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The Story of Sauced in Paseo

Somehow the link broke to my story on Sauced. I will add that a person who was employed by the place and identified himself to me as a branding manager (and not the owner) at the time this was written has long disputed the story. But here’s the story, and I’m sticking with it:

Joe Jungmann and Lesley Rawlinson say they’ve spent most of their lives in the restaurant business and they’ve learned some lessons along the way to owning their own eatery, the Paseo Grill.

One lesson is on their minds a lot these days as the pair have watched Sauced – a popular pizzeria across the street – shut down and then become part of an expansion for their own business. The restaurant started with great fanfare in early 2007 – just months after the opening of the Paseo Grill – but online reviews reflected a drop in service and quality within the next two years.

The restaurant closed on Sept. 4, and that’s when landlord John Belt approached Jungmann and Rawlinson about buying out the restaurant from the prior owners.

“When you’re a small owner like us, and like they were, and when you’re successful, or not successful, the passion goes away,” Jungmann said. “And when the passion goes away, the quality goes away quickly.”

The pair, along with manager Elise Fischbein, say their acquisition of Sauced and the opening of The Whole Enchilada (next to the Skirvin Hilton) earlier this year are part of a grand plan designed to maintain their passion and prevent the sort of burn-out they witnessed across the street.

“Our goal is to have three or four concepts going,” Jungmann said. “That was our goal going into it. We believe we know how to run a restaurant. Now we’re learning how to own a restaurant. We have passionate people who care, who want to grow with the company, and they see we’re growing with Sauced, The Whole Enchilada and the Paseo Grill.”

Jungmann had a background managing the Red Rock Canyon Grill and before that was working at the Across the Border chain. He and Rawlinson dreamed of owning their own restaurant but found making the transition from management to ownership wouldn’t be easy.

“The hard part about going out on your own is not having A-plus experience that is expected by those who have space to rent along prime corridors,” Jungmann said.

They got their opportunity in the Paseo at the one-time home of El Charitto (later El Chicco). The building at 2909 Paseo was turned into a community center for several years before it was turned into a botique by owners John and Kathy Jacobson. One restaurant had attempted a short-lived go in the building when the space was offered to Jungmann and Rawlinson.

With the Paseo Grill doing steady business, the pair opened The Whole Enchilada several months ago in the ground floor of the Santa Fe Parking Garage – a space that had seen a series of restaurants come and go without success.

Rawlinson says the new restaurant is doing well, and they are testing out a kiosk and soon will add online ordering to handle the lunch-hour rush.

“Really, in that location we only have two to three hours where we can do business, so the more we can do to help people avoid lines, the better,” Rawlinson said.

The pair also are looking at tweaking the operation at Sauced.

Rawlinson said the years spent observing Sauced from their own restaurant have led them to conclude that killing lunch service, and opening just for dinner, is the right move starting out.

They also will be creating a glass enclosure for the patio and converting a room used for bands into more inside dining (previously inside seating at Sauced was limited). Such changes will expand seating to about 85.

Another perceived quirk with Sauced was its menu – part coffee shop, part pizzeria with a generous selection of handcrafted beers and wine.

Customers who complained about either poor service or inconsistent quality, Jungmann said, probably didn’t realize such situations arose from one of the pizza ovens being broken and the limited menu.

“We don’t want pizza taking forever,” Jungmann said. “So we’re putting more varieties on the menu so there will be other options.”

The changes, they say, play to their goal of keeping people happy.

“There is amount of time people have, and when you break that time they get upset,” Jungmann said. “And why upset people when they haven’t even had a chance to eat?”

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Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›