FIN AND FAMILY: Beloved buffets are gone, but Soda Steve's, other features remain at venerable resort

·4 min read

Jul. 23—GORE — Fin and Feather Resort is open for the season, and although some popular features have temporarily gone by the wayside, other classics are on tap to welcome guests.

The drive to the resort from Tahlequah is a winding trip to the southern tip of Lake Tenkiller. On a warm morning this past Friday, Fin and Feather's Lezli Pool described the spot's atmosphere.

"We're very family focused, an ideal spot for individual families to get way, family reunions and church and youth retreats," said Pool. "Families come here to take a deep breath, relax and reconnect."

The resort itself is a family affair, owned and operated by Lezli's family for generations.

"My grandparents purchased the small cafe and few cabins that were here in 1960," she said.

A history of Fin and Feather, provided on the resort's website, states that Les and Jerrie Manns bought the place, with the idea to fix it up a little and sell it. But as the resort is still in the family, it's clear that plans changed.

"It's probably easily tripled [in size], if not more," said Pool.

Today, The Fin — as long-time guests refer to it — offers various amenities, activities, and accommodations to its visitors. Pool said the resort has a large game room, an arcade and a swimming pool. Catch-and-release fishing and various sports are offered as well.

"Lodging-wise, we have accommodations from two to 32 people," said Lezli.

Many area residents have asked if The Fin plans to bring back the themed buffets it used to offer. During the summer, back in the day, Monday's theme was Italian; Tuesday offered a Hawaiian Luau; Wednesday was the Asian buffet; Thursday evening featured the Western barbecue; and Friday was Mexican food. The week's themes ended with Saturday night, which was the Roaring '20s buffet. Break "Feast" buffet was served Saturday and Sunday mornings, and there was a Grand Brunch on Sunday during the lunch hour.

The buffets were especially known in these parts for their salad bar, which offered about 40 different items. Over the years, the evening events were eliminated; the last remaining buffet was the Grand Brunch, which ended about four years ago. Visitors also remember an organ player who cranked out vintage tunes, but he died several years ago. so did the original talking parrot, Peppy, who regaled guests for 40 years.

Will any of those beloved features return?

"Never say never," said Lezli. "[The buffet] will not be back this season, but who knows what the future will hold."

The dining room is currently being used for special events and functions.

Another spot at the resort is still serving up its "awesome" salads, burgers, cheese fries and "utterly fabulous" hot fudge nachos, as described in a flyer for The Fin. Soda Steve's restaurant is run by The Fin's executive chef and Lezli's husband, Steve Pool.

"It's a fun place," said Steve.

Steve said he wants the restaurant to be an interesting and comfortable place. Elements of the decor were inspired by various mission trips Steve has gone on. Among those are hammocks, signs, statues and other wall hangings.

The disco ball, however, reaches back to another part of Steve's life.

"When I was a disc jockey in 1979, '81, '82, part of the time I was in a kitchen listening to ['80s] music," said Steve. "Now 40 years later, I'm still in a kitchen, listening to this music."

Music is important to the atmosphere Steve wants to create. To this effect, he stepped into the kitchen and started the music back up again, with the 1985 classic "Take On Me" resonating through the dining room.

"This is not background music," said Steve Pool. "It's part of the environment."

Patrons can enjoy other classics on the restaurant's menu. Burgers and cheeseburgers are popular, but Steve pointed to some sandwiches he enjoys as an "old-school guy."

"We have a great Reuben, but our most unique item is the Monte Cristo," said Steve Pool.

Soda Steve's hours vary from month to month, as Lezli explained.

"We will post the August hours at the end of July," said Lezli Pool. " We post them on the Soda Steve's Facebook and Instagram accounts and on The Fin website."

What's next on the horizon for Fin and Feather?

"Our next big event is the Fin and Feather Fall Festival in September," said Lezli.

A flyer for the event lists the dates for the upcoming festival as Sept. 23-25, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m on Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.

"We showcase a lot of arts and crafts and boutique vendors," said Lezli Pool.

This year will mark the annual event's 53rd recurrence. The festival was last held in 2021 after it was postponed in 2020. An annoucement for the festival on the Fin's Facebook page last year yielded 182 comments and 525 shares, with a general air of excitement among commenters.

Lezli called the event an "extravaganza" for shopping, and for some, eating.

"Some people just come for the food trucks," joked Lezli.

Check it out

More information about the Fin and Feather Resort is available at: www.finandfeatherresort.com.