First of Six New State Park Restaurants Opens at Lake Murray

KOKH - May 19, 2023 6:49 am

Officials held The Lookout Kitchen’s grand opening at Lake Murray State Park on Wednesday.

As previously reported, state park restaurants were left empty after the Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen scandal.

In February, ODTR Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt shared that reopening state park restaurants was her top priority.

“Seeing a restaurant like this full of people, exciting, dishes clattering, you know, people eating great food, it’s really something that the energy and the excitement is palpable,” she noted.

According to the department, state park restaurants are vital for Oklahoma’s $10 billion tourism industry.

According to officials, tourism supports 100,000 jobs in the state — and state parks drew 11 million visitors in 2021.

J.P. Wilson owns La Ratatouille, the group managing the six total state park restaurants across Oklahoma. He explained that he’s looking forward to getting started — and he’s excited about what’s in store.

“We’re very excited to open up the first one here at the beautiful Lake Murray State Park. This has been a great opportunity for us and a great way to get involved with the local communities,” he asserted.

According to Zumwalt, the lack of restaurants at state parks left a problem for the state and visitors alike — and getting five openings in line in time for Memorial Day took a major effort.

She shared her take on the offerings now available to visitors.

In her view, “One of the things that is really important in Oklahoma is chicken-fried steak. And I can report that I’ve tried the chicken-fried streak and the white gravy and it’s amazing, as is all the rest of the food on the menu. So we’re excited for everyone to try it.”

According to Zumwalt, in addition to the five openings before Memorial Day, the sixth restaurant at Quartz Mountain State Park will be opening in July. The restaurant operator will have a food truck available through the opening of the Quartz Mountain opening.

Zumwalt also released the following statement on the opening:

We set an ambitious goal of having the State Park restaurants open by Memorial Day weekend and The Lookout Kitchen has exceeded all of our expectations every step of the way. We couldn’t have asked for a better partner to open restaurants in state parks. As Oklahomans and out-of-state visitors make plans for the best summer ever, The Lookout Kitchen will help attract more visitors to our state parks than ever before.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) shared this below statement on the event:

Oklahoma’s tourism industry is booming, and while we continue to attract more in and out of state visitors, I’m confident these restaurants will be a great addition to all of the amazing things our state parks have to offer. I’m thankful for Shelley’s leadership in securing a great deal for our state and am eager to continue to make Oklahoma tourism Top Ten.

Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell (R) released the following statement on the opening:

The importance of Oklahoma’s tourism industry cannot be overstated. As the third largest industry in our state, it generates billions of dollars in annual revenue and supports almost 100,000 jobs. Our state park restaurants, employees, and partners play a vital role in helping visitors discover what Oklahomans have known all along — the Oklahoma outdoors are incredible, our people are welcoming, and the service in our state is unmatched.

Wilson also shared the following comments regarding the event:

It’s an honor to be trusted to serve the state of Oklahoma, its residents and visitors at The Lookout Kitchen. As guests take time to unplug from their daily routines and spend time outdoors at Oklahoma’s state parks, we’re certain that our restaurants will exceed expectations in both quality and service, and offer a welcoming atmosphere for families and friends to share a meal and connect with each other.


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