Enjoy a taste of the North Coast this summer

It’s summertime on the North Coast! That means longer days, sunsets over the lake, and, of course, visits to our favorite seasonal eateries. From the savory subs at Great Lakes Grinders to the sweet treats at Romp’s Dairy Dock, enjoy the first taste of summer at these area staples.

Dockside CafeDockside Cafe
611 W. Shoreline Drive, Sandusky
Hours: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily

Now in its 13th season, Dockside Cafe opened at its Paper District Marina location on May 15.

In addition to its crowd favorites, Dockside’s favorite features have been added to the daily menu, including the perch sandwich and BBQ pulled pork sandwich, says owner Andrea Crawford. The spot also has added a plant-based burger and a gluten-free bun option in addition to the other dietary options already on the Dockside menu.

“Doing this makes way for some awesome new and returning features that we have lined up for the year,” Crawford says.

What won’t change is Dockside’s commitment to its public.

“Our goal every year is to provide awesome service, delicious food, and showcase the beautiful location we are at,” Crawford says. “We also take every opportunity to be the best ambassadors that we can be for the City of Sandusky.”

And as for being a part of the Sandusky community, Crawford wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

“I love Sandusky,” Crawford says. “What it offers to locals and visitors is unmatched in my experience of places that I grew up in and have lived in. I want to contribute to that, and help build this community to show guests how amazing it is.”

Crawford’s contributions are far-reaching, and she plans to get even more involved this year, with city events including IRONMAN 70.3. Ohio, Touch-a-Truck, Dragons & Bacon Fest, boat shows, and races.

“Add to that some awesome entertainment lined up for us here at Dockside,” Crawford says, “We try to make every day better than the rest!”

Dockside anticipates staying open daily through September, weather and staffing permitting.

Great Lakes GrindersGreat Lakes Grinders
411 E. Water St., Sandusky
Hours: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. -3 p.m. Sunday
Personal connections and community support have been cornerstones of Great Lakes Grinders’ 10 years at Shoreline Park in Sandusky. The ability to interact with members of the community has allowed owner Ron Hile to build new relationships and transform previous bonds within the town he has called home his entire life.

“Making it to Year 10 is nothing short of unbelievable and humbling,” says Hile, a former Sandusky City Schools teacher. “Whoever says  business isn't personal hasn't seen what I've seen. People that were customers or seasonal employees have become friends and family. The ways in which my family, friends, former students, former athletes have thrown themselves into the cause…There's just a lot to be grateful for.”

And the Sandusky community is grateful for Hile’s presence downtown, so much so that people count down the days until the next opening day of a new season at Great Lakes Grinders.

One bite of one of Hile’s grinders explains why. GLG offers countless variations on the menu’s 16 options, from turkey combos to vegetarian options. Each sandwich can be made as a grinder, a salad, or a romaine wrap.

Despite the popularity of the seasonal business, Hile says his mindset is to always be improving.

“Until we're perfect everyday, the goal will remain to be better on the next one,” Hile says. “In our 10 years I've learned a lot, more than I can list. But as long as we've had the mentality that we can be better on the next one, we've been rewarded with a better year the next year. So until that stops working, we're going to keep grinding it out with that mentality.”

Hile says the shop will remain open with the current hours until school is back in session with a last day for the end of October, weather permitting.

Hidden Beach BarHidden Beach Bar
530 Hidden Beach Road, Lakeside Marblehead
Hours: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily

The popularity and longevity of Marblehead’s Hidden Beach Bar goes to show that sometimes a name is just that–a name. This not-so-hidden gem has been serving locals and tourists alike for the past 10 years. It is located at Shrock’s Marina, which has been in business and locally owned for more than 85 years.

“We love being a part of the boating community and our hometown Marblehead,” says co-owner Emily Dunfee. “We love to share in the reasons people gather–birthdays, anniversaries, girls night out, etc.. As boaters we are always looking for reasons to get out on the lake more, so we are happy to be a destination for our fellow boaters.”

Throughout the season, HBB’s goals are to “provide a relaxed and fun atmosphere for our guests while they enjoy Lake Erie and our island view.”

This is made possible in part to its location at the marina, Dunfee notes.

“Our location alongside a working marina and right on the shores of Lake Erie make the HBB experience completely different from other establishments,” she says. “It may be peaceful and quiet one day, and the next our crew is moving a yacht in the hoist. The rescue boats are in and out all day along with the charter fishermen that call Shrock's home.”

When those fishermen and other guests stop in for food and drinks, they’ll be met with some new menu items for the 2024 season. New for this year are mahi tacos and pulled pork tacos, which are perfect complements to the restaurant’s popular perch tacos. Also new for this year are more wrap options, along with a Wednesday night speciality burger. Top off your selections with HBB’s new made-from-scratch dressings, including a peach vinaigrette, and southern BBQ sauce.

They’ll also be met with a new daily entertainment schedule, with two acts on many Saturdays and Sundays.

“Every year we learn something new or find what we have grown out of and leave behind,” Dunfee says. “Business practices, menu items, and focus are always changing.”

What isn’t changing is the HBB staff’s commitment to the Lakeside Marblehead community.

“Our family and staff take great pride in being a part of the Marblehead community and being a locally owned business,” Dunfee says. “Our core staff are year-round residents and take every opportunity to be involved with our local chamber, Shores and Islands Ohio, and other industry partners.” 

Hidden Beach Bar opened for the season April 24 and plans to remain open until mid-to-late September.

Romp's Dairy DockRomp’s Dairy Dock
4933 Liberty Ave., Vermilion
Hours: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily

Whether it is a member of the four generations of family members who are involved in Romp’s Dairy Dock and Romp’s Water Port, or the families to whom the businesses cater, family always comes first at the Vermilion-based spots.

Romp’s has been run by four generations that are proud to have built a community-based business, graduated from Vermilion Schools, and have serviced their neighbors in various ways from Rotary, Lions Club, Grace’s Kitchen, city government and other local boards, says Romp’s co-owner John Gabriel.

“Our family is very involved with the town and works to contribute in making it a great place for all families,” he says.

Part of making Vermilion and Romp’s a great place for all families is by taking a hands-on approach to their business model.

“We are a family business where the family is right here serving their neighbors,” Gabriel says. “We have all grown up together, our kids go to school together, our grandkids go to school together. The community knows us, and knows we care about them and this town.”

The Romp’s crew shows how much they care about the community in various ways, including by providing a “safe and relaxing place for families to enjoy their favorite summer delights” with a large Pirate Playground and covered and open air outdoor seating, Gabriel says.

“We also have a large amount of green space for kids and pets to enjoy right in the center of town.

Romp’s Water Port has been a fixture of the Vermilion community since 1957, while Dairy Dock has been in the Romp’s family since 1982. Prior to that, the location was a Dairy Queen that leased the space from the Romp’s Marina.

“We have enjoyed being a part of Vermilion’s’ culture of summer fun and hope to continue to be a part of it,” Gabriel says.

Romp’s Dairy Dock opened for the season on April 18 and will be open until Sept. 8. That means there is plenty of time to sample their rotating flavors of Dole Whip. The flavor of the week is posted every Friday on www.romps.com.

“It is a changing treat for you to try and enjoy,” Gabriel says. “Of course we also have an extensive menu of ice cream and toppings, with something for every sweet tooth.”