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Family-friendly Play Cafe to open this fall.

Byline: Molly M. Fleming

OKLAHOMA CITY By this fall, children and adults will be able to spend time at Play Cafe, 610 NW 23rd St.

Liz Howald has assembled a team of chefs, coffee experts and designers to help her bring the concept to life.

"We're trying to create a place where it's truly family-friendly," she said. "We want to elevate what you think of family-friendly. This will offer sophisticated play, with really great food, really great drinks, and an environment that's warm and inviting to everyone."

The restaurant will offer coffee, alcoholic beverages and a cafe-style menu, with baked goods being made by local bakeries.

Howald said she has had the idea for about four years, though she saw the concept in cities along the coasts.But after having two kids and not seeing anyone open a similar place in Oklahoma City, she started putting together Play Cafe. First she had to find a place for it.

Cushman & Wakefield broker Philip Farha said the property search began about a year ago. He and Howald looked at walkable neighborhoods, such as the Paseo District and Western Avenue. Howald lives near the Uptown 23rdDistrict, so they also looked at properties along NW 23rd Street, which is where they found the all-white, 3,300-square foot brick building.

Price Edwards & Co. Urban RetailSpecialist Allison Barta Baileyrepresented the building's owners. She said she fielded calls from several medical marijuanadispensaries that were interested in the space, but the building's owners wanted a tenant that would be a good fit for families with children. The lease was signed in April.

"(The building owners and I) thought it was a really cool concept," she said. "Several of the landlords have small children. It was a concept they could relate to."

While this is Howald's first restaurant, Bailey said the building owners were comfortable leasing the space to her because she had an experienced advisory team. Howald is working with Chris Castro, who created The Kitchen at Commonplace's menu. Like The Kitchen, Play Cafe doesn't have a full-size restaurant kitchen.

Howald has also sought help from Jason and Jenni Duncan, who own and operate Edmond's Cafe Evoke.

"We know what we don't know," Howald said. "We really want this place to be uncompromising."

The restaurant's business operation is being mapped out by Spring Board OK Consultancy Chef Robert Black. Howald said he's helping to determine the budget and operating logistics.

Gardner Architects has designed the exterior and interior updates, as well as the play area. The firm is also building out the space. Anna McBroom is the lead designer. She said Howald's ideas for Play Cafe work well with Gardner's design aesthetic.

"It's very sophisticated," she said. "As a parent, you still feel like you're going to a grown-up environment."

Play Cafe will have interior and exterior play areas. McBroom said the toys and equipment have a Scandinavian influence and will encourage children to use their imagination.

The cafe's interior will be mostly white and wood, with the toys and play area bringing color to the space.

McBroom said she's personally excited about the concept.

"As a mom of two, I take work home a lot," she said. "This will be awesome to go to on the weekends so I can work and they can play."

Working parents will be able to focus on their tasks with attendants in the play area, said Howald. She said the attendants will help provide extra eyes on the children so the adults can have an enjoyable time as well.

"I really want the grown-ups to feel like this is a place to get work done while their child plays,"Howald said.

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Publication:Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK)
Date:May 23, 2019
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