From selling meals on wheels to opening up a brick and mortar restaurant, The Meating Place just moved into downtown Norman.
The grand opening for the barbecue and bar is Monday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 121 E. Main Street. Soft openings were held as early as Thursday for family and friends, and to get as many possible familiar with the spot, but the grand opening celebrations will continue later into the week with a ribbon cutting.
The Meating Place food truck originals will still make an appearance on the menu and in the hearts of fans, but with a kitchen three times the size of the food truck's kitchen, the owners were able to expand the menu.
Brad and Erin Nixon and PJ and Amy Taylor are the founders of The Meating Place food truck, which they operated for three years. Brad and PJ are brothers-in-laws, because Erin and Amy are sisters, and at first this was all family owned and operated.
Brad and PJ run The Meating Place full-time as owners and Amy is an assistant District Attorney at the Cleveland County Courthouse and Erin is an owner and a pharmacist at Noble Pharmacy. The plan is for Brad to run the kitchen and PJ to do a hybrid of running the bar and the waitstaff, and while family will be helping they did hire outside staffing as well.
"We are trying to modernize the barbecue dining experience while also trying to stay as true as we can to Oklahoma, because three out of the four of us are Oklahoma born and raised," PJ said.
The rib dinner is still available, but the menu includes completely new items in appetizers, desserts, salads and entrees. Pulled pork, nachos, barbecue brisket, smoked chicken, quesadillas, mac and cheese, pulled pork sliders, deviled eggs (which is a family recipe) and fried pickles are some of the newer items.
"Craft barbecue is really what we are shooting for, where we will use the smoke meats to create different kinds of sandwiches and meals that you don't find at your classic barbecue places, like our pulled pork and guac melt," PJ said. "It's two slices of Texas toast and between there are two different types of cheese, pepper jack and havarti, with our pulled pork and guacamole. We are pretty excited about new items like that."
Brad said they are trying to expand to craft barbecue, and items away from typical barbecue. He said one example is their new smoked fried chicken, which includes smoking chicken tenders, hand battering them and frying them.
Local craft beer is on tap and a cocktail menu with 16 items will be ready, "We like to say craft cocktails, craft beers and craft barbecue," PJ said.
Their hope is The Meating Place is a mixture of family dining and a neighborhood bar, Brad said, where people can come in with their friends and they know the bar tender.
"We don't want it to feel cliquey or anything like that," he said. "We want people to walk in and automatically feel relief like it's not this, 'Am I underdressed or am I overdressed.' It's just you're coming to have great food with your family, nobody expects anything of you except to have a good time."
They all want the customer to feel comfortable and to have the best experience they want to have there. While PJ and Brad will work the restaurant, they will also continue to work the food truck during OU game days, festivals and weekends.
"It's one thing to have a brick and mortar stable place where you're in a consistent place, but there's something about moving around and being at different spots, it's exciting and you get to see different people from all over the place," Brad said.
The 100 year old building was loved by the Nixons, Taylors and many Normanites as McNellies, but that's exactly why the owners bought it, and for the most part kept things the same. PJ said they enjoy the local aspect of Main Street and noted the revitalization of the area with more local businesses, events and festivals that they want to be apart of.
Walking in today its brighter with an added booth section and tan wood colored tables with a black border, a standing bar that outlooks downtown Norman through a large window and an entirely new bar top. There are tables and chairs in the front and back, and the character of the original building is still there, but with a modern touch.
"We just gave it a nice face lift that matched our theme. A little brighter, warmer and modernized," PJ said.
The owners also converted the top floor into a lounge called the Q Bar, which will officially open Aug. 22 and continue on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Brad said the idea stemmed from the Norman lounge bar, and they wanted to create an almost speakeasy experience.
All of the owners are grateful to not have to start this business completely from scratch, because with the food truck they've already created quite the following and a brand for themselves.
"We are excited to see our regulars again who have been calling and messaging us for the past few months," Brad said. "We are sorry we had the food truck away for a bit, but it'll be great to see the familiar faces that we have gotten to know from campus to Moore to Pauls Valley and Purcell to OKC that we have one consistent location now that they can actually find us."
The dream for a food tuck caused the dream for a restaurant, but all of the hard work flowed from a lot of nights brainstorming over a fire. Brad graduated from Louisiana State University and taught 6th grade geography at Longfellow, and at the same time PJ was at OU Law School.
"We both went through the year and decided this is not what we want to do and started bouncing around ideas and food truck popped up and kind of just went from there," Brad said.
PJ has worked in restaurants throughout middle school, high school and college, while Brad really enjoys cooking. Amy and Erin are apart of The Meating Place just as much as PJ and Brad, and worked the food truck with them from the beginning.
Now Amy and Erin fill in the gaps and help out as much as possible, PJ said, they also do the planning and a lot of the work on the menus. Even though Brad is from Texas he is a Normanite now, and since Amy, Erin and PJ were all raised in Oklahoma, staying true to the state is important to them in their cooking and beverages.
The idea to make craft barbecue their specialty came from the purchase of a couple of smokers and a desire to bring local barbecue to the west side of Norman. With the food truck they ended up serving in the east side of Norman, Oklahoma City, Moore and Pauls Valley, but it all brought them back to downtown Norman.
Once the Q Bar is open to the public, the lounge will also be rentable for rehearsal dinners, office parties, birthdays, etc, and PJ said customers can have the option to cater in-house and do a cash bar. The concept is fluid right now, so there isn't a set cost, but the food truck is also still available for reserved catering opportunities.
So far The Meating Place has a good foundation of staff with qualified and experienced workers. However, they are still hiring, and the owners said it's important for anyone applying to know they are not looking to hire more people, they are looking to extend their family.