Keith and Heather Paul like bits in their gravy—the little parts of a recipe that are sloppy, made with love and almost assuredly made at home. “We like to put a little bit of our family heritage into it,” Heather said while standing behind her kitchen island and looking out of the giant bay windows into the backyard. “That’s what we’re about with hospitality. If you can show people that you put your heart and soul into this then they will be invested with you. That’s when you make customers for life.”
Just west of downtown, the Pauls have made an old vanilla extract factory their home base. While renovating last year, they found old ads and other reminders of the building’s past as they tore it down to the studs and transformed it into the beautiful home it is today, complete with an open floor plan and gigantic kitchen.“We just love being downtown,”Heather says as she cuts an orange, dropping the slices into a gigantic punch bowl. “It’s neat because we can walk to Kitchen or Red Prime. Feels like we are connected.” Kitchen 324, Red Prime Steak, Tucker’s Onion Burgers, Republic Gastro Pub, Iron Starr Urban Barbeque and the venerable Cheever’s Cafe make up the Pauls’ restaurant dominion known as A Good Egg Dining Group.
Each restaurant offers a selection of regional comfort foods with modern flavors resulting in some of state’s most unique contributions to the culinary arts scene. At the root of the Pauls’ food success is the restaurateurs themselves.
The couple, who met while both worked at Ben E. Keith Foods years ago, said they are fed by the energy of Oklahoma City, especially from the thriving food scene. “Restaurants can be cutthroat,” Keith said. “But here it feels like everybody supports everybody. There’s a real sense of camaraderie and togetherness. It makes you want to keep going and motivates you to help make it better.” Their willingness to open their kitchen and family cookbooks, and to let their employees do the same, is what’s made for some really special combinations and memorable dishes from their restaurants.
This is why currently, as they prepare to open their next addition to Oklahoma City, The Drake Seafood and Oysterette, they are compelled by that familiar desire to deliver something unique and heartfelt all over again. The new restaurant promises to broaden the palette of the average Oklahoma seafood seeker by celebrating multiple regions of seafood , including the Pacific Northwest, Chesapeake Bay, Gulf Coast region, and southern California. The Drake will have fresh seafood flown in twice daily and will feature oysters from both the East and West Coasts. “It’s not just Cajun or California Baja and fish tacos all day long,” Keith says. “It’ll be a little bit of everything.” The Drake is expected to open soon in the Rise Building, and upscale retail destination near NW 23rd Street and Walker Avenue that is part of the updated Uptown 23rd District. Back at their home, they offered guests a sampling of the food that will be featured at The Drake.
To start the dinner, a cocktail that harkens back to an old fisherman’s recipe from Philadelphia first concocted in 1732; Fish House Punch. In a large glass punch bowl filled with two large blocks of ice, Heather tossed the various fruits she had cut up and mixed in a little cognac, rum and brandy as well as some lemon lime soda. After it sat for a little while and after she found a ladle long enough to scoop the drink out, she filled several glasses with some of the finest punch this side of the city of brotherly love. The cocktail is so steeped in American lore that it is said George Washington had 13 glasses of it during a victory celebration, one for every colony. For an appetizer, the Four-H Club (The four H’s being Hush Puppies, prosciutto ham, honey butter and hot sauce) will be an instant hit with everybody no matter their affinity toward seafood. The idea is to dip the hush puppy into the honey butter, wrap it in the prosciutto and toss a tab of hot sauce on top. The combination of sweet and the spicy on the melt in your mouth hush puppy makes for an unbeatable original. The main course of seafood paella is served with oysters, jumbo shrimp and a spicy andouille sausage. This spicy plate, which is the national dish of Spain, is served over paella rice. Most of the recipes come straight from the couple’s home, things they’ve shared with family and friends are now the recipes they hope Oklahoma City again embraces. “We started on in restaurants getting by on credit cards and prayers,” Heather said. “To see where we come from and to be opening another place, we are just so grateful and so excited for what’s next.”