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Wine and fine


The Metro Wine Bar & Bistro celebrates 25 years with the purchase of its permanent location.

Greg Horton January 22nd, 2014

The Metro Wine Bar & Bistro opened in December 1988.

Twenty-five years later, LaVeryl Lower, The Metro’s owner, finally owns the building.

The sale of the 22,000-square-foot facility was completed in time for a New Year’s celebration. Lower partnered with Ken Howell, co-owner of the Howell Gallery in the same facility, to purchase the building.

The Metro has always been located at 6418 N. Western Ave. Chris and LaVeryl Lower were partners with Kurt Fleischfresser in The Coach House, and the business partners wanted to open a more casual bistro nearby.

“During those years, it was a trend for nice French restaurants to open bistros in proximity to the restaurant,” Fleischfresser said. “We wanted to do something similar, [to] create a casual bistro with the same standard of quality that we had at The Coach House.”

Fleischfresser and the Lowers eventually traded their shares in The Coach House and The Metro in 2005 to each other and ended their partnership on a friendly note.

Mayor Mick Cornett, an occasional patron of The Metro, told Oklahoma Gazette, “It’s a reminder of the ups and downs of business that so many restaurants have come and gone since The Metro started. That LaVeryl is still there is a tribute to the quality of the ownership and the food.”

Credit where it’s due
Indeed, Lower’s influence on Oklahoma City’s food and wine culture might be hard to overstate, but she is quick to credit people who aided her success.

“Vance Gregory consulted on the original wine list,” Lower said.

Gregory is the owner of Edmond Wine Shop.

“Kurt was the original executive chef. He did most of the first menu, and we have such an amazing tenured staff,” she said.

As for her influence on OKC’s wine culture, when The Metro opened, The Metro and Flip’s Wine Bar and Trattoria (opened in 1985) were the only two restaurants with serious wine programs: by the glass, wide variety and deep bottle lists. The Metro was the first restaurant in OKC to offer wine by the ounce, a practice it continues today.

Lower said wine was important to her from the beginning, but so was the goal of establishing a neighborhood restaurant where people could dine every week. They have customers who have been coming in since opening day; many do, in fact, come in every week.

Model of success
The model morphed over the years.

For example, Lower used to change the by-the-glass menu every month. Now she does it once a quarter. Some things haven’t changed. She is still involved in day-to-day operations and said she still enjoys it even two and a half decades after opening.

“We do have high standards, but we teach our staff a level of fine dining that is unobtrusive but warm and friendly,” she said. “There is far more competition now than there was 25 years ago.”

The Metro has grown every year since it opened. The only scary moment came when Lower thought Chesapeake was going to sell the building. That fear helped her and Chris decide to purchase the building.

“The time seemed right,” she said. The ownership of the facility has changed, but the restaurant won’t as long as Lower is running it.

“She has a certain style that resonates with people,” Fleischfresser said.”

 
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