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What is The Put-in-Bay Foodie Trail?
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What is The Put-in-Bay Foodie Trail?

There are already more beer trails in Ohio than you can shake a pretzel at.

Then there are the wine trails. And even a doughnut trail. So when Put-in-Bay’s official ambassador, Peter Huston, was at a national convention last fall attending a session on how to promote regional tourism, he had an appetizing thought.

Sure the Lake Erie island is known for its … let’s just say “spirited hangouts,” but there’s a growing momentum among proprietors to raise their collective culinary game.

And with that thought in mind, Huston spent the winter months persuading and coordinating the owners of 24 dining spots on the island to create the Put-in-Bay Foodie Trail.

The idea, he said, is that they work together to encourage visitors to linger longer on the island and to come back again and again. Visitors can grab an eight-page guide once they step off the Jet Express ferry, listing each of the 24 spots and offering up their specialties. Each place has a map that visitors can use to make their way along the trail on Sundays through Thursdays and collect stamps. (Things are a bit too hectic on Fridays and Saturdays to offer the stamps on those days.) Once you hit eight stamps, Huston said, you can take your map to the island’s chamber of commerce office on Delaware Avenue and collect a swag bag full of goodies like shot glasses, cups, beer coasters and other items donated by island businesses. Sure, most visitors know of the Chicken Patio that has been serving up barbecue for some 50 years. But Huston said there are other hidden culinary gems that can get overlooked, like the Cuban sandwich at Joe’s Bar & Restaurant and the fresh crepes at the Forge.

The question he always gets asked is where a visitor can get a great fish sandwich.

His answer is always the same: “Just about everywhere on the island.” The goal of this venture, Huston said, is for guests to try something new and different. “We’ve really got a great mix of food here,” he said.

There was a time when the island’s cuisine was pretty much fried anything. And that was the case at the old Tony’s Garage.
Owner Andy Christensen readily admits that when he and a partner took over the place a few years ago, they were serving up fairly unremarkable cheap burgers and frozen fries. The place has since been rebooted as the Reel Bar and with it came an upgraded menu that includes street tacos. The move to raise the quality of the food, he said, was consumer-driven as diners demanded better and also began ordering more food, thus creating more business and revenue.

Huston said the island has long been a destination for a younger set to listen to music and partake in the signature drinks and flowing taps of beer. But there has been a slow shift as these folks get older and want to bring their kids and their grandkids to the island, and are looking for something else to do like visiting a winery or checking out the Foodie Trail.

“Our visitors are looking for more choices,” he said.

Capturing that guest looking for a quieter place to eat and look out over Lake Erie has long been the lure of The Boardwalk. Situated literally on a dock over the lake, the restaurant has been a refuge for seafood lovers since the ’80s.

Boardwalk president Eric Booker said its seafood is brought to the island fresh daily during peak season. And considering they serve up nearly 100,000 bowls of their signature lobster bisque each season, they have to keep the seafood coming to feed hungry customers.

Huston said as word spreads about the island’s culinary choices, he expects places like The Boardwalk will have even busier kitchens to keep up with the demand. And he hopes the island will be on foodies’ radar, like big cities including Cleveland and Columbus that are well-known for their food scenes. “We offer the same different food options,” he said. “This just doesn’t happen everywhere.”

Article Source Ohio.com
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