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The sporting life

OKC star athletes plan to serve more than three-pointers and receptions.

Greg Horton March 6th, 2013

Two high-profile athletes with Oklahoma ties are using their celebrity status as a launching pad for metro restaurants slated to open later this year.

By: Brad Gregg

In separate ventures, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant and the New England Patriots’ Wes Welker have teamed up with Hal Smith Restaurant Group to bring two very different concepts to town.

Durant’s restaurant, which will feature Southern cuisine and more traditional steakhouse fare, will be in Bricktown adjacent to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. Joe Jungmann, who is heading up both projects for HSRG, emphasized that KD’s Southern Cuisine will not be a sports bar.

“There will be a large bar with televisions for Thunder games, of course,” he said, “but KD wants an upscale Southern cuisine restaurant, so the decor and the environment will not feel like a sports bar.”

The menu will include chicken and waffles, jambalaya, stuffed catfish, stuffed pork chops, as well as crab legs and steaks. Two private dining rooms in the 10,000-square-foot building will seat up to 20 people apiece or can be combined to seat 40. The bar will be full-service.

Dirt began moving in February for October target opening.

Wes Welker’s Sports Bar and Grill will be in the old Carrabba’s building at 3121 W. Memorial.

Jungmann, who also co-owns Paseo Grill and Sauced on Paseo, said it is slated to open in late June.

“Wes is excited about this concept,” he said, “so we want him in the city for the opening.”

Welker, a graduate of Oklahoma City’s Heritage Hall High School, just completed his ninth NFL season, the last six of which have been as a standout wide receiver.

Jungmann said the cuisine will be slightly upper-end bar food. Expected to be about 6,000 square feet, it will boast a large bar with 20 beers on tap, full liquor service and select wines.

“We’re not just going to have chips and salsa and wings,” he said. “We want to have traditional sports bar food, but we also want some chef-driven items.”

The newly named executive chef for both restaurants, Melodie Walker, is a former Platt College instructor.

“Melodie helped me put the menu together at Paseo Grill, so she’s an experienced chef with fine-dining experience,” said Jungmann.


Oklahoma City’s emerging culinary renaissance doesn’t stop with professional athletes.

The bustling strip along N.W. 23rd Street is about to get another familiar face. Big Truck Tacos’ Chris Lower and Kathryn Mathis are set to open a barbecue joint at 315 N.W. 23rd in early spring.

Lower said the concept includes a counter-service format similar to Big Truck Tacos.

“We’re going to feature traditional items like ribs, brisket and a great salad, but we’re putting a twist on barbecue by offering nontraditional items like smoked pork belly and smoked lamb shoulder,” he said. “Fans of Big Truck know how creative Kathryn is, and she’ll be applying that same creativity to barbecue.”

In Automobile Alley, the fate of the old Pachinko Parlor building on N.W. Ninth Street remains uncertain.

Steve Mason, the building’s owner, said he has been negotiating with some interested parties, all of whom want to continue using the space as a restaurant. 

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