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Hefner Grill

9201 E. Lake Hefner Parkway
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 748-6113

Hefner Grill on the east shore of Lake Hefner

Located on the east shore of Lake Hefner, Hefner Grill makes the most of Oklahoma's frequently spectacular sunsets visible across the lake through the restaurant's giant plate glass windows. Originally I thought the view was a fringe benefit to the good food here, but now I think they have raised the prices to the point that you have to pay for the view.

The restaurant seems to have made a gradual transformation from the time when it was called Pearl's Lakeside Seafood Grill, but now appears to be independent from Pearl's. Lakeside Fish Grill, which replaced Pearl's, kept the seafood theme and some of the Cajun style dishes that were served at Pearl's. The latest restaurant, Hefner Grill, was mostly just a name change, because I think the owners and management are the same. However, some of the fish plates I have tried have not been as good as at the previous Lakeside Fish Grill, while other dishes on the menu have turned it from a restaurant that emphasized seafood into a general American style restaurant. Overall the restaurant may be as good as before, but it is just not a place I count on for better than average fish as I did before.

Shrimp was probably the most popular dish at Pearl's, and this was supposed to be the place to get catfish. On a visit soon after the change from Pearl's the waitress told me that the salmon was farm raised, but all other fish were caught in the wild. Recent visits have demonstrated that the shrimp is still very good, but I cannot say the same thing about some of the other fish I have ordered. The fish and chips have been good on recent trips, and the common theme seems to be that anything fried will still be as good as it was previously.

Although I did not try it, some dining companions indicated that the sandwiches were good, and I have enjoyed salads, soups, and other items.

View of Hefner Grill's outdoor patio

View of Hefner Grill's outdoor patio

The restaurant is located off of Lake Hefner Parkway (State Highway 74) at the Britton Road exit. There is a cluster of restaurants along the lake shore, and all are known for being "noisy" (this is a code word signifying that they probably serve almost as much alcohol as food). Hefner Grill has a bar, but I have not found it to contribute substantially to the noise level of the restaurant.

As in other Oklahoma City restaurants, the patio has become the de facto smoking area for the restaurant since state law has all but eliminated indoor smoking. The views, though, are just as good from inside the restaurant if you want to avoid the smoke, as I do.

House salad

House salad

The dinner seafood entrées used to come with a House Salad, but now they cost $3 extra. This is actually one of the best parts of the meal, though, and may be worth the price. The lettuce is fresh, and the dressings are made from scratch. I thought the Cajun style vinagrette dressing was flavorful and fresh, but others have been equally good.

Bowl of gumbo

Bowl of gumbo served on the lunch menu

Pearl's served a seafood gumbo that had a dark color, and was filled with so much rice, seafood, and other ingredients it was easier to eat with a fork than a spoon. I ordered a bowl of Gumbo from the lunch menu at Hefner Grill that was different, but still good. Hefner Grill's gumbo had a mixture of meats with the chicken being the best, and the sausage and shrimp being about average. The broth seemed to be lighter than at Pearl's, and it was medium spicy (not as spicy as Cajun style). Overall, though, it was quite good, and was one of the best dishes I have tried at Hefner Grill.

Other soups are available, such as Maryland crab bisque.

Bean soup

Southwestern bean soup

The Southwestern Bean Soup, made with white beans, was flavorful, nutritious, and very good quality. It was the soup of the day (served on Tuesdays), and is probably representative of the quality of soups served on other days of the week.

Tuna sandwich

Tuna sandwich

Several sandwiches are served, and they are not cheap but they are good quality. The Tuna Blackened Sandwich made a good casual meal for a moderate appetite. However, I no longer found the tuna sandwich on the menu after the change from Lakeside Grill to Hefner Grill (so this may or may not be something they will still prepare).

Pecan crusted trout

Pecan crusted trout with squash rockefeller

At the original Pearl's I had Pecan Crusted Trout that was split open and filleted. The skin was left on the bottom to keep it moist, and the top was deep fried. The cooking method was called "light deep frying" because it was only fried for a short time, leaving the crust crispy but the fish moist as if it were baked. This dish was quite a unique and delicious experience. I do not want to leave the impression that the fish was top quality, because it did have to be flown in. The cooking style used at Pearl's, however, might well compete with some of the best fish houses in the country. I certainly thought the pecan crust was first rate, and the fish itself was fresh enough to be free of the telltale "fishy" taste found at so many restaurants.

After the change to Lakeside Grill I found the trout to be more greasy than before with the fish not being as flavorful. It still did not taste "fishy," though, so it was still a good dish. I am not sure if any changes have been made at Hefner Grill.

Fried shrimp

Dinner portion of fried shrimp

Fried Shrimp has been the standout dinner I have tried, with a fresh shrimp and a good tasting crust. My standard for judging shrimp is based on trips to Galveston, Texas, and for years Oklahoma had nothing that approached the fresh catches found along the Gulf. These days, though, the shrimp is getting a lot closer to tasting fresh, and Hefner Grill has some of the best. This has been true at the previous restaurants (Pearl's and Lakeside Grill) as well.

I am not crazy about Shrimp Cocktail, but the one at Hefner Grill seemed fairly good, with large shrimp and a flavorful sauce.

Fish and chips

Haddock fish and chips

In the past I have driven all over Washington, Oregon, and northern California trying to find good fish and chips (as well as sampling several places in London), so this gives an idea how picky I am about this dish. Of course Willy's Fish and Chips at Hefner Grill did not compare with ones I have had in other places, but they were surprisingly good. The tilapia at Lakeside Grill may have been slightly better, but the dish at Hefner Grill was still enjoyable (I wrote in my notes that it was made with pollack, but the menu says haddock, so I do not know which is correct). In any case the batter was good, and I skipped the sauces in favor of my favorite condiment with this dish, malt vinegar (which thankfully was available).

Of course, most restaurants in Oklahoma are pretty expert at making french fries, so as expected the "chips" part of the dish was quite good.

Cedar plank salmon

Cedar plank salmon at Lakeside Grill (but still served at Hefner Grill)

Even though salmon is my favorite fish, I am even more reluctant to try it outside of the Pacific Northwest than the fish and chips. It would have been a mistake, though, to pass up the Cedar Plank Salmon at Lakeside Fish Grill. I try to be objective in writing these reviews, and my objective judgment is that shrimp has always been the best dish at this restaurant. Subjectively, though, I am such a big fan of salmon (when it is done right) that this turned out to be a standout dish at Lakeside Grill.

I was a little less impressed with at at Hefner Grill, though, because the fish did not taste as fresh and was too much on the "white" side (as oppsed to the pink or red colors found with most Pacific Northwest salmon). The maple glazed sauce may also be different from the one described at Lakeside Fish Grill as soy sesame seed glaze with wasabi. In any case I still liked it, but not as much as before.

Pork chop

Bone in pork chop

So far I have had pretty good luck ordering the non-fish items, such as the Bone In Pork Chop. According to the menu this was "mustard and herb crusted, hardwood grilled, with crimini mushroom caper sauce." I don't even know what half of this means, but I know that it was very good. The garlic mashed potatoes were very good as well, and the seasonal vegetables were about as I would expect at most restaurants.

Many of the side dishes seemed to be the weakest link at Pearl's, but less so at Lakeside and Hefner Grill. The Cole Slaw at Hefner Grill, for instance, was one of the best I have tried in Oklahoma City.

View of Lake Hefner

View of Lake Hefner

I will have to say that overall I thought Lakeside Fish Grill was the best of the restaurants that have been in this location, and Hefner Grill has made several changes that do not seem to be for the better. I have enjoyed Hefner Grill more, though, by avoiding grilled seafood dishes, and either getting the ones that are fried or going to other items from the menu. Sadly, though, I no longer think of this restaurant as one of the best places in town for seafood.

My Comments in a Nutshell
What I like most:
  • The view of the lake
  • Varied menu
  • A nice place to take guests
  • The restaurant is very cold in the summer.
  • The outdoor patio is not enjoyable because smoking is allowed there.
  • The handicapped accessibility is very poor.
  • I think the seafood has gone downhill from Pearl's and Lakeside Fish Grill.
Things to know:
  • I think the restaurant no longer has an emphasis on seafood as the previous two restaurants had done. However, the menu includes steaks, sandwiches (at lunch), and a variety of choices.
  • It is worth the extra money to get a salad with the meal.
  • This restaurant has some of the best views of sunsets in the city.
  • The accessible ramp is on the north side of the building. When it is windy they lock the door at the entrance from the ramp, so it may be impossible to get in. If you are really intent on eating here you can wait until somebody notices you or call them if you have a cell phone. I think this setup is pretty poor, but it is just for very windy days (when the door blows open from the wind).



Cuisine: American
Cost: $$$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking (except on outdoor patio)
Alcohol: Beer, Wine, Margaritas
Special Features: Lunch specials, Sunday brunch

Most Recent Visit
Feb. 20, 2012

Number of Visits: 9

Best Items
Fried Shrimp, Pork Chop, Cole Slaw

Special Ratings
Fried Shrimp:
Cedar Plank Salmon:
Pecan Crusted Trout:
Fish and Chips:
Pork Chop:
Southwestern Bean Soup:
Crab Cakes:
Cole Slaw:
Garlic Mashed Potatoes:
Squash Rockefeller:

Restaurant Web Site
Hefner Grill