A Peace Lily for a fern. How about a spider plant for a Zanzibar Gem? Or maybe you’re the Devil’s Ivy type? Whichever way you roll, chances are someone this weekend at the Barnes Nursery Houseplant Swap will show up with something green that you’ve just got to get your hands on. Us? We’re more of the succulent type.
Now if you’ve never traveled to a plant swap before, you need to. So you’ll be a little green, no big deal. See what we did there? (Insert Laugh Here). Those boring old plants you’ve been staring at for the last two years might just spruce someone else’s house right up and vice versa. You’ve been warned however, it’s very easy to walk out of these things with a truck load of foliage. Next thing you know your front room will be looking like a scene from Jurassic Park…although we’re not sure that’s a bad thing. As long as it’s from the original, JP1, those new ones are ridiculous.
Barnes Nursery, the folks behind this particular houseplant swap, have a pretty sweet setup as well. Located on 3511 West Cleveland Rd. on the outskirts of Huron, Ohio, their Huron Garden Center is stocked up with tons of greenery and super cool Fall goods. If you’ve got time, be sure to take a stroll through Sheldon’s Marsh Nature Preserve on the way out — An ideal spot for a crisp, autumn walk that’ll eventually lead you to the idyllic shores of Lake Erie.
Back to the swap. This Saturday, October 27th from 12pm – 4pm, the Barnes Nursery Houseplant Swap has zero entry free, but asks you to show up with at least one or several pest-free rooted indoor houseplants, either potted or bare root. You’ll also be rewarded with tasty vittles in the form of brick oven pizza, wine and craft beer. Sounds good to us, let’s have a plant party! RSVP details below — Head on down a bit.
We’ve noticed, you’ve noticed, the whole midwest has noticed — It seems like tacos are taking over the food scene and that’s perfectly fine because we happen to love them. Sweet, salty, savory, fresh, cheesy, melty…folks are doing everything you can imagine in a corn tortilla these days. And with this delicious Mexican creation on the rise, we thought it’d only be fitting to give praise to these foldable morsels of heaven by etching out a list of our favorite tacos joints across Ohio.
Taco Bell— Everywhere — Just kidding! Admit it, you just got so upset for a second. Okay, let’s get serious.
Guerra’s Crazy Taco — Springfield — The gentleman behind this spot grows his own herbs and peppers and touts that “fresh” is of the utmost importance. You can certainly tell. If you want to send your tastebuds on an epic journey, try the shrimp tacos or brisket smoked in house.
Condado — Columbus — Two words, Bubba Kush. Don’t let the odd name fool you, just like the rest of the tacos on the menu here, it’s legit. It comes with a “Peezler” shell, which is a hard shell and soft shell combined, smoked cheddar, pulled pork, jicama, onions, pineapple salsa and jackfruit BBQ sauce. Try and recite that entire line without getting all slobbery…impossible. They also have a location in Pittsburgh, but we don’t care about that.
OH Taco — Sandusky — Oh, so you want a view of the Great Lakes while you’re munching on a delightful beer battered tilapia taco? Well look at that, we’ve found a place for you! Albeit fairly new to the restaurant scene, OH Taco more than makes up for its young age with superb authentic Mexican street tacos and a unique atmosphere. Connected to the wonderful boutique-style Hotel Kilbourne and its lobby bar dubbed Moseley’s, patrons here have more than enough choices of venue to go around. Vegetarian? Try the portabello taco with fire roasted poblano peppers for an explosion of south of the border flavor. Did we mention there’s a rooftop bar, too?
Momocho — Cleveland — With one in Lakewood and one in Ohio City, east side Clevelanders have it good…really good. This funky spot focuses on “Mod Mex” cuisine and does it well, and the particular part of that culinary style we’re interested in is the taquitos, or rolled tacos. All taquitos come with five soft corn tortillas, whether it’s the outrageously tasty coffee + chili ancho braised brisket or the beef tongue pastrami. Worried about that second one? Don’t be, it’s so good it’ll make you forget you’re eating tongue. Wash it all down with one of their signature flavored margaritas — We like to go for the Red Bell Pepper.
Los Gauchos — Columbus — If you’re lucky enough to have already happened upon this local’s spot, then you also already know that the taco el pastor here is northing short of life changing. And if you haven’t found this place yet, go. Go now! A perfect combination of slow-cooked marinated pork, cilantro, pineapple and onions served on two soft corn tortillas…you can’t see it, but the “s” on our keyboard has a little bit of drool on it. Los Guachos has two locations, one in Columbus and another in Gahanna.
Mazunta — Cincinnati — Steak? Fish? Pork? It really doesn’t matter what taco you decide to have at this place, they’re all melt-in-your-mouth good. Just for extra measure though, try the pork tacos served with cotija cheese…absolutely ridiculous. This small joint has a beach vibe that’s unlike anything you’ve most likely seen in the states and really makes you feel like you’ve been transported to Oaxaca. On top of all of the goods, prices are very affordable. Make sure to try the horchata, fresh chips and salsa bar as well. You know what? Try everything, you won’t be disappointed.
Casa Nueva Restaurant & Cantina — Athens — It’s true we have a soft spot of Athens and Casa falls right in line with what’s so good about this little southern Ohio town. It’s just different. Different and spectacular. Owned by the workers, the foundation of this restaurant is vastly different from most — Want to leave a tip? They’ll take it, but instead of going in their pocket, it will be donated to a local Athens organization. Make sure you come hungry though because the food here is abundant and the tacos are usually large. Also, keep the number of margaritas you have to a few, as they’re not your average. Wink, wink, they’re strong. If you can swing it, stop in on a Wednesday, order the puerco pibil and then watch everyone look at you like you’re a local.
Have a favorite taco spot you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comment section below!
These circular, sometimes square or rectangular cheesy pies from heaven are what we imagine the ancient Greek gods would eat. Or wait, maybe Italian gods. You understand what we’re getting at. Pizza is life, which is why we’re here to give you our suggestions when it comes to finding this wonderful sustenance in the state of Ohio.
Cameo Pizza – Sandusky – Family owned and operated since 1936, this iconic Sandusky, Ohio establishment has been making pizza their way for a long, long time. Talk to anyone from this boating town about pizza and you’ll immediately be inundated about why pizza should be cut in strips and not triangles — That’s Cameo’s doing. Recently updated with an outdoor patio, new front facade and upstairs area called TopSide, Cameo is truly a staple on the north coast. Whether you’re riding rollercoasters at Cedar Point, island hopping or just cruising around Sandusky, it’s a must-visit. Need a place to stay? Check out one of our favorites, the rooftop-bar-equipped Hotel Kilbourne.
Avalanche Pizza – Athens – Turn around and head far south to the home of Ohio University and you’ll find Avalanche Pizza, which is home to some phenomenal creations like the Veggie Garden and the K-2. Really want to go big? Try the pizza that won “Best Pizza in the USA” at the World Pizza Championship in Saggiamore, Italy — The Godzilla.
Harvest Pizzaria – Columbus – While this operation has three spots all around Columbus, we’ve only tried Harvest right next to Curio, a high-end cocktail bar we also thoroughly enjoyed. Striving to use only the finest, locally sourced ingredients, Harvest puts out some unbelievably tasty pies. Somehow both crispy and chewy, yet thin enough to hold all of the toppings, their crust is the real deal — Almost positive you could eat it with zero toppings. Please however, add toppings. Three words: Ohio Double Bacon.
Coccia House – Wooster – Upon first glance, the Coccia House looks like a personal residence masquerading as a restaurant and that’s because, well, it is. Back in 1958, Domenica “Minnie” Coccia did just that, turned her home into an Italian restaurant. This old school gem, aside from a few additions, hasn’t changed much and that’s a great thing. Truth be told, this place is so cool that the pizza tasting fantastic was just a bonus — And if you don’t believe us, this stuff is so good, they have shipped it all over the world to places like Papa New Guinea and Iraq. Want to look like a Wooster local? Order the Pepperoni Bread that’s not on the menu.
A Tavola – Cincinnati – This innovative, communal gathering spot meant to replicate an Italian Trattoria started in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and has since then expanded to the suburbs in Madeira, and that’s for good reason: This place is just cool. From the atmosphere and vibe to the thing that we’re here to talk about, pizza. I mean, the pizza oven apparently came from Naples, Italy, so there’s that. Do we even need to say more? Seriously though, it’s quite possible the best Neapolitan Thin Crust Pizza we’ve ever had, and that’s something.
Frosty Bar – Put-in-Bay – There’s something about pizza on an island, we’ll admit that. Simply, yet delicious, the pizza at Frosty Bar isn’t going to knock your socks off the first time you have it, but we’ll guarantee you’ll want more. Perhaps that’s partly because of our affinity for this island, but it’s mostly about the sweet, tomatoey goodness that’s stealthily hidden underneath a thick of layer of melty cheese. Is there better pizza around? Maybe. Is any of that pizza on Put-in-Bay? Probably not. Need to get over to the island on a budget? Check out the Miller Ferry where the R/T tickets are a mere $14.
Scotti’s Italian Eatery – Cleveland – We’re going to keep this short, mainly because we’re still out of breath from attacking the Meat Lover’s pizza here. Ready for this? A huge piece of pie with pepperoni, ham, salami, bacon, chicken sausage, meatballs, house Italian sausage and ridiculously thin sheets of prosciutto. Game. Set. Match. Scotti’s – 1. It’s Always Ohio – 0.
Marion’s Pizza – Dayton – For 52 years, Marion’s has been firing out delicious, handmade pizza. With nine locations, this Dayton staple has expanded, yet stayed true to its values by serving the same “Dayton-style” thin crust pizza that’s cut into squares, instead of slices. Lightly cheesed, heavy on the toppings and just the perfect sized square so that you can just keep popping them in your mouth. Feeling a bit wild? Try their Super Cheese…it’s exactly what you’re imagining.
As we say, listing our favorites is always tough because there are so many choices out there. We could’ve easily thrown Bar Cento in Cleveland on there or even thrown a shout out to the legendary Myle’s Pizza in Bowling Green — R.I.P.
Have a favorite pizza place in Ohio that you think is the best? Let us know!
Once in a while you’ll find two things that go together to form a perfect, harmonious balance otherwise unseen in ordinary combinations. Ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, Jordan and Pippen…we all know the classics. One such marriage, one we consider to be among the classics, is Put-in-Bay, Ohio and music. The two have always worked together, delighting locals and visitors alike with tunes from fantastic bands hailing from all across the country. This is why when we found out that the already live music-laden island will be putting on the inaugural Put-in-Bay Music Festival, we were stoked.
Some of the best parts about the festival? Just a $7 ticket on the Miller Ferry to Put-in-Bay gets you in and once you’re in, the fest takes place in front of one of the most picturesque backdrops on all of South Bass Island — Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial.
In true Perry’s Victory style, the Put-in-Bay Music Festival is all about two other things that go very well together, peace and music.
Seven stellar bands will perform including the Flyin’ Jays, Emily Keener from The Voice, MC Bob Gatewood, JP and the Chatfield Boys, Mo ‘Mojo, Strung Like a Horse and the Floorwalkers. Legendary performer Pat Dailey just recently agreed to perform his new song during the day-long festival.
The music line up is tentatively set (times are approximate and subject to change):
11:15am – Flyin’ Jays
12:15pm – Emily Keener
1:15pm – Bob Gatewood
2:00pm – JP and the Chatfield Boys
3:15pm – Mo ‘Mojo
4:15pm – Pat Dailey
5:00pm – Strung Like a Horse
6:45pm – Floorwalkers
Free music workshops will be given during the day. Mo ‘Mojo will give a workshop on zydeco dance, and a second on drumming. Islander Dick McCarthy will also give two workshops on playing the ukulele, one for beginners and a second for those with some experience. There will also be a “Guitar Hero” competition in the workshop tent. There will also be two cornhole tournaments, so bring your “A” game.
As if there wasn’t enough reason to take a trip over to Put-in-Bay already, Miller Ferry is saluting the U.S. military by offering up a pretty sweet deal. And by pretty sweet, we mean FREE! Active U.S. Military Personnel and American Veterans are invited to ride aboard Miller Ferry at no charge Saturday, May 27 through Memorial Day, May 29. Miller Ferry asks that Military Personnel and Veterans identify themselves at the ticket booth to obtain free passenger ferry passage.
After getting over to the island without paying a dime, the savings continue. While we’d like to give a nice description of each place that’s giving a discount, we’re going to be completely honest here, we don’t have enough time and you’d stop reading — It’s so, so many places. So instead, we’ll just list them. Below are valid from:
Saturday, May 27 through Memorial Monday, May 29
Boardwalk Main & Upper Deck 10% off any food item (does not include alcohol). Cameo Pizza $2.00 off a large and $1.00 off a medium pizza. Candy Bar 10% discount. Carriage House Gift Shop 20% discount. Chicken Patio $5.00 off a chicken dinner. Country House Gifts 10% discount.
Dairy Isle 10% off any food item.
E’s Golf Carts $5.00 off daily cart rental. Heineman’s Winery 50% off combo tours. Pay only $4.00 for a winery tour, cave tour and a glass of wine or juice. Hooligan’s 10% off any food item (does not include alcohol) . Island Bike & Cart Rental $5.00 off daily golf cart rental. J.F. Walleye’s (Middle Bass Island) 50% off vacation rentals, golf cart rental and breakfast buffet. Lime Kiln Bus free transportation & $1.00 off for adult family members. Miller Ferry free transportation to Put-in-Bay or Middle Bass Island. Park Hotel Golf Cart Rental $5.00 off cart rental (day rate only). Pasquale’s Cafe 25% off mean (does not include alcohol). Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center free admission to Perry’s Cave & $1.00 off for adult family members. Put-in-Bay Brewing Company Free souvenir pint glass with any purchase. Put-in-Bay Surf Shop 25% discount. Put-in-Bay Tour Train free tour & $1.00 off for adult family members. Reel Bar 20% off total food bill (does not include alcohol). T & J’s Smokehouse 15% total off food bill (does not include alcohol). The Bucket Shop 10% discount. The Butterfly House free admission & $1.00 off for adult family members. The Keys 10% off any food item (does not include alcohol).
Memorial Day Only – Monday, May 29
Boardwalk Main & Upper Deck Free bowl (one) of lobster bisque.
Mossbacks 50% off any food item.
We were right, right? So many discounts. For more information visit www.millerferry.com. We’ll see you on the island!
It’s pretty simple, you owe a lot to your mother. It’s not really up for debate, she was the one who created you — Literally. And that’s no offense to dad, because clearly he played a very important role, but let’s be honest…she had it a little bit tougher don’t you think? It’s for this reason among a litany of others that you should probably think about doing something special this Sunday. Luckily for all us Ohio residents, there’s no shortage of fun and unique things to do. While there’s way, way more than five, we’re going to give you just a few of the activities we like best.
Annual Mother’s Day Tea at The Culinary Vegetable Institute — If you haven’t already been, Mother’s Day is the perfect excuse to visit this Ohio gem. Highly renowned chef’s from all over the world gather here to focus on how they can benefit from the unique, sustainable vegetables grown right here in Ohio. What’s that mean? Super tasty food is what we’re guessing and that’s awesome because mom loves food and when you take her to the serene setting of the Chef’s Garden, she’ll love you forever (Even though she already does). At the Mother’s Day Tea event you’ll sip on sumptuous tea while enjoying a lavish spread of decadent sweets and savory offering with a contemporary twist amidst a rustic, springtime decor. Enjoy!
Take the Miller Ferry to Put-in-Bay for a Day — Our affinity for Put-in-Bay has already been well documented, which is precisely why we think you should take your mother there. She’ll not only appreciate a tasty lunch at the Reel Bar or maybe even a quick adult beverage at the Round House, but really enjoy the zen-like ride aboard the Miller Ferry on the way over. At about 20 minutes long, it’s the perfect time to chart your own course for the day and chat about how much you appreciate everything she does. Pro Mom Tip: Grab a golf cart from E’s after sauntering up the hill and head out out Scheef Park for some alternate island perspective.
Explore the New Hiking Trails at Hocking Hills State Park — From up north at Put-in-Bay to down south at Hocking Hills, we’re all over the place and we know it. It’s fine though, just hop in the car and drive…nowhere in Ohio is that far. Especially when we’re talking about this place because it’s 100% worth this trip. They’ve also just opened a two new beautiful trail systems, something they haven’t done in 50 years. One of which will take you to the second-largest cave in Ohio. So you can help navigate your way to the freshly cut trails when you arrive, look for the names Whispering Cave and Hemlock — the two new monikers for the bridge trails connecting to the Old Man Trail System. Since we let you in on this cool news, all we ask is that you take pictures and share with us. Sound good? Perfect.
Unplug and Create Scented Soy Candles at Manitou Candle Co. — So, this place is seriously cool and your mom will not just like it, she’ll love it. This mellow, yet somehow vibrant space in the Columbia Tusculum neighborhood of Cincinnati is the perfect spot to shut off your phone and just do something different. Not only will your learn the art of making scented soy candles at Manitou, but leave with some really unique tangible memories. Learn well and smell good my friends.
Explore a Small Town — Honestly, this one is tough because Ohio is chock full of really unique small towns. So instead of focusing on just one, we’ll rattle off a few. Yellow Springs is easily one of our favorites and it’s not just because Dave Chapelle lives there. This cute town has a super mellow, almost hippy vibe that we really dig. Stroll downtown and visit Dark Star Books, Dino’s Coffee Shop or the Yellow Springs Brewery. Next up, Wooster. We’ve talked about this one before, but it’s definitely worth a revisit. Bustling with energy and what seems like a new restaurant opening every few months, this charming town is perfect for a day visit with mom. Our recommendations? Lunch at the newly renovated Spoon Market & Deli followed up by coffee and Hungarian pastries at Tulipan. If you feel like you need more time, stay in lavish quarters of the St. Paul Hotel, which just added new four new rooms for added vacancy. And last but not least, Oberlin. Of course you kind of have to hit up the Frank Lloyd House, because it’s the Frank Lloyd House. You’re going to want to grab your bike as well — Oberlin’s numerous bike trails lend perfectly to this mode of transportation. Where to eat? Try the Italian Hash N’ Eggs for brunch or The Feve Burger with pickled jalapeno at The Feve. Anything that’s pickled is fantastic. You can take that to the bank.
Have something you’d like to add to this list? Let us know!
We’ve been on and on in previous posts about how awesome the town of Wooster, Ohio is — It has a European feel, relaxed vibe, phenomenal food, a great brewery, tons of wineries, fun outdoor space…truth be told, this list could go on forever. It’s really that cool. As evidenced by another piece we put together called “Wooster is the Coolest (And Tastiest) Town in Ohio You Haven’t Been To.”
Okay okay, enough of how cool Wooster is, seriously though, it’s cool. This post is all about another hidden gem that lays within this little town. We’re talking about the Ohio Light Opera.
Located in the College of Wooster’s Freedlander Theatre and dubbed as America’s Premier Lyric Theater Festival, Ohio Light Opera’s season usually runs from around mid-June to mid-August, with this summer being no different. The 2017 season fires up on June 17th with The Music Man and ends on August 12th. Their knack for nabbing terrific actors and putting together terrific casts is evident, regardless of which show you end up seeing. We had the pleasure of seeing a production of “Oh Kay!” back in 2015 and suffice to say, was more than okay. Alright, that’s an awful pun, but it had to be done.
Ultimately though, you don’t have to be an avid fan of lyric theater to enjoy a production at the Ohio Light Opera and whether you’re part of a large family or not, it makes for something altogether different and fun. That and you can cruise around in the town of Wooster afterwards, which I believe we’ve already mentioned, is quite awesome.
Quick foodie tip: Since our last Wooster post, two of our favorite restaurants have snagged some new digs in town and are definitely with the stop. Muddy’s Cafe moved into an old Cadillac dealership on E. Liberty and now features a ton of live music on top of their already great food. Spoon Market & Cafe now sits at 144 W. Liberty St. and has a brilliant amount of usable space which of course, they use undeniably well.
This upcoming 2017 season offers a really fun selection of classical favorites, newer/popular shows and a few rarer productions. Below is an abridged list — For full details you can visit www.ohiolightopera.org and www.mainstreetwooster.com. You can also order tickets by calling (330)-263-2345.
The Music Man
That a homespun show about the shenanigans of a music peddler in a small Midwest city beat out West Side Story for the 1958 Tony Award for Best Musical speaks volumes. Meredith Willson drew on memories of his childhood days in Iowa and fashioned the music, lyrics, and book for a seemingly timeless story that continues to capture the hearts of young and old.
While at a New York bar, evangelist-turned-nightclub-singer Reno Sweeney has fallen for Billy Crocker, who, to be near his girlfriend Hope Harcourt, has stowed away on Reno’s transatlantic cruise ship. Forced to adopt various disguises to avoid detection, Billy eventually secures a ticket and passport from Reverend Moon, who has been branded Public Enemy No. 13. Not surprisingly … confusion ensues.
or The Lass That Loved a Sailor
Gilbert and Sullivan’s rollicking romp through naval life, class distinctions, and melodramatic villainy has entertained millions since its London premiere. Where else can one find a First Lord of the Admiralty who had never seen a ship, or a seafaring captain who gets seasick, or a nursemaid who can’t tell one baby from another? Josephine, the Captain’s daughter, is in love with able seaman Ralph Rackstraw. But her father has other plans for her: an advantageous union with the exalted Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B. When the young couple’s elopement is thwarted by cantankerous seaman Dick Deadeye, it remains for Little Buttercup to confess that her baby farming techniques had left something to be desired … a many years ago.
(1924) If ever there were a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, this is it – the first fully-staged production in almost a century of George Gershwin’s 1924 musical Primrose. Written for the London stage (255 performances), but never brought to Broadway, the show reveals the composer fully crossing the threshold into the jazz-inspired stylings that would take Broadway by storm just a few months later in Lady, Be Good! The show centers on dapper Toby Mopham, who finds himself engaged to vulgar beautician Pinkie Peach. To help him out of the situation, he calls on his friend, houseboat-dwelling author Hilary Vane, who himself has fallen in love with ingenue Joan, who reminds him of the character Primrose in his latest story. After many (and we do mean many) complications, characters, and disguises, everyone winds up with his or her ideal mate.
The Student Prince
The Student Prince, the longest-running Broadway musical of the 1920s, is for many theater-goers the quintessential romantic operetta. Hungarian-born composer Sigmund Romberg cashed in on his earlier musical training in Vienna and created a magical score of waltzes and marches, all set to Dorothy Donnelly’s adaptation of a 1901 German play titled Old Heidelberg. Prince Karl-Franz, accompanied by his tutor Dr. Engel and pompous valet Lutz, arrives at Heidelberg University, but finds his studies less enticing than the waitress Kathie at the local inn. The age-old clash between love and duty rears its head when he is summoned back home to the deathbed of his grandfather and ordered to marry Princess Margaret.
Count Tassilo, now penniless, has taken a menial position as manager of one of the estates of the wealthy Maritza. He hopes to earn enough money to pay off his debts and provide a dowry for his sister Lisa. To ward off a constant barrage of suitors, Maritza announces a mock engagement to a fictitious pig farmer, a Baron Koloman Zsupan. To her surprise, a real Baron Zsupan shows up and claims her hand. Tassilo, also, has some covering up to do when Lisa appears as part of Maritza’s house party. As romantic feelings blossom between Tassilo and Maritza, so do their pride and stubbornness as employer and employee – Maritza has no choice but to fire her manager. But … she has a change of heart.
The Lady of the Slipper
or A Modern Cinderella
With stepsisters named Dollbabia and Freakette, a cat named Mouser, and two fellows named Punks and Spooks who emerge from a cornfield (a la Wizard of Oz) to entice Cinderella to the ball and then into the prince’s arms, “zany” is indeed the right term for a show that captured the public’s fancy and became the second-longest-running book musical of 1912.
For those of us who like to slide around in the snow with things on our feet, here’s some great news — Snow Trails is open for a bonus weekend! Partly because of a little late season winter push and mostly because of Snow Trails uncanny ability to make snow at the drop of a hat, what’s been a pretty mild winter has suddenly turned into an actual winter.
All of the snowmaking combined with a little natural powder from Winter Storm Stella has come together nicely and brought winter right back to where it should be, providing perfectly groomed slopes comprised of super shreddable packed powder.
Snow Trails opened today at 10:00 am and will continue to stay open through Sunday for your enjoyment. Temperatures this week are ideal for continued skiing and riding, forecasted to stay cold during the week and warm up just a bit for the weekend.
As an added bonus, Snow Trail is offering up a huge 50% discount at the Ticket Window for Lift Tickets, Equipment Rentals and Tubing Tickets.
Perhaps you may already know what usually comes up first when someone starts talking about Sandusky, 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, Sandusky 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.
Oh yes, and there are sunsets like these all the time.
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 joint. 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.
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.
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.
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 pizza 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. His 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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