In the Raw on the Move

As sales at the BOK Center location of In the Raw have proven, sushi travels well.
Tripled profits since the opening of the first location of In the Raw, on Brookside at 3321 S. Peoria Ave., 10 years ago built the momentum that brought Tulsa’s award-winning sushi bar to Norman, Oklahoma City and the newest jewel of the Tulsa skyline. The openings will have spanned just two months.
The BOK Center location was ready for business on opening night, Sept. 6. The Norman location, at 575 S. University Ave., opened earlier this month, and the Oklahoma City location will open in Bricktown this week. Greg Bossler is serving as executive chef for the new locations.
The new sushi bars will offer the same menu, except for the BOK Center location. Concert goers can order from a shortened menu of more portable items – edamame, In the Raw Salad, Chicken Teriyaki Bowls, the California Roll, and the new BOK Roll.
“They wanted to bring in local restaurants – that’s something new to arenas all around the country,” said Tara Hughes, co-owner of the In the Raw chain. Tara partners with husband Greg Hughes.
“They decided to reach out and do sushi. We thought that was very cool. It gives everyone something new to eat rather than your traditional hamburger, hot dog or nachos.”
This expansion, which brings the total number of In the Raw locations to five, comes as so many others in the restaurant business bemoan the economy and softened consumer spending on dining.
“We just have a really great concept,” Hughes said. “Sushi is just such a hot thing, especially for Tulsa. It’s hip and young, and we’re all starting to eat more healthfully.
“It doesn’t scare us to open new locations, especially in those three places. We’re going to have business in the BOK Center with the concerts. In Oklahoma City, Bricktown is so popular right now. Norman is something that people have wanted for a really long time. We love the Sooners, and we thought it would be great to go in there.”
With the opening at Oklahoma City, the chain will employ more than 300, up from an all-time high of 260 prior to the new openings.
“When Greg opened In the Raw, he just really wanted to open a sushi bar and break even, and he thought this would be a really cool concept. Over the years, it has really been unbelievable how much it has grown. We realized about two years into it that there’s a big possibility that we could open more locations,” Hughes said.
The couple had its first chance when the building at 6151 S. Sheridan Road, which once housed a south location of Full Moon Caf√?, became available. After the Hugheses’ club concept Fusion failed, they brought their sushi concept to the space. Sales at the south location “caught up to Brookside immediately,” Hughes said.
“That proved it to us. Being several miles apart, it showed us we could expand to larger locations and (farther) away,” she said.
Future expansion plans include a long-held dream to open in Cabo San Lucas, the Hugheses’ home away from home. The hunt is on for the perfect location for an island paradise version of In the Raw, which Hughes hopes will be open by 2010.
Though each location of In the Raw is owned and operated by the Hugheses, franchising looks like another way the couple might expand the concept into other regions of the country.
“Our goal is to franchise. To do that, you really have to prove yourself in different geographic areas. I think that’s what we’re going to do with Norman and Oklahoma City. You can’t just sell a franchise when you’re in one city,” Hughes said.
The Melting Pot, the fondue restaurant franchise with a location in Jenks at RiverWalk Crossing, looks to make the Christmas lists of every Tulsa foodie with its new cookbook, Dip Into Something Different: A Fondue Cookbook.
The 160-page cookbook, which retails for $29.95, features 118 recipes for fondue, marinades, salads, desserts and drinks, along with step-by-step preparation instructions and vivid photography.
Kendra Sartor is executive editor of the book, and its assistant editor is Misa Julien. Jeremy Primm is creative advisor.
“This cookbook is the ultimate resource for throwing a fall fondue party or putting together an intimate fondue dinner in the comfort of your own home,” said Becky Chapman, The Melting Pot owner.
The book includes more than 100 recipes, including Traditional Swiss Fondue and The Flaming Turtle chocolate fondue, two customer favorites, Chapman said.
The book, rounded out with salad, drink and marinade recipes, isn’t just for fondue lovers. Recipes featured in the book include: Crab Meat and Brie Fondue, Belgian Endive Salad with Sweet Mustard Dressing, Panang Curry Chicken Marinade, Coconut Rum Fondue, White Chocolate Praline Fondue, Ginger Soy Wasabi Sauce, Black and Blue Mojito and Cosmo Blanco.
Founded in 1975 and headquartered in Tampa, Fla., The Melting Pot Restaurants Inc. boasts more than 130 restaurants in the U.S. and nearly three dozen locations under development.
James E. McNellie’s Public House, famous for the largest beer menu in town, and Fleet Feet Sports Tulsa, KingsPointe Village’s running and fitness retail store, will host the third annual McNellie’s Pub Run & Guinness Challenge Nov. 8.
The rolling, four-mile course will start and finish at McNellie’s, 409 E. First St., winding through the historic Blue Dome, Brady, Arena, and Business Districts.
For runners and walkers looking to knock a few back during the race, the Guinness Challenge pits participants against three 12-ounce Guinness pints, which must be finished during the run.
First place male and female Guinness Challenge winners win $300 house accounts at McNellie’s, with second place winners coming into $150 and third place winners, $50.
Entertainment and free refreshments will be available after the race, including two free beers for each participant older than 21 years of age.
Proceeds from the race benefit the restoration of Holy Family Cathedral, 122 E. 8th.
Registration for the race before Nov. 3 is $20, and registration the week of the race is $25. Guinness Challenge participants pay an extra $5. The race will begin at 3 p.m., with a one-mile Fun Run starting at 3:10 p.m. Race day registration opens at 2 p.m.
Registration forms and a map of the course are available at the McNellie’s Pub Run Web site, ?

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