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Midtown dining news: Gigglez to become Kong's, one new bakery opens another to follow

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After mostly bad news out of the local restaurantsphere in 2017, at last some progress to report. Midtown welcomes three new concepts, one already open and two others to arrive next month.

A few weeks ago, you read here about chef Vuong Nguyen joining the kitchen at James Vu's La Brasa as chef de cuisine. There were many more details to report, and here they are: They've partnered with Shyon Keoppel to convert the defunct Gigglez Bar and Grill into Kong's Tavern. An overhaul of the interior already has begun to consolidate the look and feel of the space, which will include a plethora of games both visceral and digital.

Vu and Nguyen have a 12-item menu they're ready to reveal when the restaurant opens in mid-March. The plan is for that menu to grow with the concept, which will emphasize quality food delivered fast in an environment devoted to fun and games. Fun means lots of promotions revolving around the mascot, who will be featured in yet another movie out of Hollywood in a couple weeks — Kong.

Plan to visit Kong's on or around St. Patrick's Day.

Esca Vitae Bakery is poised to open in the space formerly occupied by Prairie Thunder Baking Co. in the weeks to come. Previous owner John McBryde left behind a hard-earned reputation for quality bread, which is now being undertaken by sommelier Cy Mills, retired Kerr-McGee supply chain logistics specialist Don Mills and anesthesiologist Steven Lantier. Mills said he's studied German baking for the past 10 years, spending years abroad to learn their painstaking techniques. He said he's "this close" to bringing a master baker from Germany on board for the new bakery, which will open next month with 30 initial bread offerings to go with pastries, imported cheeses, cold cuts and market offerings.

“We’ll have breads you can’t find anywhere else in the city or the region,” Mills said. "Maybe a few places on the East Coast. And the pretzels, you won't (see) pretzels like ours anywhere. The three words I usually hear from people who've tasted my pretzels for the first time are, 'Oh. My. God.'"

Don Mills said he eventually will add baking classes. Cy Mills worked previously at Flint in his capacity as sommelier before moving to Colorado. He will manage the cafe, which will include coffee service delivered by a cutting-edge marriage between Mahlkonig's K30 Vario Air Espresso Grinder and Synesso's MVP Hydra. For more information, go online to escavitae.com.

Already up and running is Insomnia Cookies, 1131 N Walker Ave., which specializes in cookies and ice cream. If that sounds familiar, did I mention it's open until 3 a.m. seven days a week and delivers? I repeat: It specializes in cookies and ice cream, is open until 3 a.m. seven days, and delivers. Depression just got 30 percent more delicious.

Insomnia Cookies is a chain founded by college students at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003. This is its second Oklahoma location; the first is in Stillwater. For the full menu, go online to insomniacookies.com.

Becker to Hospitality 84

Rachel Cope's up-and-coming Hospitality 84 recently added to its arsenal by hiring chef Chris Becker. Becker comes to the group that operates Empire Slice House, Goro Ramen+Izakaya, and Revolucion Taqueria and Cantina from the School of Culinary Arts at Francis Tuttle. Before that he was chef de cuisine at The Ranchers Club in Stillwater.

But what most folks know chef Becker for is the pitch-perfect pasta, which he sells through his Della Terra Fine Pasta company. The addition doesn't signal a new Italian concept is on the horizon for the group.

Cope said, for now, "Chris is just helping us up our food game at all of the stores."

Celebrity chef series Wednesday

St. Anthony’s 16th Annual Saints Heart & Vascular Institute Celebrity Chef series continues with local chef Kamala Gamble at the helm at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Owner of Guilford Gardens and Kam's Kitchen, Gamble jump-started her career under chef Rick Bayless, another Oklahoma City native, in Chicago at Frontera Grill. Along with chef Barbara Mock, Gamble regularly caters private events and classes. Guilford Gardens is home to one of the city's most celebrated community-assisted agriculture programs. The demonstration and dinner takes place in the Rapp Foundation Conference Center in the Saints Medical Plaza Building, 535 NW 9.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased via eventbrite.com (keyword: Saints Heart & Vascular Institute Celebrity Chef Series) or call 272-7383. Doors open at 6:45 p.m.

Ending on an up note

Congratulations to Paseo Grill, 2909 Paseo Drive Suite A, for being named to OpenTable.com's 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America. Lesley Rawlinson, Elise Fischbein and Joe Jungmann's place growing out of the back of the old El Charrito has been one of the city's most dependable locations for years, serving terrific food in intimate environs. All this did was remind me I need to get the little lady over very soon. Cheers!

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