Berry's Restaurant
 Norwalk, Ohio         Date of Visit  06/25/12  
          No Working Website

Again, in a partial effort at transparency, you should know that any place associated with Lakeside or the Sandusky area will be mired in nostalgia. Every trip to the lake stirs rumblings of dozens of summer childhood trips to a place that will forever remain stained in my mind in a way that defies reality. I am still surprised every time I see familiar sights, as I remember them larger, freer and more magical. The sense of magic has not been extinguished in the area but some of it has been diminished in me. Some things remain, some are different, some are gone, some are new…time marches on, even at Lakeside. I will do my best to be aware of and control my emotional and irrational connection to the past.



The Crew on A Mission...A Failed Mission

Berry’s has held a treasured place in our family history. Trips have been made over considerable distance to sit in this building to be fed. For me it has always held the aura of an ultimate get out of jail free card. If I did something to really send my mother over the edge, I’m pretty sure if I could get her to Berry’s for their unparalleled Cornish game hen, all would be forgiven.

If you’ve seen the pictures of her with the caramel budino from DOCG or doughnuts at the Patio or the crab legs on every page of this site you have some sense of the look in her eyes when the idea of that small chicken settles in. Well, we’re at the lake and it’s nearly her birthday…it’s just a given.

On the road between Sandusky and Norwalk I pop off with some mention about not wanting to be there when it’s no longer on the menu and officially seal my place as an agent of all encompassing disappointment instead of satisfaction.

Bread Was A Nice Start

Classic Salads

Museum Quality Cauliflower Soup

The "Cabbage Soup" Looked More Like Something Else. We Call It Chili

We hadn’t even opened the menus when our server answered my mom’s question with a definitive no. Cornish game hen hasn’t been on the menu since the arrival of the new manager. It was probably a good thing she didn’t point at the new manager or he might have been taken down Lawrence Taylor style by a girl in front of his own customers. Now what? Well we ended up trying the daily specials all the way around, salmon cakes, ribeye, meatloaf and the stuffed pork chop.

Our server has been at Berry’s for 34 years. I am not being facetious in saying I wouldn’t be surprised if it was her third 30+ year stint as a server in a restaurant. I am not sure how to get across the many facets of this woman. She was half lucid, half pushy, some kind, mostly unapologetic, momentarily lost, somewhat helpful, momentarily lost again (that might have happened several times), and I am just getting started. It was an interesting adventure. She delivered some soup and salads. The salads were pretty good. The soups were a fair indication of how most of the meal was going to go. Berry’s has been around for a long time…so has it’s menu…well, most of it’s menu…Yes that’s right…No Cornish Hen! The soups were exactly as they would have been taught in a 50’s culinary school. Thick, stodgy, and pretty good. My mom ordered beef and cabbage soup and I went with the cream of cauliflower. The cream soup would make excellent wallpaper paste or caulk but it was chock full of cauliflower and dairy fat. The beef and cabbage soup was chili. It wasn’t like chili, it was chili. My mom thought she found a shard of cabbage in the cup but I remain unconvinced, I think it was onion or pepper. Whether that is what they call chili at Berry’s or our server had just checked out for a while again (she had already confused the soups once) remains unclear. Regardless it was a mediocre chili.


The Meatloaf was a Surprise in a Positive Way

The Weird "Pee-Sauce" was the Best Thing About the Salmon Cakes

Classically Overcooked Pork

Criminally Overcooked Beef

The entrees arrived and the most appealing was the meatloaf. The server had said it was different than most but at that point I had started to lose faith in her memory. The loaf itself was pretty standard but was covered with a layer of cheese and veggies that actually turned out to be pretty good. The salmon cakes and the stuffed pork chop were both thick and overly done, a nod to pictures from Gourmet in 1954, which would be awesome if one of the pictures was of a Cornish game hen, but alas the dish that still translated wonderfully is no longer on the menu.

The rib was a complete disaster. It was actually kinda funny…after the server walked away having suggested the beef and saying everyone loved it yesterday…only then did our dining companion say out loud…”Did she just say they served it yesterday; did I just order leftovers?” Well, that’s exactly what they delivered…and ghastly leftovers at that. Dry, chewy and tasting nothing like beef this thing was a travesty.

We ordered a dessert in honor of my Daddio, a rice pudding. I didn’t even know he liked rice pudding, probably because he really didn’t. My mom told me that he would never order it because no one could make it like his mom…with the exception of Berry’s. I am not a fan. I have never had a pudding of any type and thought to myself…you know what this needs…some chewy starchy bits of something.

I will admit Berry’s is better than other’s I have had. I think the difference is the custard itself isn’t very sweet at all, creates a more cohesive bowl than others I have had with just a hint of sweetness from the whipped cream. Not bad for something I don’t like. Nowhere near enough to encourage a lengthy journey for a repeat performance, probably not enough if it were close to be honest. Berry’s will hold a nice place in our memories. But it will be memories from here on out.

Much Better Than Expected Rice Pudding



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