We have made a mistake with our lake. We don't appreciate it. It sits at our doorstep every day and we forget that it is there. We hardly ever visit it and, with the exception of boaters, we don't spend nearly as much time as we should in it. When growing up I could probably count on one hand the times that we went to the lake for recreation. So back in 2005 my parents went to a party right by the lake and my mom said "it's a shame that more people don't come here" about three months later they moved to a house right on Lake Erie and have not looked back since. I am fortunate to spend as much time as I do sitting right by the lake.
Unfortunately for most this is a problem that will continue for years to come simply because there are not a ton of public areas to hang out at. And unless Burke Lakefront Airport disappears it is unlikely that we will be getting any new waterfront space in the foreseeable future. But before you give up entirely I am here to provide you with hope. It's a small glimmer that can barely be seen but it does exist. It's called Cropicana, and it is just what the doctor ordered.
Down in Whisky Island there is a small marina located by Windy Park and just outside of that there is a small building no bigger than a medium sized house. It used to be called Sunset Grill but it was so overpriced and poorly run that it was pointless to go except for the view. This past winter however, Steve Schimoler (of Crop Bistro fame) took a hammer to everything. The interior went through a nice facelift with a more polished look. Outside is a nice sized outdoor kitchen and a good sized bar were built. This makes for a very pleasant area to hang out in most weather conditions.
When I originally went to this location when it was the Sunset Grill I though the food was overpriced and not very appetizing. I was skeptical when I saw the new menu that the result might be the same. 6 wings for $7??? Seemed a bit steep but I opened my mind (and wallet) and tried them. I do not hesitate in saying that they are probably one of my favorite wings in this town. They are smokey, spicy, and fall right off the bone. Also they are quite large so even with the $7 price tag you are getting good value for your money. The rest of the menu reads like "bar food fare" on steroids. Smoked salmon sliders, smoked cherry chipotle ribs, fish tacos, chorizo tacos, smoked chicken enchiladas, and in case you feel like dying a bit sooner they have a basket of fries with bacon gravy with cheese. I have had a good number of things there but I find myself going back to the wings whenever I get a chance.
Now there are a few downsides to this place. Parking sucks (I wish I could put that another way but it's the truth.) Although I find most of their items a good value it is a bit steep on the price for a lot of people. The beer selection is a bit standard and perhaps a buck or so overpriced. And if you are one of those people that attracts misquotes like nobody's business then stay way.
All that said when the Summer comes to our fair city there are very few places in town that feature our great lake as well as Cropicana. Now if we could convince about 6 or 7 more fine chef's to follow in Steve's footsteps perhaps instead of "mistake by the lake" we can go to "take me to the lake."