Located in OKC’s historic Paseo District is the Paseo Grill, where restaurant owners Lesley Rawlinson and Joe Jungmann consistently present a winning flavor profile of classic American cuisine with international flair.
“The core menu has remained,” says Rawlinson. “Our opening chef gave a great foundation.” That chef was Melody Walker Franczek, who trained in French and Lebanese cuisine.
The “features” are dishes which change regularly, developed by a team who bring their unique flavor profiles to the forefront; chef Franczek is a member of the rotating team to this day.
The entire menu, Rawlinson says, has “influence from really great chefs. We always wanted to represent a little bit of a variety of cuisines.”
The lunch and dinner menus are very different – and distinct by design, but both offer all things delicious.
“We have provided consistency, which is important in this industry,” says Rawlinson. “We offer comfort food with a twist.”
One example of this twist is found on the lunch menu with the popular chicken pot pie – which, in this iteration, contains curry. Another customer favorite for lunch is the meatloaf.
The top dinner customer picks include the miso sea bass; the duck breast with raspberry bourbon sauce and cracklings on top; and the filet, which has a butter and wine sauce.
Rawlinson has her favorites, too.
“I love the Cuban sandwich,” she says, along with the chili lime chicken salad.
From the beginning, the owners wanted to create a dining environment in which customers could have their privacy.
Curtains and booths achieve this quieter atmosphere; in fact, USA Today named Paseo Grill the “most romantic restaurant in Oklahoma City.” Adding to the ambiance is low lighting (which spurred the restaurant to have reading glasses and mini flashlights on hand and available upon request).
Like all restaurants, the Paseo experienced many changes with the onslaught of COVID-19, which included staffing shortages across the board. Luckily, the restaurant hired and retained high-quality employees, who stuck it out through the dredges of the pandemic. One employee, says Rawlinson, has been there for ten years.
Now, she says the restaurant is settling into a new normal.
“It has turned a corner,” she says.
Both Rawlinson and Jungmann have been in the restaurant business for all of their adult lives. The two, who met in Dallas, had a restaurant stint in Denver before starting Paseo Grill.
“We are the best of friends,” says Rawlinson. “We are great business partners.”
This year celebrates Paseo Grill’s 16th anniversary in the same building in the historic district.
“We are called the OG [Old Gang] in the Paseo,” says Rawlinson with a laugh.
The restaurant has a catering sector and has been holding events off-site. An expansion of an already-existing space at the current restaurant location will serve as an on-site event area.
“That will be our banquet space,” says Rawlinson. “It will handle 80 people comfortably.”
The expansion is planned to open in the spring of 2023.
A Bit of History
Prior to becoming the Paseo Grill, the stucco building served in a variety of capacities, including a community center and an El Chico restaurant.
“It [the building] is part of Paseo history,” says Rawlinson.
The Paseo district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1929 as the first shopping district north of downtown Oklahoma City.
“The curved, two-block street has maintained its Spanish revival architecture with original stucco buildings and clay tile roofs still intact,” according to the Paseo website.
The Paseo hosts a First Friday Gallery Walk. Art galleries, artists, live music and food are part of the event, which runs every first Friday of the month from 6-9 p.m.