The Skinny on Where to Eat this Season
2011 Looks to be another great year for the Put-in-Bay food scene. There are rumors and speculations already making the rounds as to who will be open, who will be closed, and who will be starting something new and exciting for this upcoming summer tourist season. One of the fun things about living in a small close-knit community is finding out the gossip. And while this is not a gossip column, we do want to let you in on some of the more important information.
So here is some of the scuttlebutt... Axel & Harrys is officially not going to open for 2011. And, obviously, the attached High Tides Waterfront Grill will be closed as well. The main reasons they won't open need not be reviewed here, but if you look at their track record on food quality and staffing, you will see that it was bound to happen. Corporate groups used to enjoy going there as well as higher-end tourists and guests over the past few years, but there was a lot of grumbling last year. The food quality had been slowly deteriorating as the prices increased. While still good, the food was not AS good. One thing veteran restauranteers will tell you is consistency is key. Another problem was the attitude and service level of the staff, which also had dropped. All in all, it is a mixed blessing that we saw A&H close its doors in 2011.
But where one door is closed, another is opened! 2011 sees the introduction of a new concept... Big Man's Burrito Stand. Ryan Stoiber, the big man himself, is going to open a new mexican venture towards the end of the month. His concept is all burritos, all the time, all for the same price. This is a great new idea because we all crave Chipotle and just don't want to spend $45 to get off the island and drive to Sandusky to get one. And for the people who visit the island, as opposed to living here, they will find it a "comfort food", just like Subway. The location for Big Man's is going to be right behind the Frosty Bar, which is being expanded in the back and is under construction right now. Check back for a review soon!
Another closure notice is Big Ben Bistro. Initially slated to open last year, and having done 75% of the construction work, they never actually opened their doors due to zoning and/or liquor control issues. Their concept was going to be "Chilling cocktails, island wines, English beer and spirits. Big Ben was born when two English men decided to serve homemade meals, fresh seafood, soups and salads on a relaxing patio overlooking Lake Erie and surrounding islands." Located in Downtown PIB between Mossbacks and PIB Winery, you can still drive by and see what would have been (and should have been) a really cool new spot. Adding some nice English beers to the over-clogged Miller and Budweiser line-up that we are forced in to would have been a pleasant surprise. So would a plate of Bangers and Mash and some authentic quality Fish and Chips. Alas, this concept was stillborn.
Flip it over again to a new opening and we have the Put-in-Bay Pizza Company. Located in the kitchens of the Put-in-Bay Resort & Conference Center, the PIB Pizza Co. did a test run late last year to see how it would work to have some late-night pizza competition. From what we can tell, it was a smashing success and they are reopened for 2011. We chatted with the owner and he said they have tweaked their sauce a bit to make it a little spicier and less sweet, they have a better cheese blend, and they are going with all Hormel meats (meaning it is REALLY good quality!). Their lineup includes salads, chicken wing dings, pizzas (obviously!), and a killer selection of grinder sandwiches. Try the meatball and you won't try one anywhere else again!
On the possible closure list is Skyway Bar. There is speculation as to whether this will be open or closed in 2011. Right now, it is open, so check back later for more details. On the possible new opening or changing list is Spike & Wylsons. It was kind of tucked away behind the hardware store last year in a little shack, serving a myriad of hot dog creations. A little birdy told me that they have bought or leased the old Snack Shack out at the state park and will be doing a bigger hot dog business out that way. You will be hard pressed to come up with a better hot dog than the ones they create (pineapple and hot pepper relish on a hot dog? No way you say? Yes way!!!)
So there you have it, a few opens, a few closes, and a little bit of speculation. Add to the mix last year's new opens (Mojito Bay and Blue Harbour Grille) and there are a lot of options to suit every taste. Come visit the island and see all that we have to offer. But more importantly, EAT all that we have to offer!
Rating: Zero out of ten stars (how can one rate oneself?!?)
Favorite Item: a burrito when they open up!
Notes: possible new coffee stand opening next to Cameo, but unknown at the moment
This website is meant to showcase the Put-in-Bay, Ohio food scene. Monthly reviews of Putinbay restaurants occur during the season. When there is a festival involving food or wine in town, then that is covered as well. Put-in-Bay Bars get occasional notice for the quality of their drinks and entertainment. Each review is as unbiased as the palate of the reviewer (unless brussel sprouts are involved, that is a dealbreaker!).
The mystery reviewer is an island resident who has been boating and working on the island for over 15 years and can remember back to the days when there was a Taco Bell on the island and the downtown bars closed at 11pm. Times change, but everyone still needs to eat!