The Coach House is reborn as The Hutch on Avondale

Chef de cuisine David Henry is done being a culinary nomad after spending months wandering Oklahoma City’s restaurant scene as a visitor.

“After the pop-ups, I can’t wait to have a home,” he said as he looked over the kitchen of The Hutch on Avondale, 6437 Avondale Drive, in Nichols Hills Plaza. “I’m excited to get going.”

Open House

Henry was executive chef at The Coach House, which closed its doors in February. Owner Kurt Fleischfresser said at the time that he had mixed feelings about shutting down the restaurant that helped him rise to the top of the city’s food scene decades ago.

“It would be more difficult for it to not go out in style,” he told Oklahoma Gazette in February.

The Coach House was Oklahoma City’s long-lived home of locally sourced French cuisine long before the term “farm-to-table” became part of the popular nomenclature. The menu could be pricey, but Fleischfresser and Henry worked to keep some budget-friendly dishes available. Fleischfresser said when people start thinking of a restaurant as a “special occasion” spot, it’s hard to change their minds; diners who were once regulars stayed away because of perception rather than the actual menu prices.

But that wasn’t the end. The venue reopened Sept. 27 as The Hutch.

Dining evolution

There was never an expectation that the restaurant wouldn’t return, Henry said. He and Kyle Fleischfresser, Kurt’s son, worked with the owner on the venue’s dining evolution.

In the intervening months, with the help of original owner Chris Lower, the group reimagined everything, holding onto what worked and sussing out what should change to keep the operation thriving, Kurt Fleischfresser said.

While the venue was being renovated inside, Kyle Fleischfresser and Henry designed new menus and hosted pop-up dinners as The Hutch at different restaurants, including Bonjour, former Coach House Apprenticeship Program graduate Vuong Nguyen’s French-inspired breakfast and lunch eatery.

“We’ve reached a different audience at Vuong’s place,” Henry said. “We got new people seeing our price points, and we received some great feedback.”

It was also an opportunity to “do some real weird stuff,” he said.

Those experimental dishes helped establish The Hutch’s new menu, which more heavily leans on the Oklahoma palate.

“It keeps the simple stuff, but elevates it,” he said. “It’s very seasonal, local and of-the-moment.”

Bar upgrade

Kyle Fleischfresser’s focus is on The Hutch’s bar, which might come as a surprise to fans of The Coach House since it didn’t really have one.

He said he doesn’t plan to get too wild with his mixology experiments though.

“It’s pretty straightforward; no weird esoteric ingredients for no reason,” he said. “We’re keeping flavored vodka on the back bar. It’s going to be a place that’s comfortable to just hang out and drink.”

Kurt Fleischfresser’s pride in his son was evident. A mischievous grin crossed his face as he described the new menu.

“We’re not going to have any drinks with cute names that don’t taste good,” he said.

Deconstructed, reconstructed — whatever the style, it still has to taste great, he said.

“David’s got the finesse to do it,” Kurt Fleischfresser said.

A tour through the kitchen reveals a true walk-in freezer — something the old restaurant didn’t have — and a reorganized and centralized area where The Hutch chefs put together dishes as a team. There’s also a fryer, which will be used for french fries and chicken wings.

But the main difference is how much more open the restaurant feels, from the way stations are positioned around the center island to the wide-open window connecting the kitchen and the dining room, which allows hungry diners to witness the work going into their meals.

Henry said the menu will change a lot in coming months as he works through seasonally available ingredients and focuses on the dishes customers order. The Hutch still serves lamb, though instead of ordering only by the rack, diners can choose to get it by the chop.

Henry has also reworked the salmon and cornbread, updating the signature dish by modernizing its presentation while retaining the taste.

But he said menu additions will make The Hutch a more casual dining experience and include sandwiches at lunch and dinner.

Kurt Fleischfresser said he wants people to relax and have fun. He said the service is high quality and now more people will be able to receive it.

Print headline: Escape Hutch, The Hutch on Avondale leaves behind fine-dining expectations to make a new home.

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