As the unofficial capital of South Bass Island, the village of Put-in-Bay is not only one of Ohio’s most popular Lake Erie escapes, but it’s also a great place to escape fast food and chain restaurants.
Like almost everything else – from the Jet Express ferry that whisks vacationers across the lake to the towering Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, a monument to America’s triumph at the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie – Put-in-Bay’s restaurants and pubs are unique. Owned and often operated independently by South Bass residents, these places to eat offer special foods and experiences that make for fun and fulfilling getaways. Getting a taste of the island is now easier than ever – thanks to a new Put-in-Bay Foodie Trail that maps the way to more than twenty of the best eats and drinks the city has to offer. I recently sampled the Foodie Trail and was delighted to find that the eight-page guide features many of my favorites, as well as places I’ve always wanted to try.
While all of the Put-in-Bay Foodie Trail’s destinations are certainly appetizing, a good place to begin is The Boardwalk, a Put-in-Bay landmark with harborside dining and astonishing views of the Perry Memorial. Its most famous dish is lobster bisque, a rich and flavorful soup made in-house with lobsters from Maine that are flown in throughout the summer.
My next stop was The Reel Bar on Catawba Avenue, one of Put-in-Bay’s oldest taverns. Its nautically-inspired décor (think old boats, ropes, and fishing gear) reflect its deep South Bass Island roots.
“When my partner (Ray Fogg) and I took over the bar,” says co-owner Andy Christensen, “we turned it into the kind of place we’d like to drink at.”
In addition to their solid selection of beers and bourbon, the menu includes palate-pleasing items like tacos made with house-braised beef and Lake Erie perch accompanied by mango tartar sauce.
Nearby, Mossbacks and its sister establishment, The Fishbowl (which actually serves drinks in a fishbowl), occupy an historic building that once was once a hardware store.
Best-sellers at both places include the Lake Erie perch and walleye, but I always order the Perch & Pierogies dinner.
The most satisfying dish on the island, it combines lightly breaded perch, potato-and-cheese pierogies, grilled onions, and coleslaw.
Finish it off with a bit of Mossbacks’ utterly delish carrot cake and you’ll find comfort food Nirvana!
Continuing the legacy of wine-making at Lake Erie that dates back to the 1800s is the Put-in-Bay Winery, who offers a variety of wines made from regionally grown grapes.
Samples and flights of wines such as Riesling, Pink Catawba, and Merlot are available in the tasting room, but I’m partial to Celebration, a fruity and frothy Moscato with a bottle label depicting fireworks at the Perry Memorial.
The winery is located inside a yellow shoreline mansion that once belonged to a previous Put-in-Bay mayor, and many visitors like to enjoy the wines in the lovely wine garden overlooking the lake. It’s an ideal spot to relax and relish beautiful lake views and the laid-back island ambiance that bring people from far and wide to Put-in-Bay.
Want to learn more about the Put-in-Bay Foodie Trail? Visit Trails.Ohio.org. Get the guide, information, maps and travel tips from the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce or the Lake Erie Shores and Islands Welcome Centers.
For more delicious bites and food trails, explore Ohio’s Adventure Trails and Find It Here at Ohio.org.