This story starts back in December, when it appeared as if a great little restaurant in MidTown was going to fail – not because the young couple who ran it were not likable, not because they didn’t serve great unique dishes, and not because of the location.
No, the imminent failure of the old little diner at 1220 N Hudson, which originally opened as “Foodies Express,” could only be attributed to a lack of marketing, branding and word of mouth.
It was only word of mouth – an urging by Marva Ellard, who owns the neighboring Sieber Hotel Apartments - that got me in the doors. Those who read this blog know I was already in love with this half century old diner and it didn’t take me long to take a liking to the food and the owners. Quyen Le and Bang Bui are truly “foodies.” Their diverse menu is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered in Oklahoma. It’s not a Vietnamese restaurant, though that influence can be found in much of their menu. It’s not a Greek restaurant, though they have some of the most original gyros in town. It’s not a chicken wing place, though they have a diverse variety of wings that include a “suicide” batch made with ghost peppers. It’s not a burger place, though they do serve burgers and chili. It is, as summed up by people far smarter than I, an Asian American Diner.
I shared this discovery with Chad Huntington, who in turn became a regular customer himself. And it was on one night in December, just a few weeks after Foodies had opened, that Chad shared with me his fear the restaurant wouldn’t make it. He also went on Twitter and shared with the local social media world what they were missing.
Brian Winkeler, one of several people I’ve become acquainted with in the creative community who I truly respect and admire, gave his best smart ass response. He dismissed the restaurant, saying he’d be more likely to visit if they had a better looking sign, logo and overall presentation.
Bad move, Mr. Winkeler. I said just as much. Knowing he possessed the skills to address Bang and Quyen’s biggest shortcomings, and knowing Winkeler to be someone who cared about the neighborhood, and understood how a successful restaurant in this location could make a world of difference, I challenged him “pass it on.”
Winkeler, joined by his kids, met me at Foodies not long after. And he too discovered why Marva, Chad and I all wanted to see this young Vietnamese immigrant couple succeed. Winkeler, whose recent work included the rebranding of the Bricktown Brewery, accepted the challenge and drafted a fellow talent, Phillip Schroeder.
I’m happy to say that Bang and Quyen are doing well now – they’re getting great reviews on sites like Urban Spoon. And after working a few weeks with Bang and Quyen, Brian and Phillip amazed everyone by creating far more than a new logo and sign. They created new menus, and a new look for the diner itself. Bang is hoping the transformation will begin sometime this month. In the meantime, here’s a glimpse of what’s to come (and yes, Bang reports the bars are about to be removed from the windows!):