Along with co-owner and chef Avery Cannon, Cope opened the newest restaurant in the district, Empire Slice House. The pizza joint hopes to blossom into a solid late-night dining option at 1734 NW 16th St. It is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, except Sundays, when it opens at 4 p.m.
Cope and Cannon had a clear concept where atmosphere was concerned. They wanted the spot to be casual, as well as a place locals could enjoy a cold brew and good food. After some research, the two landed on the idea of New York-style pizza parlor.
“I wanted something timeless, like it had been there for years,” Cope said.
Welcoming diners is a stainless-steel front door with a small porthole-sized window, salvaged from a 1940s Brooklyn movie theater.
Just inside, a replica of the Statue of Liberty greets you, along with an oversized wall collage of old-school movie posters and album covers — similar to the ads you see plastered along the streets of New York City.
The collage concept came from an Instagram post Cope saw one night while sifting through images, looking for inspiration. In order to make the wall look authentic, she and Cannon knew they needed a lot of posters and other obscure memorabilia. The word went out via social media, and Oklahoma City responded generously.
State of plate
Cannon knows a thing or two about the food industry. He previously worked with his cousin, Eric Smith, who owns Sara Sara Cupcakes in Automobile Alley. Cannon isn’t afraid to try new things, which is evident by some of the menu’s wonderfully unique items. (Who uses ricotta cheese on a pizza? Cannon does, and very well.)
To create these combinations, Cope did quite a bit of research.
“We wanted classic, New York-style stuff, so I visited a lot of pizza places, including Home Slice in Austin,” she said. “I took pieces of what inspired me [and] gave them to Avery, and he took the ideas and ran with them.”
The Rocksteady, one of Empire’s most popular pie creations — topped with bacon, gorgonzola cheese, red onions and a balsamic reduction — almost didn’t make the menu.
“We had another pie combination and were trying to perfect, but we just couldn’t get it right,” Cope said. “I told Avery we needed something else, and he whipped up Rocksteady in 30 minutes.”
Pizza may be ordered by the slice from daily selections or as a whole pie. The slices are generous, with a thinner-style crust that easily folds it in half.
Since pizza and beer go so well together, Empire Slice House offers a large selection of domestic, local craft and specialty brews. If the weather is cooperative, customers can sit in a large patio area reminiscent of a German beer garden.