The Winchester Burger
On March 31, 2022, Mike Jackson, director of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, grilled Jerry Winchester, director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, over spending at state parks. (Mike Allen)

Bonds, budgets and burgers, oh my! The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department found itself under the microscope this past week regarding its financial expenditures, in particular the opening and operation of Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen restaurants in Oklahoma’s state parks.

Among the menu items at these establishments is “The Winchester Burger,” which appears below and looks pretty tasty, in spite of its price: $14 for a double bacon cheeseburger with poblano peppers. (Named for OTRD director Jerry Winchester, who approved the state agency’s contract that guarantees no financial loss by the restaurant company, The Winchester Burger sounds a lot better than OKC’s failed “Twitty Burger” concept of the late 1960s.)

As a much younger man, I would routinely eat any kind of “double” burger I could find, but now I’m older and get heartburn with these sorts of situations, so The Winchester Burger really isn’t for me. It doesn’t sound like state legislators care for the double bacon cheeseburger either, as the it became a sarcastic talking point in Thursday’s meeting, which featured many other questions about how the Tourism Department is spending money.

Given that these restaurants are operating at a sizable loss — subsidized by the state — this whole saga might ironically end up being just the promotion the Foggy Bottom restaurants need to turn things around. I’m mostly kidding with that statement, but in all honesty, I had never heard of the state park restaurants or this burger before, so it’s a start, I suppose. All press is good press, perhaps?

The homepage of the Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen website appears to show The Winchester Burger, named for Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department director Jerry Winchester, who approved the company’s lucrative contract with the state agency. (Screenshot)

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