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The Rail’s All-Ohio Burgers Coming to Strongsville

Cleveland is a happening place.  The Cleveland Cavaliers won the World title. The Republican National Convention drew thousands of people to the burgeoning waterfront city.  The Cleveland Indians finally took a great player away from the New York Yankees and are now considered frontrunners in the American League.  Cleveland is jumping.  Aside from sports and politics however, there’s something else creating a ton of buzz…food.

New unique restaurants and bars are opening faster than LeBron James chasing down Golden State Warriors.  Once such place is The Rail.

The Heartbreak Burger
The Heartbreak Burger

The Rail, a local and independent burger bar from restaurateur Mike Mariola, is nearing completion on its fourth location in Strongsville at the Commons of Southpark and will be open for business on Monday, August 8, 2016.  The Rail’s new location will sit on the intersection of Royalton Road and Placid Cove near Southpark Mall.

“There is a robust and sophisticated business community here,” said Mariola. “It’s a community that has spent a lot of time planning to ensure for continued growth, which is something we have in common.”

Flight of all-Ohio beer.
Flight of all-Ohio beer.

Specializing in ½-lb burgers from a custom grind of 100% Ohio-sourced beef, The Rail offers a selection of traditional and imaginative toppings—most of which are also locally sourced. Add in the old-school, hand-dipped milkshakes and impressive selection of 24 Ohio craft beers on tap and Ohio-distilled spirits, and one can understand why The Rail has built a local following to accompany its local fare.

“Strongsville is not foreign to the concept of an upscale, independent bar with inventive burgers and craft beer,” said Mariola. “So we’re pumped to come to an area where people already appreciate what we’re about.”

Adding up to 50 local jobs, the upcoming Strongsville location has changed some of its design features from its other locations in Akron, Canton and North Olmsted.  “Our design has always been intended to feel social…we want our guests to have fun and experience a sense of camaraderie,” said Mariola. “But now we’re incorporating the more of the outdoors into that design.”

Rail Strawberry Shake

With 200 total seats and 5,000 square feet, the patio will account for up to 48 of said seats and 1,000 square feet of the construction. There will also be garage doors that open up on all sides, including one that splits the bar right down the middle—half inside and half outside. And for the first time, The RAIL will feature a lounge-style area with soft seating and a firepit.

The Rail at Southpark Commons will also be the first location not built within the footprint of a mall.  The restaurant will be open every day at 11 a.m. For more on The Rail, go to www.therailburger.com.

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“Island Green Week” Showcases Natural Beauty of Lake Erie’s Bass Islands: First-ever Island Green Week events August 6 – 13, 2016

July, 2016 — Put-in-Bay, South Bass Island, Ohio —  Island Green Week on Put-in-Bay and Middle Bass Islands August 6 – 13 will make you remember most about the islands as a kid – water, rocks, cliffs, caves, kayaking, meteor showers, moss, moonlit nights, beach bonfires, cozy camping, swimming, beach combing, cottaging with your family, ferry rides, overnight stays on the lake and nature.

Each day during Island Green Week has its own theme and island destination. Be part of a dedication of the newest Put-in-Bay lakefront nature preserve, savor the ultimate outdoor date at the Stargazer’s Cruise aboard a ferry, tour and hike rarely explored island sites, stand inside the world’s largest geode – Crystal Cave, explore Stone Lab and Gibraltar Island, enjoy live entertainment at an island style pig roast, tour a lighthouse, aquatic center and fish hatchery, join a nature photo walk, kayak for prizes.

Perry's Monument Put-in-Bay

Island Green Week is geared for all ages. Some events are free, others carry a nominal fee. Restaurants, island transportation and some attractions will also offer special prices for registrants.

Island Green Week events include:

•    Aug. 6 – Middle Bass Island Poker Kayak Day – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Rain date Aug. 7) Fee $10.

•    Aug. 7 – Dedication and Celebration at the new Put-in-Bay Massie Cliffside Preserve on East Poiint – 1 p.m.  Activities include hiking, fishing, birding and guided nature tours.- Free.

•    Aug. 8 – Tour a Great Lake Lighthouse – Put-in-Bay, South Bass Island. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free.

•    Aug. 9 – Wild Tuesday, topic “Something’s Fishy” at the Nature & Wildlife Center, Meechen Rd. – Put-in-Bay – Free.

•    Aug. 10 – Island Preserve Ramble & Eco-Tour highlights natural areas including sites rarely seen by visitors – Put-in-Bay, South Bass Island – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Includes special activities at each preserve, printed souvenir booklet and guide and light lunch. Fee $40 per person. Tickets available at the Put-in-Bay Village Town Hall, Catawba Ave. the day of the event or reserve tickets by calling Kendra Koehler at (419) 341-2725.

•    Aug. 10 – The Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center’s Annual Pig Roast at 6 p.m. at The Goat Restaurant. A relaxing outdoor picnic with  Entertainer Ray Fogg performing, plus a silent auction fundraiser. Fee $15 for dinner.

•    Aug. 12 – Visit the Aquatic Visitors Center and Fish Hatchery. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Free.

•    Aug. 13 – Middle Bass East Point Preserve Photo Walk – 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. – Free.

  • Aug. 10 – Gibraltar Island Tours – Water Taxi from Boardwalk at 10:45 a.m., tour island 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. $10 per adult for tour plus water taxi fee.. 419-285-2341.

•    Aug. 11 – Stargazer’s Cruise aboard a Miller Ferry. Departs Miller Ferry downtown dock, Bayview Ave., Put-in-Bay 8:30 pm, returns approximately 10:45 pm. Enjoy the sunset afterglow, then cruise to escape ambient light and become blanketed under the stars. Refreshments included. Tickets available at the Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center, call 419-285-3037. Fee Adults $18, Children $10.

Take time to explore other island treasure’s including the caves, limestone beaches, State Parks, wineries and Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial.

Sponsors of Island Green Week are The Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center, Lake Erie Islands Conservancy and the Put-in-Bay Township Park.

Lodging and transportation information is available at visitputinbay.com or visit SHORESandISLANDS.com.  For additional Island Green Week details and savings visit lakeerieislandswildlife.com or phone 419-285-3037.

EcoTour_Poster Island Green Week

9 Ohio Instagram Users That Will Make You Drool

It’s right here we usually like to include a little set up for the story, but not this time.  It’s right to to the meat and potatoes.  Quick word of warning however, do not read this on an empty stomach.  It’s like that feeling you get when you’ve chewed gum whilst hungry multiplied by 43.

@clefoodies — Food Tour Curator Tricia McCune is all about eating/supporting local and lucky for her, Cleveland has a ton of eclectic options.  And lucky for us, she makes all those options look ridiculously good.

CleFoodies

@smashingtoledo — First off all, it’s one of the best Instagram food related names ever.  Who doesn’t love to smash food now and again?  Or for that matter, smash food all the time.  Mouth watering tamales, pastrami piled so high you can’t see over it.  Keep smashing guys.  We’ll  keep following.

smashingtoledo

@cincyeats — While we do like smashing food, sometimes we like to take our time, clean up after ourselves and make appropriate use of our napkins.  These clean, crisp, neatly procured photos of food make us want to head right down to the Queen City for a proper meal.  Maybe finish things off with a nice beer from Rhinegeist.

cincyeats

@therailburger — Can’t.  Stop.  Looking.  At.  Burgers.  No seriously, it’s hard.  We have a cheesy soft spot for meticulously crafted burgers.  Plus The Rail is All-Ohio, all at the time and we like that because we are too.

TheRailBurger

@jenisicecreams — Anyone who uses “superlative” ingredients to make ice cream is alright in our book.  Honestly though, there’s ice cream and then there’s ice cream.  Jeni’s is clearly the latter if you get our drift.  Atlantic Beach Pie — Sweet cream ice cream swirled with homemade lemon pudding and buttery saltine cracker gravel.  Just stop it.

JenisIceCreams

@catawbaislandorchard — You don’t need to be American Pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz to find this place, although I guess it helps because they were just there.  Owner Nikolai Blumensaadt and his crew are almost as good at taking pictures as they are at creating tasty, eclectic dishes.  Word on the street is he’s opened two more adjoining restaurants as well.  Portage Room at The Island House and Lago Mexican Kitchen.  Yeah, we’re pretty stoked.

CatawbaIslandOrchard

@frostedandfried — You had us at frosted.  You kept us at fried.  This dreamy Instagram account isn’t exactly for health nuts, but then again if you don’t like a doughnut right next to your chicken wings that what are we doing here?

frostedandfried

@meltbargrilled — You know what makes food taste good?  Cheese.  You know what makes pictures look good?  Cheese.  Heads up, don’t lick the screen in hopes of tasting said cheese.  It doesn’t work, we tried.

MeltBarGrilled

@theporkchopshop — Holy meats. From Cinnamon Chipotle Bacon to Barbacoa Chops, these Westside Market Butcher Babes are as well versed in pigs as Lebron James is in dunking on Golden State Warriors.  This Instagram page is truly beautiful…vegans, stay away at all costs.

theporkchopshop

We know there’s a huge amount of other saliva inducing Instagram accounts out there in Ohio, so if you have one mind please feel free to share!

General Patton’s Historic Personal Yacht Coming to Put-in-Bay, Ohio July 4th Weekend

 

Those looking for a once in a lifetime ride aboard an iconic  vessel need look no further than Lake Erie.  This Fourth of July weekend the stunning schooner When and If, General Patton’s personal yacht, will tie up at Put-in-Bay where it will be available for day sails Friday, July 1 – Monday, July 4.

When and If @ Sunset

 

The When and If will dock at the C-Dock outer wall in Put-in-Bay harbor and hold approximately 4 sails per day, ending with a fireworks sail the night of the island’s spectacular pyrotechnics display.

At 63 feet and 5 inches in length, the John Alden designed schooner was built in 1939 for then Colonel General George S. Patton and his wife, Bea.  With another world war looming on the horizon, Patton’s plan was to sail the schooner should he survive his service abroad, then stating “When the war is over, and if I live through it, Bea and I are going to sail her around the world.”

When and If on a Clear Day

Long after the General’s untimely death in 1945, the When and If sailed on and was maintained in impeccable condition, remaining in the Patton family until 1972 until it was gifted to the Landmark school in Massachusetts where she was the centerpiece of a sail training program for dyslexic children.

Crew WorkingAfter a bad storm drove her onto the rocks causing severe damage, albeit not structural, the When and If passed back into private ownership and was painstakingly rebuilt — However it wasn’t until 17 years later in 2012 when the schooner was fully returned to all her glory.

Day Sails will last approximately 90 minutes and cost $65/person, apart from the Fireworks Sail on July, 4th which will cost $150/person.

The historic schooner yacht When and If will arrive at Put-in-Bay on Friday, July 1, 2016.  For additional information When and If Aerialplease visit the event’s FaceBook page or purchase tickets through TicketFly.

For the quickest and most affordable transportation to the islands visit www.millerferry.com.

6 Ohio Burgers That Will Melt Your Tastebuds Right Off

(Fair warning, there’s a Game of Thrones spoiler below.  In a burger article though? I know, weird).

Okay okay, they won’t actually melt your tastebuds off, but they will leave a lasting impression on them.  Supremely glorious in all their beefy splendor, these carefully crafted creations will have you kneeling to the Burgered God…I apologize for that, ever since Jon Snow was resurrected Game of Thrones references just kind of slip right out.

In all seriousness though, Ohio’s burger game is strong and these six are no exception.  They’re actually at the top of that game.

 

The RailCleveland/Akron

Lamb Burger

It’s not like you have to say much after looking at this photo, but try to imagine the feeling you’d get if the Cleveland Browns won the Super Bowl.  That’s pretty much what the first bite feels like. You know what I’m talking about Browns fans.  The Rail traded up for a first round pick on this one and didn’t select Johnny Football, but more like Russell Wilson.  50/50 all-Ohio lamb, fresh mozzarella, cucumber dill sauce, sautéed peppers & onions, lettuce and tomato — A perfect balance of succulent, sweet and cool.

One of the best parts about The Rail?  You can rest assured almost everything you’re munching on comes from Ohio.  Beer included.  Extra tip: Mike Mariola, owner of said establishment, has another delectable spot in Wooster, Ohio called City Square Steakhouse.  Melt-in-your-mouth type of steak situation.  Seriously.

(Update) – If you enjoy a nice craft beer and let’s be honest, one can’t have enough places to slug down hoppy beverages, check out the Ohio Beer Garden.  Their monthly Beer Exploration Society meetings bring in Ohio brewers that shell out fresh information and beer.  Pro tip: Snag the pretzel bites with your beer, you won’t regret it.

The Rail Lamb Burger
Photo Courtesy of The Rail

Manny’s Sports TavernSandusky

Beer Cheese Burger

Cedar Point, Put-in-Bay, Lake Erie.  All great reasons to make your way to Ohio’s north coast, but I’ve found another.  Cruising north on Rt. 250 just after Kalahari on your left you’ll come across an unassuming building stamped “Manny’s Sports Tavern.”  Do yourself a favor, pull off the road and walk in.  To be fair all of their food is fantastic; however, their burgers are off the charts, particularly the Beer Cheese Burger.  Reserved as a special, this delightfully cheesy beef bomb is all about timing.  Although I bet they might make it for you if you ask nicely.  One can hope.

Beer cheese, bacon and fried portobello mushrooms is all I have to say.  Mic drop.

Manny's Beer Cheese
Manny’s Beer Cheese Burger

The Thurman Cafe – Columbus

Thurman Burger

After careful consideration I decided not to include a photo of the Thurman Burger, it’s simply too dangerous.  This meaty monstrosity may just ruin your dinner, following day’s breakfast and lunch solely by catching a glimpse on the intranets.  Almost world renowned at this point, the description reads like a short novel.  Bottom bun, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle, banana peppers, 12-ounce burger, bacon, cheddar, another 12-ounce burger, sautéed mushrooms & onions, ham, mozzarella & American cheese and a top bun.  Okay my fingers are tired.  Just a heads up, make sure to split this work of art with at least one other person.  Or two, or three.  You get the gist.

ThurmanCafe
Photo Courtesy of Thurman Cafe FaceBook Page

Voltzy’s Root Beer Stande – Dayton

Hog Burger

“You going to stand there all day?” is what you might hear if the owner Rick Volz deems your burger order procedure sub-par.  Slinging insults and jokes as if he owns the place, the colorful proprietor cooks every burger to perfection himself and after tasting one, you’ll see why his slights are worth taking.  While the sliders are certainly on the burger bucket list, not to mention perfect traveling companions, The Hog deserves some kind of sparkly cheese crown.  20 ounces with double cheese and double onions, there’s a good chance that this thing will punch whatever vegetables you have in your stomach right in the mouth.

There would be a photo to accompany this, but I was afraid to take my phone out for fear of getting kicked out.  Just teasing, it was a long time ago and I still had a flip phone.  Google it!

 

G & R Tavern – Waldo

Bologna Sandwich

Let’s address it right off the bat.  You are all correct, this is not a burger.  But you know what?  It sure resembles one and that’s good enough for me.  They might as well call it a Bologna Burger, because that’s precisely what it is.  This rule breaker has burger written all over it.  3/4 inch thick bologna that looks like it came from an overzealous butcher, melty monterey jack cheese, sweet pickles and onion make this G &R’s opus.  A garlicky production brought down to us from the cosmos meant to achieve one sole purpose: Satisfaction.  Okay, maybe indigestion too.  But it’s oh so worth it.

G&R Bologna
Photo Courtesy of G & R FaceBook Page

Terry’s Turf Club – Cincinnati

Apparently All of Them

Honestly I’ve never been here, but that’s not going to stop me from putting Terry’s on my list because it’s on good authority that this place has the absolute juiciest, most savory burgers in Cincinnati.  A bewildered, food crazy friend who frequents Cincy recently said this over the phone fresh off a visit. “I’m dead serious, it’s ridiculous.  Imagine a unicorn and a cow had a baby and that baby was a burger.  And that burger was covered in edible diamonds.”  Oddly enough the edible diamond part was the only thing I found weird.

Anyhow, the burger in question was one with a burgundy mushroom sauce and swiss cheese.  Needless to say a trip to Cincy is in my near future.  He also mentioned there’s a lot of neon signs and that it’s a dive bar.  Bonus.

Terry's Turf Club
Photo Courtesy of Terry’s Turf Club FaceBook Page

No doubt I’ve missed a ton and even had to omit some other burgers that are amazing, but if you have any suggestions please share below or on Twitter @ItsAlwaysOhio.

Miller Ferry’s 2016 Season Commences Tomorrow

  • Miller Ferry to tentatively start daily schedule for the 2016 year on Friday, March 4, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. 
  • Schedule is subject to change – early season is weather dependent. 
  • First boat leaving Put-in-Bay will be at 2:00 p.m. while the first boat out of Catawba will be 2:30 p.m. 

Miller Ferry Catawba Dock – March 4, 2015 – Spring hasn’t exactly sprung quite yet, but for Miller Ferry and the popular destination of Put-in-Bay, the beginning of the 2016 season is about to be in full swing.

Miller Ferry will tentatively begin service to Put-in-Bay on Friday, which in comparison with last year, is a much earlier start.  Poised for a very busy season that includes a number of large construction projects, Miller Ferry and the local island businesses welcome the chance to begin operations.

“Getting off to an early March start is key for the entire island this year,” states Miller Ferry owner Julene Market.  “There’s so many exciting new projects and so much that goes into them. Whether it’s supplies or workers, we’re very happy to help further the progress.”

While winter in northern Ohio may have been a roller coaster this year, the barometer now
seems like its pointing in the right direction – towards Put-in-Bay.

For up-to-date schedules and more information please visit www.millerferry.com.

MillerLine

Hey Fellas, Here’s a Few Last Minute Valentine’s Day Ideas

No doubt you’ve seen a few Valentines’s Day posts pop up in your FaceBook feed a month or two ago, yet dismissed them with a procrastination that’s unfortunately present in most of us.  This is precisely why I decided to come up with a few ideas four measly days before because let’s face it, we’ve all waited until now anyway.

Fly by the seat of your pants and road trip to an event

Chocolate Daze 2016 — Wooster, Ohio

Celebrate your last minute creativity and pop on down to Wooster, Ohio for their 10th annual Chocolate Daze.  Since this event runs from Friday, February 12 to Saturday, February 13, you’ll really have to beat feet.  The event showcases 25+ merchants offering up confectionary specials during their regular business hours.  And as a bonus you get to explore the streets of Wooster, which are undeniably sweet.

DTWoo
Credit Main Street Wooster

Columbus Symphony — Columbus, Ohio

Valentine’s Day doesn’t always have to involve chocolate and wine.  How about the tasty tunes of a Los Angeles-based Journey tribute band collaborating with the Columbus Symphony?  Time-defying power ballads are always romantic, especially “Faithfully.”  Showtime is 8:00 pm on Saturday and tickets range from $25 – $68.

 

Dinner with a twist or just a very good dinner

Punch Bowl Social Club — Cleveland, Ohio

Playing games together can be really romantic.  Leaning over your loved one while you gently direct the pool cue in the right direction or taking ahold of a bowling ball at the same time during a moment on the lanes — yikes, it’s getting hot in here.  The Punch Bowl offers billiards, bowling, ping pong, old school arcade games, board games, darts and shuffleboard.  Combine that with a locally sourced, organic ingredient driven menu at the GastroDiner and you’re looking at a date night hit.

B & B Riverboat Cruise — Cincinnati, Ohio

It’s tough to find something more romantic than a Valentine’s Day riverboat cruise on the Ohio River.  Like the folks at B & B say, let the captain be your cupid.  While I don’t usually condone buffets, the menu includes chocolate short ribs, which I’m thinking can’t be bad.  Act quickly though as Sunday is the last weekend boat available.  Total price for two is around $110.

Riverboat
Credit B&B Riverboat FaceBook

The Orchard — Port Clinton, Ohio

Much fresher than your old pickup lines, one thing will stand out here: ingredients.  One of the best new restaurants in the area, The Orchard creatively prepares phenomenal dishes that are focused on natural and locally grown ingredients.  Visit their FaceBook page to check out their long list of Valentine’s Day specials, which span the length of the entire weekend.  I’ll put my money on the lobster-stuffed portabella mushrooms.  Make sure to check out there tremendous specialty cocktails as well.

Orchard
Credit The Orchard FaceBook Page

The Rail — North Olmsted, Fairlawn & Canton, Ohio

A burger and a beer may not seem like the most romantic thing ever, but c’mon, their burger of the month is called The Heartbreaker — A blend of Ohio beef & Ohio andouille sausage topped with sweet roasted red pepper cream cheese spread, lettuce and tomato.  Then of course you must wash it down with a rare Cincinnati beer, which are cameoed on tap for the special month-long FeBREWary event.  Painstakingly focused on all things Ohio, it makes perfect sense to celebrate Valentine’s Day Ohio-style here.  Plus, who want’s to dress up anyway?  Just one more suggestion, try the Truth IPA from Rhinegeist.

Burgers W:BackgroundLogo
Credit The Rail

Go outside-of-the-box

Chocolate & Beer Valentine’s Day 5K & 10K — Dayton, Ohio

Now this one could go one of two ways.  It’s either “Wow, that’s such an ridiculously unique and fun idea,” or “Wow, you’re dumb.  Let’s go eat somewhere and get chocolate afterward.”  But of course you know whether or not your significant other is a beer drinker/runner, so it’ll most likely be a fairly educated decision.  The race does come with a box of locally made Kilwin’s chocolates and a cold beer, so that makes it quite a bit more enticing.  The 10K starts at 3:00 pm and the 5K starts at 3:15 pm.  There’s also a costume contest so be sure to dress up and then head over to Brixx Ice Company for the afterparty.

 

The old standby

Tre Sorelle Cioccolato — Sandusky, Ohio

There’s a reason chocolate is the unrivaled Valentine’s Day king and Tre Sorelle is the perfect example why.  Consistently ranked very high among the Ohio confectioner elite, these ladies really turn out the tasty truffles.  Alliteration aside, I’m serious, these things are unbelievable.  Merlot.  Apple Pie.  Raspberry Champagne.  Ice Wine.  Take your pick, you will not be disappointed.  Or just go for the chocolate-dipped strawberries, because those always work.

Tres

Is there a place in Ohio that just has be on this list?  Please share below, on Twitter @ItsAlwaysOhio or on FaceBook!

15 Places in Ohio You Must Visit in 2016

Making favorite lists is terribly hard, but with the new year already upon us it only makes sense to reflect on where we’ve been in 2015.  So although nearly impossible, I’ve tried my best to whittle down a list of favorite Ohio spots into a mere 15.

Disclaimer: 15 could’ve easily turned into 50 and there’s no rhyme or reason to the compilation, just simply locations across Ohio that we thought are swell.

Close Quarters in Avon Lake, Ohio:  With around 20 bar stools, this tiny bar certainly lives up to its name but makes up for what size it lacks in character.  Packed to the gills with wacky memorabilia and old-school patron polaroids, there’s hardly a blank spot on the walls.  If you’re lucky enough to find the charming proprietor present, he’ll take an aforementioned polaroid of your mug, affix it to the wall and further cement you into Cleveland tavern lore.   Make sure to try the chicken wings, which are contest worthy and wash it down with a cold beer from their surprisingly large selection.

CloseQuarters

Katalina’s in Columbus, Ohio:  The state capitol doesn’t lack delicious breakfast spots, but Katalina’s in Victorian Village is the cream of the crop.  Superbly charming with excellent outdoor patio space and locally-made goodness, I only have two other words for you: pancake balls.  Seriously, their signature item is made with local stoneground flour, ridiculously tasty and filled with things like Nutella, dulche de leche and pumpkin apple butter.

Catalina's

Shisler’s Cheese House in Orrville, Ohio:  This old school cheese house is perfect.  From Rita, the story-filled owner to the mazed aisles of homemade trail bologna and countless local treats, it almost feels like a shop that could’ve existed on the Frontier.  Rifling through more cheese in a year than you’ve probably ever laid eyes on, I’m guessing the folks at Shisler’s rarely get stumped playing cheese trivia.

Shisler'sCheeseHouse

Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, Ohio:  My first visit to this glorious gem of a book store was to hear avid budget traveler, Nomadic Matt, speak to a small group of folks about travel hacking.  Independently owned and operated in the historic Larchmere neighborhood, Loganberry boasts over 100,000 volumes, which is staggering for a bookstore of this size — And we’re not talking Books-a-Million, as this place is meticulously curated with new, used and rare books of all genres.  Plus any bookstore with Oriental rugs and wandering cats is fine by me.

Loganberry Books

Porco Lounge in Cleveland, Ohio:  Located between the historic neighborhoods of Tremont and Ohio City, this Polynesian pleasure is where patrons come to get their tiki fix and escape from the traditional midwest day.  Fine spirits, fresh squeezed juices and house made mixers are intricately meshed together in a lush atmosphere to create potent, delicious libations that would make Don the Beachcomber proud.  My favorite, trying to get through all the levels of Painkillers.  But if you’re really feeling randy, go for the Tiki Bob’s Concussion — Careful, you’re only allowed just one.

PorcoLounge

Tony’s in Athens, Ohio:  Hailing from Ohio University and fresh off a recent trip down memory Tonyslane, it’s imperative that I include at least one of my 57 favorite places in Athens.  Tony’s must be that place.  If you’re looking to relax with friends, throw some darts and have a drink in a quintessential college bar, there’s no place better watering hole.  Grab a Hot Nut shot and treat yourself to some nostalgia old boy.

Johnny’s Little Bar in Cleveland, Ohio:  Best bar in Cleveland. Johnny'sLittleBar That is all.  Oh yes, and try the burger in this tiny alley beer joint.  My grandmother always refers to good bars as “beer joints” and I feel only the best taverns deserve such a timeless moniker.  Johnny’s definitely does.

Hocking Hills in Hocking, Ohio:  Arguably one of the most picturesque places in Ohio, it’s nearly impossible to snap a bad photo here.  Walking around with your pup for a day at Hocking Hills almost feels like a form of mediation — Soothing waterfalls and earthy caves set amongst lush vegetation bring about something everyone desperately needs after a week at the office: peace.  Don’t care much for relaxation?  Zipline over the canopy I’ll be mellowing out in.

HockingHills

Catawba Island Brewing Co. in Catawba Island, Ohio:  Convert an old marine storage facility into a really cool brewery, dish out some tasty craft beer and you have yourself a pretty sweet establishment.  Sweaty summer day?  Try the excellent Whitecap Wit and if you time it right, maybe you’ll get to taste their oddly delicious Habanero Hefeweizen.

CIBC

Old Forge Cafe & Creperie in Put-in-Bay, Ohio:  Beside being the best island in the world, Put-in-bay has an array of places we could’ve included in this list but had to withhold for the sake of brevity.  Honestly, best island in the world — Pretty sure it would hold up in court.  Okay, now that I’ve professed my love for South Bass Island, to the Old Forge.  Their carefully crafted crepes (say that three times fast) taste wonderful on their own, but when you combine the unique atmosphere of a historic island blacksmith shop that’s been brought back to life, they taste even better.  Plus they have an outdoor, Key West-ish garden bar with a phenomenal beer selection.  Go here next summer.  Just hop on the Miller Ferry and go.

OldForge

Volstead Bar in Sandusky, Ohio:  If you fancy yourself a cocktail connoisseur then this place is the nines.  Housed in an old brothel called the Green Door, the Volstead Bar is a perfectly executed throwback to the days when Al Capone toted illegal booze and bar patrons took immense pride in what they imbibed.  With 24 seats, zero televisions and a no-cell phone suggestion, the cozy confines are excellent for those important conversations you were thinking about having at that last bar.  Try my favorite if you like bourbon, the sazerac.  If you don’t like bourbon, then you’re dead to me.  Kidding, kidding…try the popular French 76, the English derived Pimm’s Cup or the classic Aviation.

VolsteadBar

La Dolce Vita in Cleveland Ohio (Little Italy):  Right in the heart of Little Italy, which is a very distinctive area as a whole, La Dolce Vita personifies what true Italian food and Mediterranean atmosphere is all about.  Go for the street side cafe seats outside if the weather’s nice, however the inside of the establishment is just as unique.  You can’t go wrong with the Eggplant Del Giorno for an appetizer and as for the main course, my vote goes to the Veal “Pavarotti” in a marsala wine sauce.  One more thing and I’m willing to live with the finality of this statement, their sangria is the best I’ve ever had.

LaDolceVita

JAFB Wooster Brewery in Wooster, Ohio:  There’s a good chance you’ve seen their beer if you’ve been to a Cleveland Browns game and probably a greater chance you’ve had three or four considering that’s usually what it takes to stomach our beloved NFL franchise.  Ultimately though these fellas are much more than just one canned beer — These Wooster natives are brewing up some ridiculously tasty beverages, as evidenced by their recent silver medal at the Great American Beer Fest for their Rain Delay IPA.  My favorite?  Step Up Pale Wheat or the Mean Bourbon Bean Stout.  Ultimately it doesn’t really matter which brew you choose while you’re here, I haven’t had a bad one yet.

JAFB

Fatheads Brewery in North Olmstead, Ohio:  If JAFB is considered an up-and-coming brewery then this place would undoubtedly be considered an old Ohio staple.  Year in and year out their beers are awarded gold medals at every competition imaginable and somehow just keep getting better.  Beers like the Sunshine Daydream Session IPA and the Hop Juju Imperial IPA tend to be my go to’s, but much like JAFB it’s nearly impossible to find a sub-par beer.  Make sure to bring your appetite though, as their delicious array of signature sandwiches are sure to be bigger than your head — Unless you have an abnormally large dome, then maybe not.

Fatheads

 

The Village Pump in Kelleys Island, Ohio:  Kelleys Island unapologetically does its own thing and that’s cool.  From remote white sand beaches encompassed in limestone piers and 20,000 year-old glacial grooves, to island wineries, breweries and character-laden taverns, this picturesque Lake Erie island is as unique as it is fun.  With the Village Pump, there’s a huge emphasis on “character-laden tavern” part of that description as you’ll soon find out after receiving the obligatory high-five from Gary, proprietor of said establishment.  Start off with a cup of clam chowder, followed by a perch sandwich and wash it all down with their famous Brandy Alexander — that’s Kelleys Island lunch perfection right there.  And if you’re feeling adventurous, head to the bar and shoot back a storm cloud.

VillagePump
Photo courtesy of The Village Pump

Is there a place in Ohio that just has be on this list?  Please share below or on twitter @ItsAlwaysOhio.

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.

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