From left, Gloria Hall, Oscar Okin and Bukola Okin are the team behind Rhapsody Restaurant in Fresno. Photos by Edward Smith
Written by Edward Smith
For Oscar Okin, owning his own business has been a dream since childhood, when his parents instilled in him a business mindset.
Today, the soft opening for Rhapsody Restaurant in Fresno will be the debut of that dream.
People got a first taste of the soul food restaurant at 3209 W. Shaw Ave, Ste. 105, when Rhapsody opened 11 a.m. today. On offer are a few items from the regular menu such as oxtails, chicken and fish along with sides such as greens, sweet potatoes and mac-and-cheese. The restaurant’s full opening will be Sept. 4.
Guests may recognize the chef of Rhapsody. Head chef Gloria Hall used to own and operate Doll’s Kitchen near Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
Okin, his wife, Bukola, and her brother had gone to visit Doll’s Kitchen before it closed down earlier this year. Okin said he liked it so much he went back the next day. The three of them made an offer to Hall to have her cook at their restaurant.
Okin and his wife have been working on Rhapsody for well over a year, transforming the space near a Little Caesar’s in the West Acres Shopping Center, which is anchored by a FoodMaxx.
Before opening the restaurant, Okin had worked at Community Regional Medical Center as a shift supervisor in the cafeteria. There he learned how to serve food for large numbers of people and how to manage staff.
When he goes out to eat at restaurants, service is at the top of his mind, he says. If he isn’t greeted within five minutes of entering, he’ll walk out. And he isn’t afraid of using Yelp.
He wanted to open a soul food restaurant because he had seen a lack of them in the Central Valley.
“You have to go to Texas or Louisiana for good soul food,” said Okin. “Let’s bring Louisiana to Fresno.”
For now, dining at Rhapsody will be take-out, following state guidelines.
As Okin began working on the restaurant over a year ago, he never expected something like the Covid-19 pandemic to happen before he opened. But he says people will always want food.
“Regardless, people will eat,” Okin said.