to places like the Moore Warren to watch the latest Kevin James comedy. This is for everyone else. I can’t believe someone hasn’t successfully duplicated the concept here yet.


  2. I honestly had never heard of the place. Granted, I’m not part of the Twitterati, and I have better things to do with $18 than spend it on mediocre chicken wings.

    Maybe it isn’t so much city-wide saturation, but saturation concentrated in the midtown area. Places keep opening in areas with no parking within a couple of miles, and spending $30 on an Uber for $18 chicken wings is stupid.

    Moore/far SW OKC could use an upscale non-smoking bar with good food, good drinks and maybe some live music. The Okie Tonk keeps the place packed with their upscale white trash theme.

    Midwest City is pretty desperate for anything.

    Norman could use an influx of things that aren’t aimed at college kids.

    tl;dr If you’re going to open a new restaurant, put it someplace without tons of direct competition.


    1. Nothing good will ever come to Moore/SW OKC. The people that live there thrive on Chik Fil A and Taco Bell. There’s no way they would embrace actual non-chain concepts.


      1. I’m going to go ahead and disagree with you there. Moore and SW OKC residents flock to any new locally owned place that opens up so much that you just about can’t get in the door for the first few weeks.

        I will use as example Sunnyside Diner on SW 89th/Western and Pub W on SW 104th/May. Yes they are chains, but they are chains limited to the OKC area which have the potential to pave the road towards a truly localized and individualized dining experience. The overwhelming and lasting success of just these two spots over the past couple of years should be a good suggestion for any local business owner to bring new dining experiences to SW OKC. I can guarantee that opening anything similar to Banquet Cinema Pub, or any of the businesses listed in the article, in SW OKC would be met with consistent business that wouldn’t just fade out after the first few months as we have seen happen with so many of the Midtown businesses.

        This way we won’t have to continue going to Midtown in order to have a “unique” dining experience. Maybe we can also shake the stigma that people like yourself have regarding the fear-based mentality of South OKC residents who refuse to step out of their comfort zones.


        1. I’ll give you Sunnyside Diner, but Pub W is bland Hal Smith with televisions showing sports. One of the problems with the SW OKC/Moore is that it is inundated with strip mall buildings as far as the eye can see. There are no buildings or architecture with character that would delineate from the norm and invite unique concepts in. It would be nice if the strip malls could bring in some local dining establishments to these places, but they seem to only attract vape shops, CBD-MJ, and liquor stores with the occasional Goodwill drop off.

          I doubt Banquet Cinema Pub would have lasted as long as it did if it were in SW OKC/Moore. That market is dominated by an ever diminishing in quality Warren Theater and patrons that aren’t specifically looking for an unique film going experience, much less would they desire to view films outside the current top five box office movies.

          In another sad instance, the area around I44 and Penn could have been ripe for new development and restaurants (either local or chains currently not represented in the area). What’s there? A Walmart, Buffalo Wild Wings, and a Taco Bell. The zipcodes near there are some of the highest income of the south area, but yet they demand more of the same. There isn’t much hope that is going to change.

          One more example, the Wahlburgers announcement in Moore. People were both excited and sadden that this wasn’t being built. A Wahlburgers. The developers on this side of the metro need to aim higher.

          I used to live in this area and this was one of the reasons why I moved away. I kept finding myself driving north constantly to experience good local dining and entertainment. Why keep driving to where you want to be when you can move closer to it?


          1. Wow, you have no idea what you’re talking about. I-44 & Penn is nothing but white trash thinking Ross is upscale. Everything that opens there closes in a few months, usually due to crime.

            Just a few years ago the “film district” was home to nothing other than crack dealers and homeless. Suddenly a developer throws a few million cleaning up the mess and the city designates it a “district”. Now people with too much money flock there to eat ethnic food stripped of its authenticity and mangled by white people. And unique architecture? Dude, it’s a brick building that was the strip mall of the 30s. All you care about is an “experience”, then, when the next place opens with the same organic kale infused tater tots opens, you’ll forget the first place existed.

            Despite what you claim, the hipsters love their chains, too. You deride Hal Smith restaurants, but line up for Good Egg and 84 Hospitality’s mediocre restaurants. And yes, Hal Smith sucks. All their restaurants are overpriced and have the same terrible service.

            You line up for tacos made by a white guy with a fedora at Bluegarten, but you’d never go to a taco truck on 29th ran by someone from Mexico. Ramen prepared by white people at Giro is authentic, but pho prepared by Vietnamese is scary.

            Maybe Moore should rename 12th Street the Twister District and you can magically find it cool. They can put up a kooky sculpture that people can cover with sweaters for you to ‘gram.


            1. Everyone knows that the reason God hates Moore and keeps trying to destroy it with tornadoes is that Toby Keith was born there. Nothing anybody tries or does will ever change that awful fact.


  3. Sounds like their main problem was a marketing one. Someone else will probably be able to do the same dinner-and-a-movie concept, and do well with it.


  4. Wife dragging me to a “trendy” restaurant for brunch Saturday. Place was packed. Ordered shrimp and grits with a side order of biscuits and gravy. They dressed up an old fashioned staple by dumping so much spice as to make it nearly inedible. The biscuits were hard and dry something my mother would have thrown away a week earlier and a simple gravy tasted like it had blueberry sauce. With tip $75. Shoulda known when we saw more men wearing buns than women.


    1. Without you even saying where you went, I’m pretty sure I know. We went and took my mom a while back. There were five of us on a Sunday morning and we couldn’t even hear ourselves think. The food ALL was cold and way over-spiced with seemingly random spices. The biscuits could’ve doubled as hockey pucks. The service also was awful. I don’t get it.


      1. Coffee wasn’t bad. Seven bucks for a French press pot.


    2. Cheevers?


    3. Points well received. I have little patience for places serving mediocre food for a premium price. As far as I’m concerned, you’ll never close if your food is solid and fairly priced.


  5. I was hoping the Banquet Cinema would have worked. It had a lot going against it though. The theaters were okay, but the acoustics were sometimes a bit lanky and that was due to the metal roofing. Acoustic tiles can only do so much. It had charm though, like the early days DYI of the Alamo Drafthouse. Even though the location was probably less than a mile from most Midtown spots it felt like it was in the middle of nowhere downtown in a very sparse area. They had some limited alternative programming (classic films, sports, trivia) and more of that would have helped it along. There was also the issue of all of the extra space in the entrance area that they really didn’t seem to have an idea of what to do with. Sure, you can put a pool table and a shuffleboard table there, but you have to give people more of a reason to hang around or to stop in for a drink.

    They say that this is an interim closing, but like all businesses this is just a marketing message to ease the pain of closing. The public’s memory is way to short for most things. It would be nice if it could make a comeback though.

    I’m waiting for the Drafthouse to get here. That will definitely shakeup the local film viewing scene.


  6. Maybe some $9 popcorn?


  7. To be honest, while their concept is good, the food just wasn’t that good. To work they need ti draw people who just want to grab a drink and a bite there on the reg, and occasionally visit to see a film. Not enough film to be a film destination and not good enough food to stand on its own.


    1. I really loved their sign though!


  8. I think also, the problem besides high overrated cocktail prices and high and overrated bar food/small plates, is naming food. There are so many “things” out there on menus that have the name banh mi, sushi, pops (i.e. chicken pops) etc that are not the true food item. There are “banh mi” sandwiches out there that have no resemblance to any of the basic ingredients of a banh mi sandwich, menus offering “sushi” that are not sushi (sushi refers specifically to the sushi rice), head/bang/wall/repeat.


  9. I agree the food,overpriced not good !


  10. The collective is an interesting concept – essentially a food truck park with dedicated restaurants so that we can enjoy a food truck park in 106 or 26 degree weather. But after being to a VERY crowded Collective this weekend… urm… I’ll take the Patriarch and its three tacos, or Blugarden and its limited beer and food selection any day of the week. The Collective is a neat idea, with very narrow spaces that can’t accommodate the giant crowds. Once the newness wears off it may end up being a cool place, and I can see it synergizing well with Blugarden (if they allow outside food from the collective to be brought in).


  11. The single most frequent comment on a Facebook post about the demise of this place was “I never knew it was there.” Maybe depending on social media and the Gazette to do your advertising didn’t really pay off.


  12. I know it’s way too retro, but peepshows and gloryholes would have probably worked at that location.


    1. Brian…Brian Bates is that you again? You’ve spent too much time filming John TV. It is affecting you mentally. Seek help soon.


  13. I love trying new places. The problem is that a lot of these places aren’t new. There are only so many times I have can have fried mac and cheese balls or a mushroom swiss burger or “street tacos” before I just shrug and move on. A lot of these places are simply interchangeable, and unless you do it really, really good, there’s no really no point in trying all these new places. I don’t need to pay 17 dollars to find out that your turkey panini tastes… about the same as every other turkey panini or that you don’t know how to season your cheeseburgers. There are some really good restaurants that are worth splurging on, most of these places aren’t it.

    There are also a lot of places that just worked better as food trucks then they do as retail spaces. At Bleu Garten, I’ll venture to try a fancy biscuit sandwich. If I’m waiting in line at Hunny Bunny, I’ll realize how much of a rip-off it is.


    1. My sentiments exactly!


  14. Restaurants can’t decide if they want to be an eatery or a bar. I’ve notice the larger the bar and the closer to the front door they are the worse the food….and the drinks.


  15. My criteria for any restaurant/Ethnic restaurant is if I see people of the same ethnicity there, or police officers dining there often, it’s probably good and I will try it. It never fails me. I do this for ASian food, Mexican food, breakfast/lunch cafes, etc. I just have no need trendy, high dollar food, I want quality for a reasonable price. I avoid Ted’s, anywhere, any day if I can help it. I know those are fighting words for a few who swear by Ted’s, but my criteria, as well as loathing long lines for mediocre food, I never see many Mexicans eating there, so unless coerced by a group that insist on Ted’s, I don’t go by my own choosing. Never had the need to try Cheevers, as I stick to Jimmy’s Round-Up in S. OKC, Sunny Side Up in Moore, or Boomerang diner or recently All American Dixie Diner in Nicoma Park for great breakfast/diner food since I moved nearby. None of these are particularly trendy, but who cares? BTW, I am Mexican, doesn’t mean much, just wanted to inform if folks get offended. Hate me if you must, it will make my day.


    1. Ninety-five percent of all tex-mex restaurants taste the exact same, Ted’s being no exception. I don’t really see a point in paying three times the price for food that really does all taste the same as a generic mexican chain restaurant.


  16. I eat at home. Lots cheaper, no long lines, no shitty service, unlimited selection, if I find a hair in the food it’s probably mine. Best of all, I can lick the plate!


    1. Lucky you. The service at my place sucks. And the dogs lick our plates.


  17. I’m puzzled by the strange trend of leaving the dollar sign ($) off the menu.

    Example:

    Breaded chicken breast with Dijon sauce – 18
    Buffalo burger with bespoke cheddar – 15

    I guess they think if they don’t say $18 or $15 the customer will forget they have to spend actual money. Or maybe they’ll take 18 or 15 of anything, WTF?

    “Great chicken breast! Can I pay now, please? Here’s 18 pebbles, and five more pebbles for you.”


    1. That’s exactly it. There are studies showing that consumers spend more when they view it as a number rather than a dollar amount.


    2. Haha, they leave the dollar sign off on purpose. It’s a marketing tactic, by taking away the dollar sign from the menu, the owners are removing the symbol of cost and so all you have to think about is their delicious food and drink.


  18. exactly…it doesnt seem as much of a ripoff if theres no $ sign


  19. Too bad. I really enjoyed the pizza at Banquet Cinema Pub. The big thing that turned me off when I went for the last time was the trivia night. The execution was lazy, the organizers seemed uninterested and it was just stale beyond belief.


    1. They probably should have hired us to run the trivia!


  20. “…white people co-opting another culture’s cuisine… ” What a ridiculous statement.


    1. Albeit true.


      1. So,….


  21. Frankly, the great majority of these flash in the pan restaurants that are owned by these corporate “restaurant groups”, they pale to some of okc legends of yester year!!!!! glens sleepy hollow orig nomad tonys via roma on and on!!


  22. I couldn’t wait to try Banquet Cinema – the sign just made me want to go in! Unfortunately, the food, drinks, and movie space just didn’t live up to my expectations. Couldn’t hear a darn thing in the movie and the drinks and food were lackluster for the price.

    I’d love to see a fun bar with great food and drinks open up out northwest. Driving to a “same-old-same-old” new place in midtown is a 30 minute hassle, and going to the expensive bars in Edmond don’t interest me. (Agreeing with others – who needs to pay an exorbitant amount for mediocre food? Just because you call it “A bowl of mixed, farm to table field greens with root vegetables served with a reduction of aged wine and freshly crafted and seasoned toast points” doesn’t mean I want to pay $15 for a salad with carrots and dressing.)


  23. “…but people were confused they didn’t need a ticket to come into the space,” Wheat said. “And then there were those going to the movies and not knowing there was this whole dining experience up front.” It’s a cinema with a restaurant what’s so hard to figure… Oh wait I’m sorry it’s Oklahoma…never mind

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