OKC’s first food hall to open Monday in Midtown

Published Friday, July 26, 2019
by Christian Tabak

The Collective Kitchens + Cocktails will launch its ambitious bar, coffee shop and 11-kitchen restaurant concept Monday after months of financing and construction delays.

Billed as the first of its kind in Oklahoma City, the food hall will include a range of menus and concepts, with offerings ranging from fried tacos, poke bowls and waffles to seasonal American cuisine, pan-Asian dishes and traditional barbecue. Varying food options were intentionally selected to ensure there was something to draw customers throughout the day, said Collective Managing Partner Truong Le.

“We’ve got a diverse group of people, a diverse group of food and there’s going to be something for everyone,” Le said. “We have vegan and vegetarian options, barbecue and plenty of food for meat lovers, there’s brunch, there’s waffles. There’s something for everyone, no matter what time they come.”

On the corner of NW 10th Street and N. Harvey Avenue in the heart of Midtown, the two-story food hall will feature a 40-foot bar with 32 taps, a 95-person rooftop patio with views of downtown and a large casual dining space alongside the signature 11 kitchens.

Negotiations are ongoing for an 11th restaurant. Currently the food hall is home to Le’s own Okie Pokie restaurant that specializes in Hawaiian poke bowls; Fried Taco, an Edmond-based Mexican food truck nominated for the Oklahoma Gazette’s Best Food Truck; the Flying Pig BBQ; pan-Asian eatery Cafe de L’Asie; Beth Lyon’s Black Cat, which will focus on plant-based offerings; Local-homa, a contemporary American restaurant with a menu based on local and seasonal ingredients; Dutch baby specialty restaurant Oh Baby!; and Texas-based Press Waffle Co., a family-owned operation specializing in customizable waffles.

Press Waffle Co., the only out-of-town restaurant based in The Collective, currently operates three restaurants across Texas, including two other food hall-based locations. Founder and owner Bryan Lewis said he and his brother were attracted to being a part of the project after meeting with the ownership team in Texas as they were visiting other food halls. As their family roots stem from Oklahoma, Lewis said he felt pulled to the project as a good next step for their business.

“There’s a passion to bring something new and exciting to Oklahoma City from The Collective’s ownership team, and there’s just a standard of excellence that I think is rare to find among food hall concepts,” Lewis said. “It’s hard to get 11 concepts together, but if you walk into The Collective it is absolutely stunning. It’s a really good fit for us and I think the community aspect of this food hall is really amazing.”

The concept for the food hall was developed by Le, an established restaurateur known for Okie Pokie and Chick N Beer, alongside Jenny Nguyen, whose family owns Vietnamese sandwich shop Lee’s Sandwiches; development company Northline Development; and former pro golfer Anthony Kim.

More than 80 unique restaurants and food concepts applied to be a part of The Collective through an application process. Le said that number was reduced to 20 strong candidates that auditioned for the ownership. Out of those 20, Le said they tried to pick the strongest candidates that would provide the best experiences for diners. Each kitchen is funded by The Collective, with staffing and operating costs being the only financial consideration for each of the 11 kitchens.

A $6 million investment, work on the structure began last year with an original opening goal of sometime near the end of 2018. At the site of a former auto garage, local architectural firm Gardner Architects was responsible for designing a location that was both commercially appealing and able to house 11 different food concepts.

“Most brick-and-mortar restaurants are one kitchen, one concept,” said Gardner project manager Zack Woods. “This one is more individual, with 11 kitchens that will allow people to explore more diverse food options without having to leave like they would in a one-kitchen traditional restaurant concept.”

While unique for Oklahoma City, food halls are a trend that have sprung up across the nation in recent years as a way to provide more diverse and unique eating venues, where kitchens can share costs and customers.

The delay in Oklahoma City is something Tammy Fate, manager of retail development and recruitment for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said is probably related to the fact that downtown Oklahoma City is more spread out and would require more investment for the food hall concept The Collective has designed.

“Food halls are continuing to grow across the U.S. and they’re kind of the hot thing right now,” Fate said. “It allows a lot of companies that are food trucks or just looking to open a brick-and-mortar to do so at a lower cost of entry.”

Le, who will himself be on-site to manage the food hall as well as operate the bar, said he hopes The Collective will offer patrons a culturally unique dining experience and provide an opportunity to give up-and-coming restaurants a chance to have a solid start.

Read the story on JournalRecord.com.

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