Drive In To Dine

In 1925, the area around Broadway Avenue in Oklahoma City was flourishing with automobile businesses located in quaint, brick buildings with large, open show rooms. The Packard Building became a fixture of this area known as Automobile Alley, but as downtown entered a steep decline in the following decades, it was just another vacant structure in an abandoned district.

With the renaissance of Midtown and Automobile Alley, the Packard Building is once again purring with new life, as Oklahoma City diners flock to one of the area’s most recent culinary additions: Packard’s New American Kitchen.

General manager John Ross appreciates the history of the location of his new dining endeavor. After all, he has a culinary history of his own. Born into a family of restaurateurs and chefs, food has been a passion of his since childhood. According to Ross, watching the space take shape was remarkable.

“Midtown Renaissance has done a wonderful job renovating the Packard Building,” he says. “The building has actually been unoccupied longer than it has been occupied since it was built and was apparently quite a mess when renovations began. When we got into the space it was a shell with windows, drywall interior walls, and chipped linoleum tile. We were pleasantly surprised to uncover the original black, white and red marble mosaic floor, which was hand-laid in 1925 as the Packard automobile showroom floor…there are still imperfections, but we like that it gives the space a sense of history and character.”

Just as important as the ambience at Packard’s is the food, of course. Ross says the restaurant aims to marry Oklahoma City’s new trend in fine dining with its working class roots.

“‘New American Kitchen’ describes Packard’s in that it is offering a fresh and updated look at food that has become great American fare,” Ross says. “It is food that is exceptional and yet comfortable, aims for perfection without pretentiousness, and depending on little more than the time of day, one can dine wearing jean shorts or a black tie.”

Among the difficult choices facing diners are such offerings as pan-seared grouper, pasta carbonara and the most popular offering so far, the pesto pork chop. Not to be overlooked is the restaurant’s impressive cocktails menu, including the Pack Mule – the restaurant’s personal take on a Moscow mule – and the Panhandler: a bourbon cocktail boasting COOP Gran Sport Porter, maple, lemon and torched rosemary.

The cocktails aren’t the only offerings with plenty of local flavor. Packard’s sources as many ingredients locally as possible, from dairy and coffee to produce and protein.

Ross is proud that Packard’s is the newest member of Midtown’s revitalization. “The shared sense of positive change in the area is palpable,” he says. “Everyone knows that they are part of something bigger happening in OKC. It is exciting to be a part of it, and I can’t wait to see the process of change unfold.” 201 NW 10th St., Oklahoma City. www.packardsokc.com

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