Let’s face it—Oklahoma gets mighty hot in the summer. I grew up in Oklahoma. Those of us who grew up here know that the best way to beat the heat is to spend time on one of the over 200 lakes in the state. Ten years ago, with retirement in sight, my husband and I chose Grand Lake O’the Cherokees as our lake of choice for a second home.
Grand Lake, as it is simply called, with its 1300 miles of shoreline, sprawls out over the northeast corner of the state. It is a popular place in the state for lake cabins to multi-million-dollar homes, tent camping to RV’s. However, it also is an easy 80 miles from Tulsa and 50 miles from Joplin, MO—perfect for a day or weekend trip.
Boating, sailing, fishing, kayaking, and paddle boarding are a few of the favorite watersports here at Grand Lake. All this activity creates a need for places to refuel and refresh our bodies. One of the convenient features of this lake is that even though it is under the US Corp of Engineers, it is managed by the Federal Energy Reserve Commission. As such, boaters have access to courtesy docks and businesses right at the lakeside. Dock the boat, eat a quick lunch, or enjoy a respite at one of the bars and head right back out on the water.
Here are a few of my favorite restaurants at this fun lake in Oklahoma.
29975 S 566 Road, Monkey Island, OK // (918) 257-5569
The Shebang is a long-time favorite of Grand Lake locals and visitors. The building can’t be missed with its pink wrought iron detail and large outside seating area. The inside is equally distinct in its décor. The atmosphere is fun and the owner, Joyce Duke, is usually there to greet guests.
The menu is fun to read with entrees such as “Madame Cluck, appearing every plucking night” or “the Certified Bonifide, Black Angus Revue, all on tour with the hot potato “Miss Ida Hoe.”
One can order seafood, burgers, pizza, and steaks. Various specials are offered, such as these delicious steak fingers served with mashed potatoes and gravy.
Across the street, the Big Shots Rhythm & Booze is open every weekend. A great bar with a dance floor extends any party well into the night.
Grand Lake Public House
1623 S. Main Street, Grove, OK // (417) 770-5226
Don’t be fooled by its understated location. This restaurant is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to dine while at the lake. From the moment you enter the establishment, the linen tablecloths and flowers on each table tell you this is no ordinary strip mall eatery. The chef, trained in Boston, offers specials every night ranging from Italian, steak, and seafood dishes. The well-prepared, beautifully presented entrees are very reasonably priced.
We began our dinner with two giant prawns grilled with applewood bacon and drizzled with maple balsamic sauce.
I ordered the walleye—my first time having this type of fish. I was not disappointed. It was crusted with panko crumbs lightly infused with maple, then pan-seared in wine and garlic. The fish was light and delicate, served over rice pilaf and plated with a side of vegetables.
We have also enjoyed this delectable red snapper with a cajun lobster stuffing. The light cream sauce was a perfect complement to the dish. Desserts are equally as tempting. They offer bread pudding, cheesecake, lava cake, carrot cake, and crème Brule. The restaurant has an ample bar with a good wine list. The service and atmosphere make a pleasing dining experience. Call for reservations on weekend nights. The dining area is limited and fills up quickly due to its fabulous food.
5550 Hwy 59 N, Grove, OK // (918) 787-5275
There is just something appealing about a hearty breakfast before heading out on the lake. Stop by this intimate eatery to start the day. The food is always fresh and homemade. A favorite offering for breakfast is the made-from-scratch pancakes. They are huge and taste just like what my grandmother used to make. Try the “Big Daddy Love’s” —one pancake loaded with bacon pieces, one pancake loaded with sausage bits, and topped off with two eggs. My husband’s favorite is sausage gravy and biscuits. For lunch, they serve wraps, sandwiches, salads, and amazing quiches.
28601 S Hwy 125, Monkey Island, OK // (918) 257-7183
451107 E 320 Road, Cleora, OK // (918) 782-6610
A great place to unwind after a day out on the water, the Blind Swine’s atmosphere is inviting and friendly. It has two bar areas—one dedicated as non-smoking. They also have an outdoor space for those warm summer nights. The bartenders serve cocktails while the kitchen rolls out appetizers, sandwiches, seafood, and ribeye.
And, of course, they are known for their gourmet hot dogs. The Blind Swine Dog is grilled and topped with corned beef, coleslaw, and melted cheese. Be sure to add a side of their excellent swine rinds for a hearty meal.
The Hair of the Dog is topped with bacon, hash browns, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and then crowned with two eggs. These “dogs” go way beyond a mere hot dog!
The cocktails created by owner Bailey Stanphill are delicious. He is a Professional Bartender and Mixologist and loves to create unique cocktails. His passion unfolds in drinks such as Limon Verde Dulce Martini or Cucumber Basil Tequila Rickey. I tried the refreshing “(lah-dee-da) Colada”—silver rum infused with pineapple and mixed with an elderflower liqueur, coconut cream, and fresh lime juice. Sip cocktails, wine, beer, or mixed drinks into the night while listening to live music or participate in karaoke night. They are open till 2:00 am, so no need to rush.
The Blind Swine has recently added a new location at the southern part of Grand Lake. This location at Cleora, OK, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a similar menu and cocktails.
414 E 3rd Street, Grove, OK // (918) 791-9295
Every time we are at the lake, we stop here for lunch. This restaurant has a very loyal following with the locals at Grand Lake. The beautifully paneled walls invoke the feeling of an Irish pub. The servers are efficient and friendly. On warm days, we love to sit outside on the outdoor patio. Salads, burgers, and sandwiches are the main offerings. Fresh, homemade soup is always available.
The Raggedy Relish is a fruited chicken salad on a croissant. I always choose a side of their Pineapple Walnut Salad—it is almost like a dessert. But don’t let that stop you from completing your meal with one of their fresh desserts of the day.
Doc’s Bar and Grill
57301 East Hwy 125, Monkey Island, OK // (918) 257-4204
Located inside the Shangri-La Resort Hotel, which sits at the tip of the Monkey Island Pennisula at Grand Lake, this restaurant offers a casual atmosphere for lunch, dinner, or cocktails. With superb views of Grand Lake and the resort pool, one could enjoy relaxing at the large bar for hours sampling the extensive whisky selections. Order by the glass or explore by a whiskey flight. However, don’t miss the delicious food. Start off with amazing hot crab and pimento cheese dip, brisket mac n cheese, or perhaps the BBQ nachos.
Their “straight from the smoker “ meats satisfy the craving for smoked meats—a favorite of Oklahomans. I often request the cobb salad, which includes a generous portion of delicious smoked chicken.
However, I must confess that my all-time favorite is the stuffed bacon-wrapped meatloaf. A hearty meatloaf stuffed with jalapeno cream cheese, wrapped with pepper-crusted bacon, and topped with a chipotle glaze. Plated with mashed potatoes and gravy, it is indeed a dish to satisfy an immense hunger after a full day out on the water. Other options are available, including salmon, wraps, sandwiches, burgers, and pizza. Top off the meal with one of their fresh desserts.
The Pour House at The Regatta
1 Grand Regatta Drive, Grove, OK // (918) 215-4001
A fun newcomer to the lake is The Pour House at The Regatta. It has a large dining area and outdoor seating with a fire pit behind the building. Four large garage doors open to allow the lake breeze to provide a refreshing atmosphere. Enjoy a prime lake view and watch the sunset from the comfortable outdoor seating on the deck above. The menu varies with nightly features. Start with their “Transom Cocktail – the lake take on a Moscow mule.” It is made with their signature vodka, ginger beer, and topped with blueberries and a rosemary sprig. Who knew a mule could be so refreshing?
After an appetizer of bacon-wrapped jalapenos, we enjoyed the feature of the night—a 4 oz. filet and a 4 oz. lobster tail with loaded baked potato and tender-crisp veggies. My husband enjoyed his dinner with a Goose Island Bourbon County Beer, a dark barrel-aged beer. Beer lovers have plenty of cold brews from which to choose with 30 beers on tap, including some Oklahoma craft beers.
Stop by for lunch and enjoy Wagyu beef sliders or, if it’s Tuesday—tacos. Live music is usually playing on the weekends, and it can get busy, so it is wise to call for reservations.
The owners are completing a luxury waterfront RV resort behind the restaurant. The 87 RV sites each have outdoor kitchen areas with comfortable patio furniture. If you don’t care to cook, call the Pour House, and they will deliver. At 5 o’clock every evening, their free margarita cart will cruise through the park. They plan on hosting events throughout the summer for resort guests, such as outdoor movies, live music, etc.
Grand Lake has so much to offer outdoor enthusiasts. And whether you are wanting a hearty breakfast, a quick meal before getting back on the water, or a leisurely dining experience, these restaurants are flavorful representations of what is available on Grand Lake.
Please note: As always during the state of the pandemic, please check with the restaurant prior to visiting to verify hours and safety protocols.