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Sandusky, Ohio is Shedding the Rust and Quietly Becoming Awesome

Perhaps you may already know what usually comes up first when someone starts talking about OutTheWindow1Sandusky, Ohio — Cedar Point!  Exclamation points normally aren’t my thing, but roller coaster enthusiasts seem to always broach the subject with such fervor.  And while the best amusement park in the world is certainly full of high-speed thrills and worthy of such high praise, the conversation in this port town is starting to change a bit.

Once chock full of manufacturing jobs and assembly lines like so many midwest towns, MarketSunsetSandusky has had to evolve with the times to stand on its own two feet without falling over.  I’m very happy to report that not only is this unique town standing up, but starting to run.

It’s hard to not talk about the great location because this coastal Ohio town has it in spades.  Sandusky Bay provides a nice, neat natural harbor perfect for pleasure boaters looking to spend a weekend or kayakers looking to paddle around exploring.  If you’re lucky enough to be or know a knowledgable mariner with a boat, make sure to head to the Sand Bar — A natural pier-like beach only accessible by floatable transportation.

KayakSandBar

Oh yes, and there are sunsets like these all the time.

BatteryParkSunset

Hanging around such natural beauty is bound to stir up some hunger, which luckily is very easy to take care of here.  Let’s start with a few old staples.  The New Sandusky Fish Company as the name would imply, is all about fresh fish, particularly perch and walleye which are the two most prominent Lake Erie species.  With little to no seating in the establishment itself, diners are relegated to the bayside benches outside which is quite perfect for this hole-in-wall fish NewSandFishCojoint.  Make sure to try a perch sandwich with tartar and I promise it’ll be the best perch sandwich you’ve ever had, hands down.  One other suggestion: fried okra.

Then there’s Daly’s Irish Pub.  A quirky tavern that’s been around since the early days of Sandusky’s rebuilding process and sneakily boasts incredible comfort food.  Fantastic homemade soups are offered everyday and if you’re lucky to be around on a Thursday, the pot roast is melt-in-your-mouth good.

Dalys

Can you have a great town without great pizza?  Well, no.  That’s where Cameo Pizza comes in.  Albeit a little further walk from downtown, it’s very much worth the stroll.  This old school pizza joint has been around since 1936, which means they’ve had plenty of time to hone their craft and that’s evident as soon as you take a bite.  A new, outdoor patio has recently been added for those looking to munch in nature.

Maybe you’ll need a coffee before exploring the streets and bayshore of Sandusky and for that there’s Mr. Smiths Coffee House.  Laid-back, cozy and perfect for what ales you in the morning, this local beanery offers up great breakfast snacks and brews all their coffee in-house.  If you’re visiting in the summer, try one of the cafe-style street side seats.  Act fast though, there’s only four and seagulls aren’t the only ones up early in the morning. Inside_MrSmiths

Of course coffee is usually best in the morning, but what about nighttime libations?  Enter the new crowd: Volstead Bar.  Their cocktail game, along with the strength of most of the drinks here, is strong.  It’s unusual to find an old-school speakeasy like this in a town smaller than the size of Cleveland, but lucky for residents of Sandusky it’s indeed here.  Like bourbon? Try the Sazerac.  Like Gin?  Try the French 75.  Knowledgeable bar staff coupled with a simply downright cool atmosphere — Al Capone would be proud.

BikeVstead

Just down the street you’ll find ZINC Brasserie and hearth tavern conveniently under the same roof.  While ZINC focuses on French-inspired cuisine in a classic atmosphere, hearth creates delicious wood-fired pizzas in a more casual tavern setting.  Though everything here is fantastic, ZINC has a tremendous greek beet salad and filet trio and if you’re in the mood for a hearthpizza at hearth, try the Farmstead.  Grilled pork belly topped off with a hen egg…don’t let the egg scare you, it’s wonderful.

Next, hang a left off of Water St. onto Columbus Ave. and you’ll soon find Small City Tap House, a craft beer lover’s paradise.  Boasting 44 brews on tap, Small City regularly brings in ‘Tap Takeovers,’ in which breweries from around the country bring in a huge variety of their best beer for a day.  However it’s not just about the hops and barley.  Specializing in Vietnamese food, this unique establishment also combos that with beautifully crafted sushi rolls and sashimi.  That being said, if you have a question about beer make sure to ask Kha, the proprietor of said restaurant.  SmallCityHis answer will not only be informative, but most likely hilarious.

Walk out of the door at Small City and you’ll be staring down Market St. towards another Sandusky culinary gem, J Bistro.  Chilean Sea Bass, that’s all I’m going to say.  Seriously though, Chef Jessie Harris self describes his style as “old school meets new school.”  Not entirely sure what that means because I’m not skilled in the culinary arts, but one thing’s for certain, he’s doing it right.

ChileanSeaBass
Photo Courtesy of J Bistro

Resembling more of a snack stand, Dockside Cafe sits perched on the pier end of the Paper District Marina and located entirely outside under the sun . Serving up house specialties that include walleye tacos, perch tacos and quesadillas, it’s quickly become a fan favorite. Those in the know look for freighters passing by in Sandusky Bay, as this signifies an impromptu happy hour that features $5 rum punch buckets.

Dockside

Sandusky really is reinventing itself and there’s more coming.  Vogontz Bike Share, something that’s usually reserved for larger cities is slated to debut in the spring of 2016, as is Amusement Ales, a production brewery with plans for a brew pub.  There’s also the Leaking Boot coming to town, a public house and gastropub.  And perhaps the largest and most ambitious upcoming project shows exactly where this renaissance-minded town is headed.  Hotel Kilbourne, a 9-room boutique hotel, has plans to open spring of 2016 and will be the first of its kind in downtown Sandusky since the 1970’s.

PDMarina

Though not in the immediate downtown region of Sandusky, there’s a few other must-stops that are easily worth driving a few minutes too.  Berardi’s Family Kitchen has long been an iconic Sandusky dining establishment and is responsible for creating the legendary Cedar Point french fries.  Make sure to also save room for dessert, as all their tasty baked good are made in-house.  Mekong specializes in authentic Vietnamese cuisine, like pho and clay pot dishes, right alongside an impressive array of craft brews.  For you craft beer junkies, Chucky is the man see to here — His extensive knowledge of craft beers knows no bounds and has a memory that’s just as good as the food.

Mekong

In the warmer months there’s also access to the gorgeous Lake Erie islands.  The Jet Express departs from Jackson Street Pier en route to Kelleys Island and Put-in-Bay, however if you’re looking to take a vehicle over you can take the short trip across the Edison Bridge to the Miller Ferry (Put-in-Bay) in Catawba or the Kelleys Island Ferry (Kelleys Island) in Marblehead.

There’s no doubt it would take a much longer article to cover everything Sandusky has to offer and I must admit, all of this positivity is coming from a native who left for a long time and came back.  But I think that says it all right there, I came back.  People are starting to come back and for good reason.  Something is happening in Sandusky.  Something good.

MarketSunset

Have something to add about Sandusky, please share below or on Twitter @ItsAlwaysOhio.

Wooster is the Coolest (And Tastiest) Town in Ohio You Haven’t Been To

We’re dead serious, this place is cool. Like, really cool. Of course the College of Wooster ArtKeyholeresides here, a lovely place it seems to get an education, but that’s far from the coolest thing in this burgeoning little town. Although it should be known that the students do inject a nice bit of positive, youthful energy into an already spirited city.

So first things first, that vibe. Almost european in feel, you immediately get the sense that something unique is happening in Wooster. A look of pride and concerted effort is evident on everyone’s face, as if they’re stoked to see what they’ve created here.

LuckyRecords

Places like Lucky Records, an invariably cool local vinyl shop that sells new and used EP’s in addition to servicing and maintaining record players, is the kind of place you’d only expect to see in a large metropolis, not a small town the edge of Amish country. It’s also the perfect compliment to the local music scene here — Jazz festivals and music events happen all the time, highlighting the diversity in arts that Wooster brings to the table.

Secondly, the food. Oh my goodness the food. It’s almost tough to explain because the options here are nearly endless, but we can certainly try.

LocalRoots

Starting with Local Roots is probably a good idea, as it kind of sets the tone for the culinary scene here in Wooster. This co-op/community
center focuses on organic groceries and locally sourced fare, all while acting as a cornerstone within the community.

Louies

Then there’s places like Spoon Market where the menu comes on butcher paper, the deli sandwiches are mouth-watering and the smoothies are perfect for a midday uplift. Louie’s Local Meats resides in the rear of Spoon, where Adam Nussbaum, the prodigal meat vendor specializes in slicing up meat the old-school way. Starting with carcass meat and breaking it down himself leads to some unbelievable gourmet sausages and super fresh hamburger.

Since meat is on the mind, let’s head across the street to City Square Steakhouse. Heavenly steaks and ultra-fresh burgers are the specialty here and labeling them as a ‘specialty’ is putting it lightly. Most of their beef is sourced locally through Certified Angus Beef, whose headquarters are not far down the road. Try an Ohio-sourced center-cut ribeye steak from these guys and you may just ruin your local steak joint back home. City Square also makes it a point to offer several Ohio-made beers on tap.

JAFB

JAFB Brewery, which stands for Just Another F****** Brewery (one of the best brewery names ever created), is also just down the street and has continued to take home medals for their craft from the Great American Beer Fest in Denver, Colorado. Mean Bean Bourbon Stout or their prized Rain Delay IPA? It really doesn’t matter, these guys make incredible beer.

Motts

Back to the topic of Wooster having establishments that usually only appear in a sprawling metropolis, there’s Mott’s Oils and More. The containers of infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars seem to go on for days in this unique place and akin to the amount of oils they offer is the sheer knowledge of the staff. So if you’re looking to put a healthy spin on your favorite dish at home, look no further.

And lastly, Wooster sits on the edge of Amish country in Wayne County and needless to say this presents a lot of other very fun opportunities.

Shislers

Let’s see, if you’re into rare and gourmet cheeses then Shisler’s Cheese House is an absolute must. See if you can find Rita for a conversation, she’s a character and just extremely fun to talk with. Just down the road is the very small town, or rather intersection of Kidron, Ohio, where Quince Cafe & Bakery and Lehman’s reside.

Quinces

Quince will serve you some of the best, locally-made desserts you’ve ever tasted while Lehman’s will show you how to make your own — The place is almost 3/4 mile long and has every old-style item one could ever imagine.  Put it this way, if the power ever goes out you’ll wish you would’ve bought more at Lehman’s.

Not sure where to stay? The St. Paul Hotel in downtown Wooster is a revelation. Heated bathroom floors and spacious showers will have you singing before starting your day. StPaulSignContemporary and comfortable, this spectacular boutique hotel is worth every penny.

While it would most certainly take a lot more pages of to cover everything that makes Wooster, Ohio cool, I think we covered some of the great parts. Of course if you want to find out more, go explore for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!

Have something to add about Wooster, please share below or on Twitter @ItsAlwaysOhio.

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