At White Dog Hill in Clinton, Oklahoma, even better than a bark is a bite of one of the restaurant’s beautiful creations. From specials like breadcrumb-topped stuffed pork loin with a spiced peach bourbon barbecue sauce to roasted honey orange quail, patrons’ palettes can take an ever-changing adventure in culinary techniques.
The building’s first purpose was a country club built for a golf course in 1925, but legend has it the special hill received the name “Welcome Hill” at the end of WWII. Upon the soldiers’ return, they would stand at the top of the hill, look over the sleeping town and see the word “welcome” written in the glow of the streetlights.
The years were not kind to the building as weather and vandals eroded the club’s luster, but owner Nelson King saw an opportunity to make the historic spot shine again.
“It was our ‘wreck on a rock,’” King says. “I came here, saw the incredible views, and thought, ‘Someone needs to save this.’”
King saw potential in the red stone building, and the community rallied around him. Throughout the restoration process, people would show up with timbers, or an old door or even paint for the walls. On cold winter days when he couldn’t work on the property, King would venture to the local library and review old microfilms to see how the club was built and maintained.
Wanting to restore the building to its former commercial glory, King then sought out a culinary team to create a restaurant. He struck gold in friend and London native Jacqueline Davies-Thunderbull. Originally, King had talked Thunderbull into staying three months to get the restaurant off the ground. Now 10 years later, Thunderbull is still delighting patrons with innovative dishes.
“Everyone is very welcoming and warming,” Thunderbull says. “That was a really lovely aspect when I first came.”
Thunderbull is a self-taught chef who focuses on home-based cooking with fresh ingredients and “a lot of love” put into each recipe. She has introduced the area to international styles like Indian, Cuban and Brazilian.
The menu always has White Dog Hill staples like choice ribeye, grilled shrimp and grilled smoked pork chop. Cheese board appetizers include a variety of quality cheeses, breads and fruits, and the homemade desserts are the perfect cap to a romantic evening. But the showstopper is Thunderbull’s weekly specials.
“The challenge is to always meet people’s expectations, and also push people out of their boundaries,” Thunderbull says.
People come for Thunderbull’s food, but they also stay for the views. Diners are welcome to sit all evening and enjoy watching a panoramic sunset outside. Jason Giblet, CKenergy Electric Cooperative member, comes often to enjoy the open and friendly atmosphere.
It’s very personal,” Giblet says. “Whenever I get here, they have my drink ready and they have my food started.”
Giblet always gets the steak, but he has yet to have the same side twice.
“I would say the steak would rival anywhere in the state, if not the nation,” Giblet says. “If you want to experience creativity and beauty, this is a great place.”
Whether it’s a large group, a romantic getaway or just a night to sit and watch the evening, call ahead and make a reservation with White Dog Hill.
White Dog Hill is located between Clinton and Weatherford on Route 66. The restaurant is open Wednesday-Saturday, 5:30-9:30 p.m. Reservations are encouraged. Call 580-323-6922 to secure a table.
Why “White Dog?”
White Dog Hill is named after owner Nelson King’s dog, White Dog. King says White Dog was a lucky talisman for both King and the restaurant. White Dog passed away last year at 17, and a stone monument stands in front of the building to honor his memory.
The Beany Bar is named after King’s other dog, Beans. He says the social setting is a perfect namesake for the calm and friendly dog. Visitors may have a chance to meet Beans outside if they arrive early enough, but portraits of both dogs are hung in their namesake buildings.