Building up the inner Oklahoma City may be one bite away

Published: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 7:00 am By: Steve Lackmeyer

The Oklahoman

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Oklahoma City leaders spent millions trying to revive the inner city. They tore down hundreds of buildings, eliminated entire streets and came up with every scheme imaginable to bring people back downtown.

But the past 20 years seems to prove that urban revival might just start with a nice meal and a glass of wine.

We can look back to Bricktown as a great case study. Neal Horton bought up old warehouses, spent millions on renovations and did a lot to promote the area. But the effort ended in bankruptcy, and not until the arrival of Spaghetti Warehouse, did the area truly become a destination.

The same results can be found in Paseo, where promoters struggled in the 1990s to turn the area into a great inner city arts district. The area's fortunes truly turned around, however, with the openings of the Paseo Grill and Sauced.

MidTown had Boulevard Cafeteria, Grateful Bean Cafe and Brown's Bakery helping to keep the area barely alive a decade ago. But now parking can be scarce, thanks to James E. McNellie's Public House, Cafe do Brasil, Prairie Thunder Baking Co. and Irma's Burger Shack.

Now add Automobile Alley and Deep Deuce as examples of districts where hip, locally owned restaurants have given them life.

Automobile Alley was the quiet, slow-going tortoise to Bricktown the hare. While Bricktown was getting everybody's attention with the opening of a canal, ballpark and theater, property owners were renovating buildings and attracting office and residential tenants.

Automobile Alley is now competing for the spotlight with the addition of Red Prime Steakhouse and the Iguana Mexican Grill. Retail has followed with two bike stores, a coffee shop, cupcake bakery and more.

And this takes us to Deep Deuce, which was a no-man's land a decade ago. Now it's filled up with housing, and people are flocking to the area now that's it is home to the Deep Deuce Grill, The Wedge and Sage Gourmet Market and Cafe.

Could an eatery do the same magic for Film Row along W Sheridan? The area has its challenges - a crumbling street waiting to be rebuilt by the city, proximity to two homeless shelters and transients accustomed to sleeping in doorways. But the area is showing signs of a revival with several buildings renovated and leased to offices and more improvements planned.

Maybe all the area needs is the right restaurant. Some names keep popping up in these urban success stories - Keith and Heather Paul, Ryan Parrott, Wade Star, Elliott Nelson, Arturo Chavez, and more. Maybe, just maybe, one of these restaurateurs might be key to making Film Row the next success story.

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