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Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen opens up at Lake Murray over Memorial Day weekend

Sierra Rains
srains@ardmoreite.com
(From left to right) Brent Swadley, Koltan Swadley, and Curt Breuklander gather for a picture on the opening day of Swadley's Foggy Bottom Kitchen. The restaurant will replace the former Blue Heron Restaurant at the Lake Murray State Park lodge.

As visitors flocked to Lake Murray State Park for Memorial Day this year, several got their first taste of the park’s new lake-side restaurant, Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen.

After taking the project on in February, owner and founder Brent Swadley said the Swadley’s team remodeled nearly every aspect of the former Blue Heron Restaurant within six weeks. The only remaining feature of the previous restaurant is the large glass windows looking out onto the lake.

The restaurant officially opened its doors to the public with limited menu items and hours on Friday, May 22. Today the Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen will begin operating under regular hours with breakfast beginning at 7 a.m. and dinner ending at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

A full menu designed largely by the owner’s son, Koltan Swadley, will also be available for guests, with several traditional American food options resembling home-style cooking to choose from.

The Lake Murray location is one of five new Swadley’s restaurants opening up at state parks across Oklahoma. The first Foggy Bottom Kitchen opened at Roman Nose State Park earlier this year, followed by the Lake Murray location. More are being planned at Sequoyah State Park, Beavers Bend State Park and Robbers Cave State Park.

Jerry Winchester, the Executive Director for the State Tourism and Recreation Department, said the department teamed up with Swadley’s in 2020 as a part of an effort to remodel and rebrand restaurants and lodges at Oklahoma state parks.

“If it wasn’t for Governor Stitt and Jerry Winchester none of this would be happening. We would still have weeds outside and low quality food, low quality service. They were failing, that’s why nobody came here,” Brent Swadley said. “We have a lot of great administration and leadership with the state of Oklahoma that recognizes that the private sector is going to be a lot better at running a business.”

Curt Breuklander, the Executive Vice President of Culinary Operations, said the restaurant team’s main goal is to help bring more money into the state through tourism.

“Our goal is to complement the state— to bring more people back to the lodges, bring people back to these parks, wanting to have one more reason to come out,” Breuklander said. “Not like this view is not the number one reason to come, but they’ll have reasons to come more often.”

While planning out the project with the department of tourism, Brent Swadley said the team got a glimpse of the vast range of geological formations that make the state unique. From the granite mountains in western Oklahoma to the Arbuckle Mountains and natural springs, all the way down into Lake Murray, Brent Swadley said he was in awe of the beautiful scenery.

“This is just an amazing place and you know what, Texans know it. There’s a lot of Texas tourism that comes here,” Brent Swadley said. “Most of these license plates out here— it’s all Texas. Where do they want to come? The Sooner State.”

On average, two million people visit Lake Murray State Park per year— many coming from out of Texas. “Imagine if we can get everyone or half of those people just to come back to the state and spend more money one more time,” Breuklander said.

The Swadley family has been in the hospitality and restaurant business for several generations and Breuklander said he, too, has been in the restaurant business his whole life. Between them, the team shares many years of experience and works to come up with a variety of different recipes.

Brent Swadley said they are excited to open a restaurant that differs from their typical barbecue menu and hope to bring back some aspects of classic restaurant chains like Bennigan’s and Harrigan’s.

“We’ve learned in the past with other companies that we’ve worked for and great restaurants like Bennigan’s and Harrigan’s that used to be around years ago,” Brent Swadley said. “Those are just awesome things that we grew up with that we wanted to bring back.”

Among signature hamburgers and sandwiches such as the Winchester Burger, topped with arugula, roasted poblano peppers, apple bacon onion jam, white cheddar cheese and Worcestershire mayo, Breuklander said his favorite item on the new restaurant’s menu is the classic Monte Cristo sandwich.

“The first job I had was at Bennigan’s and they made a killer Monte Cristo, so I put that on the menu,” Breuklander said. The menu also features unique dishes such as the Campfire Hobo Dinner, including smoked sausage, ground beef, bacon, sweet and yellow potatoes, onions, corn and poblano peppers.

“Brent’s family, they always do the campfire hobo dinner where you throw everything on the foil and throw it on the fire and cook it, so we wanted that. It’s something unique,” Breuklander said.

The Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen will also regularly feature a secret menu item that customers will have to request. Upon opening, the restaurant’s first off-the-menu item will be the Diablo, a very spicy double-patty hamburger.

Breuklander said more secret menu items will be added as time goes on and will likely be posted on social media for future visitors to preview. The main draw of the food, however, remains the daily use of fresh ingredients.

“It’s fresh and we make just about everything there in the kitchen from scratch. People can know that they’re going to get good, wholesome food,” Breuklander said. “Things like that are kind of what our menu is designed around— fresh and wholesome.”

To view a full menu, individuals can visit https://www.swadleys.com/foggy-bottom-kitchen. The Lake Murray Foggy Bottom Kitchen is located at 3323 Lodge Rd., towards the back of the lodge.

“We’re really excited about raising the bar again and bringing another element to this city,” Brent Swadley said. “We’re the busiest restaurant in the Ardmore area, no one even does close to the volume that we do in sales. I believe it’s because we put God first and family second and we put our work third. We build our restaurant around that and we build our family around that.”