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Local dining-scape becomes game of musical chairs

Sara Sara Cupcakes and Pierre Pierre Creperie has a new home on Western Avenue.
Sara Sara Cupcakes and Pierre Pierre Creperie has a new home on Western Avenue.

A move out of Automobile Alley by one restaurant has created an opportunity for another, and the winners are those of us who never want to be too far from something sweet to eat.

Back in March, Sara Sara Cupcakes and Pierre Pierre Creperie closed shop on NW 9 Street but reopened in a new space on Western Avenue in early April.

Sara Sara Cupcakes and Pierre Pierre Creperie are now at 2701 N Western, selling gourmet cupcakes and crepes with the coldest white and chocolate milk by the glass in town. The new space has fewer seats but plenty of parking and a nice covered patio.

Eric and Quinn Smith inside the new Sara Sara Cupcakes.
Eric and Quinn Smith inside the new Sara Sara Cupcakes.

The move helped Sara Sara escape ongoing road construction along Automobile Alley and place it in closer proximity to chef/owner Eric Smith's other concepts VZD's Restaurant and Bar and The Crown Room, which are at 4200 N Western.

Picking up large cupcake orders is much more convenient now, and the new spot might signal development on North Western Avenue between NW 36 and NW 23 streets.

The store is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

When Sara Sara opened in 2008, along with the Iguana Lounge reimagined as the Iguana Mexican Grill, it signaled the start of a metamorphosis of the once-blighted stretch of road just east of Broadway. Since then, the corridor has expanded to include S&B's Burger Joint and Nashbird. Smith added the crepes of Pierre Pierre in 2014.

The vacancy left by Sara Sara will be filled by Katiebug’s Sip & Sweets. Katiebug's has grown a dedicated audience with its natural shaved ice and hot chocolate, operating out of a vintage 1958 Canned Ham Trailer. Started in the summer of 2014, Katiebug's most recently had a "trailer park" near downtown Edmond.

Owners Katie and Melissa Morgan are hard at work getting ready to open now, no doubt the early spate of high temperatures has them working double-time.

More movement

Empire Slice House is moving down the street later this year.
Empire Slice House is moving down the street later this year.

Sara Sara isn't the only long-standing local concept on the move. Last week, 84 Hospitality announced it was moving its wildly popular Empire Slice House down the street within the 16th Street Plaza District.

The address will be 1804 NW 16 St. and will increase seating capacity by 35 to 120, including a patio with ample outdoor seating.

CEO Rachel Cope believes this means shorter wait times for guests and more room for group celebrations.

“Over the past five years, Empire Slice House has been met with such incredible support from Oklahoma City that we’ve outgrown our current shop,” Cope said in a release. “The new and improved space will not only allow us to better serve our guests, but since we’re building it to our specifications, it will be more functional for our employees who work so hard every day to make Empire what it is.”

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Increased kitchen space should improve efficiency and the building will have a second floor, which will become 84 Hospitality’s new headquarters.

Empire plans to be in its new home in August, which will give management two months to plan the restaurant's five-year anniversary.

The west end of The Plaza will be extraordinarily busy this summer as Maples Barbecue nears opening in the former Chiltepe's next-door to Empire's new home.

The Plaza is already one of the city's top destinations for food and drink with options. 84 Hospitality also has Goro Ramen to go with Empire. The Mule might've been first to draw huge crowds, which spurred it ownership group to add The Press last fall. Saints has been on NW 16 Street longer than any of its neighbors and Aurora Breakfast Bar and Backyard is, perhaps, its latest sensation. The Pritchard offers a distinctive dining option for wine lovers and Oak & Ore does the same for beer-lovers. One that I've wrongly overlooked in the past is District House, a great option for coffee and deli in a casual setting. Meanwhile, Roxy's Ice Cream and Pie Junkie have dessert covered.

Johnnie's continues expansion

David, Johnnie and Rick Haynes back in the day.
David, Johnnie and Rick Haynes back in the day.

Some time ago, rumors were swirling that the oldest Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler location on Britton Road was on the verge of closing, but co-owner Rick Haynes quickly shot them down.

In fact, Haynes told me at the time he and brother David had major expansion plans for the franchise their father started back in the early 1970s on the strength of its burgers, fries and onion rings.

Johnnie's Charcoal Broiler restaurant on W. Britton Rd.was never close to closing last year despite rumors to the contrary..
Johnnie's Charcoal Broiler restaurant on W. Britton Rd.was never close to closing last year despite rumors to the contrary..

Rick's promise comes to fruition starting Thursday, when the Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler on NW Expressway closes to make way for a new location to be built in its place by next spring.

“The community surrounding the Johnnie’s on NW Expressway are some of our most devoted and engaged patrons,” Haynes said in a release. “We’re excited to offer them a new and improved dining experience.”

The Haynes brothers broke ground on two new locations Moore and Midwest City late last year. The Moore store is slated to open in July. Midwest City will get a Johnnie’s Express in the fall.

The new Moore space will be at 2305 S Telephone Road and feature a large dining space complete with a private room for parties. The Express location, 6825 SE 29th Street, will offer breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m.

Quick Bites

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Midtown got a sweet addition Friday when Capitals Ice Cream and Coffee opened next door to Barrios Fine Mexican Dishes. Capitals offers Tillamook Ice Cream with a myriad of potential additions and fresh coffee. ...

Brunch is back at Ludivine, and for that we all need to thank chef Russ Johnson for bringing it back in time for summer. ...

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Speaking of Russ Johnson, I would like to publicly thank him for the vigor with which he repeatedly encouraged me to visit El Fogonicito, 3020 N Walker Ave. Wow. What a terrific little taqueria and restaurant. I made my second visit last week with newly retired chef Robert Black. We split six tacos, each with a different ingredient. When our server asked how they were, Robert's response of "Fantastic!" might've been a little more enthusiastic than she was prepared for, but he was right. The pork belly, in particular, is terrific and so are the salsas that come with them. Look for more about El Fogonicito and the talented Mr. Black on these pages in the months to come.

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Dave Cathey

The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene. Read more ›