Another historic Depot District location came back to life on Tuesday thanks to the efforts of four local couples. After several months of preparations and renovations, Mill Street Tavern is now open for business and the new restaurant strives to bring together Southern Oklahoma’s best elements.
Located at 24 Mill Street SE, Mill Street Tavern is located at the former site of Red Dirt Brew House, and founding partner Tim Longest said he and his wife Julie wanted the location to remain a restaurant.
“We really believed in the building and think it’s a great spot to have a restaurant,” Tim said. “So we found partners in Justin and Sarah Landgraf and Blake and Emily Bush.”
When Matthew and Deborah Balak came on board, the group was complete. Both Baleks have extensive experience in the restaurant industry. Matthew said he has been working in food service since he was 13 years old when he started at Wendy’s working for his older brother. Some of his past experience includes being a fast food franchisee, opening bars and bistros, and working as a chef at the Ritz Carlton.
Deborah Balak is a graduate of Johnson Wales Culinary University in Charlotte, South Carolina and has worked as head chef at numerous hotels and resorts in the Carolinas and Florida. She also has experience in catering. She said Mill Street Tavern will bring a fresh perspective to the local culinary scene.
“We saw that Ardmore was aching for something that was a little bit different from what they’ve seen before. When we spoke with the other partners we saw that we all enjoyed the same type of things, but Ardmore really didn’t offer it,” Deborah said. “We just needed to find a way to pull it all together.
She said one way they plan to do this is by being active in the local community, and they strongly believe in shopping local whenever possible. That’s why everything from the beef in the burgers to the tomatoes on the salad — to even the tabletops and artwork on the walls — come from right here in the area.
Matthew said the restaurant’s tabletops were created utilizing repurposed rafters from a local building, and local artists will be able to display their work on a rotating schedule.”
“The Ardmore area has wonderful farms and ranches. Ardmore has great local artists,” Deborah said. “We have the best of everything right here. We just needed a location like this to put it all together.”
Matthew said they have partnerships with a number of local farms and ranches to get the supplies they need.
“Right now we actually have farmers growing food for July,” he said. “Se we’re able to put our order in and have produce grown especially for us.”  He added all the food will then be prepared entirely from scratch under the supervision of chefs Ricardo Gonzalez and Ashley Mason.
Mason said her family has always used food as a way of connecting with one another and now she hopes to share that connection with the city. When the waitstaff came in for a food tasting day, she emphasized that everything offered is much more than items on a menu.
“This isn’t just food for us,” Mason said. “These things you see on the menu, these are my memories.”
Julie Longest is excited for the community to get to experience Mill Street Tavern for themselves.
“We love downtown Ardmore and love the way it is growing,” Julie said. “We’re just glad to get to contribute to it.”