Maumee Valley Growers, a growers association, includes more than 70 individual growers who work together to strengthen the local greenhouse industry. Though all the growers in the group offer local plants, they have distinct locations, product mixes, and specialties. Each year, Maumee Valley Growers puts on Christmas Shoppes at various locations, including Bench's Greenhouse & Nursery and Wardell's Garden Center.
Bench's, which started off as a modest 32?x144? poly greenhouse full of tomatoes and pepper plants in 1978, has since exploded into a 3-acre operation that supports a leafy abundance of 15,000 flowering hanging baskets, more than 100,000 potted annuals, and 25,000 potted perennials. In November and December, the garden center morphs into a winter wonderland that showcases more than 100 decorated trees and a seasonal trove of ornaments, fragrant wreaths, poinsettias, and elf catchers.
Wardell's started in 1987 as small greenhouse with some vegetable plants and a few hanging baskets. The owner put the plants out by the road with a sign and a coffee can to collect the money and ended up selling out. Now, what was once a 480-square-foot operation has turned into a more than 25,000-square-foot greenhouse area with a garden center that operates almost year round. During the Christmas season, patrons can sip hot spiced cider while browsing holiday decorations, artificial trees, wreaths, and scented candles. Wardell's three miniature horses, Moonbeam, Moondust, and Moonshadow, are also on hand to greet the customers and make them feel like giants.
Peggy Dennis and Mark Kohn transformed the historic Oak Harbor Hotel, while retaining the well-known façade's historic charm. But inside the duo refurbished the guts by restoring the century-old hardwood floors and hanging glittering chandeliers. They remodeled the dining room to house their restaurant – which serves a variety of locally grown produce and locally raised meats. They also renamed the venue to The Beekeeper Inn, a nod to their own passion for apiculture. Together they run the banquet hall and restaurant, taking breaks in their day to tend the family farm, harvest honey, or net a new swarm of bees. Mark even uses the Inn's upstairs space as a Krav Maga practice studio to teach self defense classes.
Sandi's Village Cafe warms customers with house coffee, lattes, and cappuccinos in flavors such as french vanilla. To complement the beverages—which also include chai tea—the staff serves breakfast food such as cinnamon rolls and later-day eats such as paninis and salads. To end things on a sweet note, customers can order butterscotch sundaes or ice-cream cones with one of the cafe's seasonal flavors.
Happy Hour Inn's inventive chefs swirl fluffy dough discs with a traditional, white, or garlic-butter sauce before scattering the pies with more than 20 toppings ranging from pepperoni to potato chips. A menu of 17 specialty pizzas supplements conventional toppings with eclectic accents such as potatoes, sour cream, and thought bubbles. The taco pizza forgoes its mozzarella origins in favor of a nontraditional cheddar-cheese smattering garnished with taco meat, tomatoes, and lettuce. A creamy alfredo sauce saturates morsels of chicken, bacon, and onions atop the California white, whereas the buffalo-chicken pizza brandishes a spicy mélange of breaded chicken, two cheeses, and hot sauce. Diners can prime palates for the sliced feast with a 1-pound basket of boneless or bone-in wings that, like a spy with a laundry budget, don one of seven saucy disguises.
In the 1930s, a glimpse inside the brick building at 2350 Cleveland Road might have revealed Al Capone and his associates sipping coffee in the midst of a tense conversation. These days, though, the atmosphere inside Red Gables Mesquite Grill is relaxed and intimate, with white tablecloths and the scent of a mesquite fire drifting through the air. Over that fire, chef Jamie Pribanic grills Certified Black Angus steaks that he claims are the finest in the world. The Plain Dealer writer Debbi Snook stopped by to taste them herself, and came away impressed: “The medium-cooked rib-eye instantly became one of my all-time favorites”, she wrote. “Hearty structure but tender chew, pepper-rubbed, vaguely charred and whispering of cowboy terrain.”
The seafood at this grill is no afterthought. Diners can slurp oysters flown in fresh from Cape Cod, dip steamed Alaskan King Crab legs into drawn butter, or slice into the crimson flesh of wild Chinook salmon. Pours of wine or beer and a slew of house-made desserts complete the dining experience.
Nagoya Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi's well-traveled owners, Mel and Barb Ayers, unite the culinary artistry of Japan with chefs selected from around America for their talents and showmanship. The result—set in a convivial restaurant with an outdoor patio and tableside hibachi grills—draws a bridge between the artistic elegance of Japanese cuisine and the family-friendly atmosphere of an American steakhouse. Meats sizzle on hibachi grills as chefs perform knife and spatula tricks for dazzled onlookers, who must refrain from leaning in too close lest a tower of onions suddenly catches fire. The spectacular dance of flames results in entrees of filet mignon, sea scallops, and lobster tails, all of which pair nicely with sushi such as a crab-filled california roll or a Volcano roll drizzled with fresh magma.