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Valentine's Day: Deuce dining

After years of waiting and planning, La Baguette Deep Deuce and Black Walnut are open in time for Valentine’s Day.

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The new La Baguette Deep Deuce offers a new stylistic take on the company’s signature flavors and aesthetic. - ALEXA ACE
  • Alexa Ace
  • The new La Baguette Deep Deuce offers a new stylistic take on the company’s signature flavors and aesthetic.

After being in the planning stages for more than seven years, the first two of three restaurants by partners Rudy Khouri and chef Andrew Black in The Maywood apartments in Deep Deuce are open in time for Valentine’s Day.

Khouri founded La Baguette in Norman more than 30 years ago and licenses the name and concept to Michel and Alain Buthion for their May Avenue bistro. He took the opportunity to open his first Oklahoma City La Baguette Deep Deuce location in January.

“It’s been exciting and scary at the same time to take on something like this, even though [La Baguette has] been in this business for more than 30 years,” Khouri said. “It’s exciting; it’s like seeing something grow and happen. It’s like waiting for a baby.”

With the bakery’s wide array of chocolates, pastry and cakes, it is the perfect spot to fill a Valentine’s craving, but it has added a few elements to make it more amiable to what Khouri said are 2,400 residents in the Deep Deuce neighborhood and those who work nearby downtown.

“We’ve introduced new stuff; it’s very much the same menu with a few twists and changes,” Khouri said, noting that there is now a grab-and-go section for salads, dips and sandwiches. “Also, we’re introducing nice European items like jams and honey and oil. If you’re going to buy a baguette, we’re doing cheese and charcuterie. We want to be a one-stop shop, not like a grocery store, but a different vibe and more convenient for people who live and work nearby.”

La Baguette Deep Deuce’s brunch service added an avocado Benedict to the service, which has been a hit since it opened. Black said the addition of charcuterie and cheese along with the store items are among the only changes to La Baguette compared to its Norman locations.

“They say, what is not broke, don’t fix it,” Black said. “There is nothing wrong with that menu [at La Baguette]. As I was working in this building, I think I spent about a year and a half in the building; it was just me and the construction workers every day. Every time I got hungry, I’d drive to Norman just to eat at La Baguette because it is so good. There was no way we wanted to change the menu.”

Born and bread

Khouri and Black became friends not long after Black, a Jamaican native, moved to Oklahoma City to re-open The Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City after working at the famed Peabody Memphis. Black also opened Vast and Flint and began working with Khouri on the concepts at The Maywood about seven years ago. They originally planned for one of the three locations to be a Meatball House but instead took that to Norman, where it closed in 2017.

Black said they always knew they would do a La Baguette and a tasting menu restaurant, Grey Sweater, which is set to open in April and already sold out of reservations for its first month.

The middle restaurant, all of which are connected by sliding wood doors, was a late concept. After speaking with a marketing agency, they decided on the name Black Walnut because it combines the chef’s last name with bordering Walnut Avenue. Black fashions Black Walnut as a casual eatery that will eventually be open for lunch and weekend brunch with cocktails from around the world, in comparison to Grey Sweater, which is much more driven by technique and designed to push the boundaries of palates.

La Baguette Deep Deuce offers a limited introductory menu as well as its signature cakes and macarons for Valentine’s Day. - ALEXA ACE
  • Alexa Ace
  • La Baguette Deep Deuce offers a limited introductory menu as well as its signature cakes and macarons for Valentine’s Day.

“It’s going to be a place where flavor has no apology,” Black said. “It means everything on the plate has a story. It’s a happy place to come, and you have a great meal with great company in a casual atmosphere with great wine and a cocktail program that will bring street cocktails from around the world.”

During the interview with Oklahoma Gazette, Black tried a cocktail from a staff mixologist. The staff is still finalizing the menu before it opens for a public preview service featuring a pared-down menu on Valentine’s Day before showcasing its full menu Feb. 15.

Khouri described Black as an innovator on the forefront of cooking, which includes taking a different approach to menu construction. The menu at Black Walnut does not categorize items by appetizers, salads and groups of entrees. Instead, menu items are grouped by flavor profile like “sweet and savory” or “fresh and light.”

“It’s a new wave of cooking,” Khouri said. “You see it throughout the U.S. and Europe. The millennials are a driving force around those changes, and it has been fun and fantastic because it challenges chefs and cooks to think outside the box to bring something new and different to the market.”

“We don’t want to be locked into one [type of] food,” Black said. “We want it to be an experience. You can have fried quail with green tomato jam and hushpuppies. You can have lamb ribs glazed in chimichurri and brown sugar with pickled vegetables. We want to cross borders and cuisine. Flavor is the only thing that rules.”

The Maywood building offers a free parking lot with 100 spots with access via Third Street. Guests can take an elevator from the parking garage, where they’ll walk past custom artwork on their way to the three restaurants.

Black admitted that when he moved to OKC 13 years ago, he only planned to stay for a year, but he has fallen in love with the area and considers it home. He is hopeful that Deep Deuce’s growing residential population and easy access to Interstate 235 makes it a viable location.

“We want it to feel like a neighborhood restaurant,” Black said. “I like the fact that if you park, you can walk to it easily. I love that everyone has a dog or is walking around and you can say hello to everyone.”

To make reservations at Black Walnut, visit Open Table or call 405-445-6273.

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