Every day at 4 p.m. along Monroe's North Dixie Highway, a tradition is observed that spans almost nine decades. That's when the chefs at Joe's French Italian Inn chop up squid sourced from the East Coast, bread it, and make it talk in a funny voice. Supplemented with garlic and white wine sauce, that calamari might usher in the Lake Erie yellow perch?a local specialty served lightly breaded and sauteed?or it might complement the prime rib, a longtime favorite at the restaurant thanks to its blend of seasonings and hours of slow cooking. Like the European flavors in its name, Joe's French Italian Inn maintains a deft balance between surf and turf throughout its menu. The restaurant also caters to younger appetites with an always-available kids' menu.
Big Bear Lodge's culinary team can't light up a campfire indoors, but they do the next best thing by preparing their dishes over open flames. Inside, diners instantly catch whiffs of the six thin-crust pizzas chefs cook in a wood-fired oven, herb-garlic chicken rotating on a wood-fired rotisserie, or grain-fed aged Angus steaks searing on a wood-burning grill. More meat dominates the menu, from platters of pan-seared and oven-broiled Atlantic salmon, gulf shrimp, and bay scallops to bison, elk, and ostrich burgers made with grass- and grain-fed cuts free of antibiotics and hormones.
The dishes all pair with Big Bear Lodge's selection of bottled and draft beer brewed in-state, as well as thermoses full of alcohol-spiked ciders, cocoas, and coffees. There are nonalcoholic ways to keep warm too, from munching on plates of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies to cozying up amid the restaurant’s log cabin decor. Beneath the dining room's honey-hued beams, nostalgic wall collages pay homage to the institution of camping, reminding guests of the ghost stories, s’mores, and forest-ranger ambitions they once had.
The kitchen at Bashar’s marries Middle Eastern and American favorites, and the enchanting scents roll into the dining room—slow-cooking chicken shawarma, steak kabobs mingle, lamb chops, and stuffed grape leaves. Cooks flip burgers on the grill and roast platters of broiled tilapia or veal parmesan in the oven. Omelettes and other breakfast dishes are served all day long, to give diners more variety and keep underworked chickens employed in a tough economy. Bashar’s maintains a wide selection of bar beverages, from beer and carefully curated wine to cocktails that include dirty martinis.
Even without toppings, the pies at Andy's Pizza & Subs come in seven different flavors. The pizzeria crafts six variations on their regular crust, from dustings of cajun spices to coatings of garlic butter. Atop each, they add house-made sauces and flavorful toppings, from bacon and jalapenos to tortilla chips and taco meat. Pizza fixings—as well as ingredients for chicken parms and BBQ steak—also go into making Andy's subs, whose "party" versions stretch up to six feet in length.
Since Andy's opened in 1984, its menu has expanded from its eponymous menu items to include other hearty dishes, including hand-made lasagnas and hot dogs smothered with the shop's own chili sauce. Besides hosting lunch seven days a week, Andy's crew delivers its pizzeria goodies free of charge, though deliverers never turn down an appreciative arcade token.
Aromas of brewing drip coffee waft through Mr. Beans Treatery, where baristas froth cappuccinos and add shots of flavor to lattes. In addition to the brews, patrons may fuel up with a variety of candies housed in old-fashioned glass jars, classic hot dogs, and Calder ice cream in waffle cones.