About an hour south of Windsor on the shore of Lake Erie, housed behind the bright red exterior and shaded porch of a historic 1880s home, chefs plate American-style pub cuisine. Servers create natural pairings of burgers and hearty entrees with local wines and craft brews. Upstairs, three guest rooms welcome visitors with feather duvet-topped queen beds, fireplaces, and Jacuzzi bathtubs. And only a few blocks away at the new Lil? Heart & Soul Inn 136 on Mill, four more guest rooms in a turn-of-the-century home at the end of a quiet tree-lined street await overnight patrons?all outfitted with private baths.
At Lakeside Bakery and Café, freshly baked, all-natural breads open minds and mouths to the potent possibilities of the most pyramid- fortifying of food groups. Simple, wholesome ingredients restore bread to its unbleached, unrefined glory; loaves emerge from their incubators with hard, crispy shells and soft fluffy interiors, much like Bruce Willis. A spacious, bright café features dazzling geometric light fixtures and soaring windows draped with red and marigold curtains, providing inviting environs for dough dabblers to peruse the menu for a yeasty feast. For breakfast, pay homage to the gluten gods with French toast, cinnamon-apple bread baked golden brown and dusted with icing sugar ($5.49). Lunch goers, meanwhile, can sample a variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches such as the Philly beef on ciabatta bread ($7.25) or the Monte Cristo, egg-dipped bread with Black Forest ham and smoked turkey ($7.65).
Gilligan's serves up more than 20 varieties of gourmet hamburgers made fresh daily with local ingredients free of artificial preservatives and fillers. The grill's triple-A half-pound, hand-packed beef creations, derived entirely from local producers, include the vaunted fire-grilled original burger, adorned with the house grill sauce ($10+), as well as more exotic offerings such as the Los Cabos burger, which sports zesty salsa, guacamole, a dollop of sour cream, and a lace mantilla ($11+). Burgers fashioned from ground turkey ($10) and buffalo ($12) provide poultry and bison alternatives, and the dry-rub St. Louis side ribs can quell pork-centric cravings and coat palates and fingers in a tangy coat of barbecue sauce ($12/half rack, $18/full). Old-fashioned milkshakes in strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate varieties arrive topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and a cherry and deliver moving arguments in favour of lactose tolerance ($5).
The Main Grill and Ale House's menu lists deep-fried dill pickles next to herb-encrusted brie—a juxtaposition exemplary of the restaurant’s focus: pub favourites and gourmet grill cuisine. Diverse as those influences may be, everything the chefs churn out is unified by elevated preparation and local inspiration. Their take on meat loaf, for instance, involves Black Angus beef, and they load mac ‘n’ cheese with Cajun-spiced grilled chicken and cheddar-ale sauce before baking it with more cheese and a bread-crumb topping. Their avocado-cucumber sauce and watermelon-jalapeño salsa top the Cajun-seared blackened salmon, cooling patrons’ tongues so it doesn’t accidentally trigger their mouths’ smoke detectors.
The restaurant’s rustic hardwood floor carries sleek black tables set with linen napkins, and black-and-white photographs adorn its exposed-brick walls. Indeed, the atmosphere follows suit with the menu's diversity. At one table, a group of friends might be chowing on housemade half-pound burgers and washing everything down with craft brews, while at the next, glasses of wine might accompany chicken diane with roasted garlic and leek-cream sauce.
Specializing in the artful construction of rolls, nigiri, and sashimi, the chefs at Koi Sushi Bar extend their culinary savvy to the creation of raw and fully cooked authentic Japanese dishes. The staff’s welcoming demeanor and attentive service bolster the restaurant’s friendly ambiance, as does the hourly group hug hosted in the middle of the dining room. Within the bustling kitchen, chefs whip up plates festooned with traditional eastern ingredients such as flying fish roe, daikon, and water chestnuts alongside entrees infused with decidedly western tastes such as AAA New York strip steak and John Wayne's favorite sweet potato.