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The Manhattan offers metropolitan cocktails, classic menu and cool urban vibe

Heide Brandes / Red Dirt Report
Bruce Rinehart at his newest eatery, The Manhattan.
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I have a love affair with Reuben sandwiches.

Besides Cuban sandwiches and liverwurst, Rueben sandwiches are my absolute favorite lunch meal. The piles of pastrami topped with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing on fluffy rye makes me forget all about life’s woes and disappointments.

So when I heard that Bruce Rinehart of Rococo Penn and Rococo Northpark Mall fame had opened The Manhattan Bar Neighborhood Bar in Downtown Oklahoma City and that the bar/restaurant had Rueben sandwiches, I knew it had to be good.

As one of the newer restaurants in Oklahoma City’s true downtown area, The Manhattan is Rinehart’s newest venture. Part bar, part restaurant and part downtown neighborhood hangout, the joint is famous for not only the food – which ranges from sandwiches and salads for lunch and steak and seafood for dinner – but also for 14 different varieties of manhattans made with five different types of cherries, six to eight varieties of vermouth and bitters of all flavors.

Tucked in the western corner of the Oklahoma Tower at 210 Park Ave., Suite 150, the neighborhood bar restaurant feels like the typical comfortable, accessible restaurant one would find anywhere in New York City. With two floor- to-ceiling windowed walls and a patio that overlooks the Downtown Metropolitan Library, public art, like the raven and apple sculpture (incorporated into The Manhattan’s logo), and a giant treescape mural by local artist/muralist Jack Fowler, The Manhattan has a contemporary, laid-back vibe.

“We are definitely going to be a downtown gem,” Rinehart said. “We are a neighborhood bar in downtown Oklahoma City. That’s why we are here. We want to be a part of the fabric of downtown, not just an institution. But, we’re not just a bar – we are a place for lunch, dinner and brunch too.”

For a chef famous for his crab cakes and East Coast fare at the two Rococo’s locations, plus his crazy design chef pants, Rinehart is trying something new.

But for now, the Reuben awaits.

FOOD AND DRINK – DOWNTOWN STYLE

The Manhattan’s Zach’s Classic Reuben is piled thick with burgundy-colored pastrami that takes Zach Rupple of Rococo Penn more than a week to prepare. The pastrami is brined in pink salt and spices, rubbed and smoked over 10 days, then topped with homemade sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing.

The pale rye comes from Esca Vitae in Midtown, as does the hoagie bread for the lobster rolls. Instead of one of four sides, I chose the Manhattan-style clam chowder. The chowder isn’t the thick, white creamy style most people know, but a tomato-based soup thick with fat little clams and vegetables.

The Yalumba Sangiovese Rose was a perfectly paired wine with the lunch.

At the Manhattan, the lunch menu does have a few holdovers from Rococo’s most popular items. The famous Rococo Crab Cake and garlicky Love Salad are on the menu, but to truly taste the soul of the Manhattan, Rinehart suggested the Big Apple Salad or Zach’s Classic Reuben.

The salads on the lunch menu range from a house salad and Caesar salad to the spinach salad and the popping Big Apple Salad with romaine, spring mix, New York apples, toasted almonds, roasted chicken, feta cheese and champagne vinaigrette.

Dinner at The Manhattan includes a filet made with blue cheese, roasted mushrooms and spinach, pork tenderloin, scallops, lobster and a variety of pasta dishes.

“I desperately wanted to do something completely different (from Rococo’s),” Rinehart said. “I wanted to go in a new direction. I called it The Manhattan because an old friend said it was his favorite drink. So, that’s what we specialize in. We have 14 different kinds of Manhattans. The Old Fashioned and the Classic Manhattan are still the most popular.”

The restaurant itself is as light and airy as an office building restaurant/bar could be. The tables and chairs are made from reclaimed barn wood from Kentucky while the bar is a gray, soothing marble. Local artists adorn the walls with their own interpretation of the Manhattan drink, and the vibe is definitely laid back and metro.

“I have some talented bartenders who make a great drink,” Rinehart said. “Our Manhattans are stirred 20 times. There is a science to making a good drink in how the liquor blends, how it looks in the glass. Besides our Manhattans, our best sellers are the collection of local beers we have on tap and our domestic beers.”

Because The Manhattan is in the heart of downtown, Rinehart also wanted to cater to the hospitality and service industry.

“We really wanted to be a place where folks in the service industry could come,” he said. “We even offer a $5 beer and shot – Schlitz and either Fernet or Fireball.”

MANHATTAN IN DOWNTOWN

Rinehart didn’t really plan to open a new restaurant bar.  But, an opportunity opened, and when the owners of the Oklahoma Tower heard he was looking, they came calling.

However, the perfect corner location wasn’t suitable for a business like that. What followed was a complete re-haul of the infrastructure of the space, and a kitchen so small that “we are making magic happen here,” Rinehart said.

“It was a big step and big leap for me,” he said. “Downtown is fickle, and it’s still developing. But this is a great, comfortable place. We will be a gem downtown.”

Still, Rinehart had to overcome misconceptions about the new restaurant.

“Yes, we serve lunch and dinner. We’re not just a bar,” he said. “Yes, you can have it fast. Yes, it’s affordable. No, it’s not too fancy.”

The dinner menu, he said, will evolve to include a changeable menu featuring seasonal options. A new patio addition will bring soul to the outside face of the restaurant. The giant raven atop a concrete pillar statue in front of The Manhattan will continue to beckon new faces to the joint.

“We also have the ability to do special events in the atrium of the Oklahoma Tower and we do catering,” Rinehart said. “Brunch on Saturday and Sunday is also a big deal. We have omelets and waffles made to order in the dining area, crab cakes and eggs and Bloody Marys.”

Affordable? The average lunch entrée costs between $8 and $14 with dinner entrées averaging in the mid-$20s range.

“It’s the perfect downtown neighborhood bar,” Rinehart said. “That’s why we are here. We want to be a part of the neighborhood.”

The Manhattan Neighborhood Bar in Downtown OKC is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Visit themanhattanokc.com.

The Manhattan OKC
210 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
Phone: (405) 605-5300
http://themanhattanokc.com/

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Heide Brandes

Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and editor with more than 18 years of experience....

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