[dropcap]A[/dropcap] little more than a year ago, the building on the southeast corner of NW 23rd Street and Shartel Avenue in Oklahoma City was just another vacant eyesore. The renaissance that was slowly encroaching west through the increasingly popular neighborhood – even directly across the street from the abandoned structure – seemed to have passed that corner by. Now, locals can stroll to that once isolated area and enjoy a rooftop cocktail, creative street food and an atmosphere that, with weekly events like live-streamed concerts, music trivia and the upcoming Inebriated Spelling Bee, puts the “fun” in “funky.”
Wayne Peroka, co-owner of Guyutes with Jarrod Friedel, says that a sense of freedom and variety is what inspired the two Phish fans to open the restaurant and bar.
“I traveled for a living in my 20s and had the opportunity to experience different food, drinks and atmospheres all across the country,” Peroka says. “It gave me a fresh perspective on the industry and I quickly developed a passion for it. When I moved back to Oklahoma City, I decided I wanted to be my own boss. One of my first serving jobs was in Colorado. I really loved the camaraderie among the entire staff. We worked together and played together and it was a great environment to work in. When Jarrod and I started talking about creating this venue, I wanted to emulate that kind of feeling and atmosphere. The idea for Guyutes just evolved naturally from who Jarrod and I are. We wanted to create a space and menu that was approachable, artistic and creative.”
Creativity indeed seems to be precisely what the food at Guyutes is all about. An affordable array of choices awaits customers of all stripes, all a bit surprising (in a good way). The Traffic Light, for example, sounds like just another take on a chips-and-dip appetizer — until you taste it. A mysteriously smoky and thick salsa, queso (with flavor!) and house-made guacamole arrive top to bottom, red-yellow-green. The Disco Biscuit, a fried chicken breast served open-faced on a cheddar biscuit with honey butter and green onions, was just the right amount of elegant to make you feel fancy, and just the right amount of comfort to feel satisfying. On the upcoming spring menu, Peroka and company will be serving a yet-to-be named stack of tender, sriracha-sweet chicken with layers of Yukon gold mashed potatoes, as well as a new dessert menu, including a chocolate-covered disc of ice creams called a tuxedo.
We tried a lot at Guyutes, but we came away with an even larger “to-eat” list for the next visit.
“Our most popular menu item is the Tequila Sunfryz,” Peroka says. “I think people are really drawn to its uniqueness and eye-catching presentation.” We saw this being ordered everywhere around us – a generous order of waffle fries, tequila pulled pork and a sunny-side egg topped with cilantro crema. Peroka’s personal favorites include the Pip and the WuPlantang, two of Guyutes’s wrap options. For a cocktail on the roof, he likes the spicy margarita he calls the Fire in the Pineapple.
Uptown 23rd is the perfect neighborhood for Guyutes to call home, with more and more local businesses, eateries and nightlife spots rapidly retaking this once vital area of Oklahoma City.
“There are so many new and eclectic options in the neighborhood since the revitalization,” Peroka says. “We’re so fortunate to have other businesses and individuals pouring love and passion into this area. We actually purchased this building before the revitalization really took off and consider ourselves incredibly lucky to play a part in the renaissance of Uptown 23rd.”
In keeping with the mindfulness that seems to characterize many of the businesses in the area, every second Tuesday of the month Guyutes holds Helping Friendly Tuesday, giving 10 percent of their earnings to a charity.
“It’s really great to see Oklahoma City stepping out of the box for both restaurant owners and patrons,” he says of the blossoming OKC eating scene. “I think the culinary scene is rapidly transforming and coming into its own. There are so many different options and opportunities and that’s exciting for everyone.”
When asked how he most wants diners to feel when they leave Guyutes, he says, “I want people to walk away thinking ‘I’ve never seen a staff that enjoys what they do so much.’ People are happy here. I think that kind of takeaway speaks volumes about what we’re trying to accomplish. I want people’s experience to be memorable because of our atmosphere as well as our menu offerings.”
After a Violent Pimm’s – Pimm’s, ginger beer, lemon and orange mint – on the rooftop overlooking the bustling sidewalks of N.W. 23rd Street and the historic neighborhood of Mesta Park, and a meal that warm, fuzzy memories are made of, we have two words for Peroka: mission accomplished.
Guyutes is located at 730 NW 23rd St. in Oklahoma City. Menu, hours and other information are available at www.guyutes.com.