The Swamp House, the latest venture from Dawn and Tom Dittus, opened Wednesday night at 1529 E. Third St., across the street from Church Studio.
The restaurant and music venue features a varied menu with a Cajun twist, including such dishes as shrimp and grits, blackened catfish, gator bites, po’ boys and Southern meat pie.
The signature dish, however, is a drip beef sandwich based on a recipe Dawn got from her grandmother.
Appetizers run $7 to $11, salads $12, burgers and sandwiches $9 to $13 and entrees $12 to $16.
“We had one soft-opening night for friends and family, and it was insane,” Tom Dittus said. “We invited 110 friends and about 220 showed up. We ran out of everything, and it was ugly, but we learned a lot.”
Dawn’s son and daughter-in-law, Fernando and Kortnie Martinez, developed the bar program.
“You know me, I’m just a Coors Light guy,” Dittus said. “They are veterans in the industry, and we turned the bar over to them.”
The Swamp House grand opening with live music is scheduled Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, with music beginning about 7 p.m.
“Tulsa Sound great Don White will play Friday, and Larry Cagle is playing Saturday,” Dittus said. “We are leaning toward the older Tulsa Sound guys, but we will be booking new bands, too. We will post the schedule on our Facebook.”
Dittus got his early training at Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater and became associated as a supporter of local music when he founded Blue Rose Café in Brookside in 1991. (He helped open the current Blue Rose Café on Riverside Drive but has no connection to it today.) Earlier ventures also included Steamroller Blues & BBQ.
Duane Monks, who has been with Dittus throughout his previous ventures, runs the kitchen.
“He did a fabulous job with the menu,” Dittus said.
Added Dawn, “You wouldn’t believe how many dishes we tried to get just what we wanted. Probably hundreds.”
Swamp House is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. all week. The kitchen closes at 10 p.m.
“We’re working on a late-night menu, but it isn’t ready yet,” Dittus said.
The Swamp House is the latest addition to the revitalization of the area, spearheaded by Church Studio owners Teresa Knox and her husband, Ivan Acosta.
The Coffee Blues and Mangos Cuban Café opened earlier. Freeway Café already was established there.
“Everyone around here has been great, and we can’t say enough about Teresa and Ivan,” Dittus said. “They could have called anybody to locate here, and they called us. We are humbled and feel a great responsibility to do well.”