When you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to ask the locals where they eat, which may get you a better choice than the most publicized place. Recently, while visiting the Culinary Vegetable Institute, I got to have lunch with two great ladies: Farmer Lee Jones’ assistant extraordinaire, Valerie Christian, as well as Farmer Lee’s mom, grande dame and super-special lady, Mrs. Jones. We were ladies who lunched at Berardi’s Restaurant in Huron, Ohio.
When I was — as Little Buttercup said — “young and charming”, I worked in the legal department of a major oil company. I can assure you that Valerie could have definitely kept that office ship-shape. She has to be on point: Farmer Lee Jones travels all around the world, has the most famous chefs on the planet visiting his farm, appears on national television like, all the time, along with supplying veggie customers all over. He won’t name who his famous customers are, though I did try to find out if there were any people “who wear crowns”.
Mrs. Jones is an extraordinary lady and it seems as though Rodgers and Hammerstein ought to have written a musical about her. She was a local reporter who was asked to “the big show” as a reporter in DC. But, she got married to Mr. Jones who got it into his head to be a farmer. So, they spent their adult lives being part of the land. It seemed that everybody at the restaurant knew who she was. She loves Ohio and being an American!
Berardi’s has been family-owned and run for 4 generations. I’ve said this before, but I’m more convinced than ever, it must be state law in Ohio not to leave a restaurant hungry! I mean, I’m also a Midwesterner, from Chicago. I don’t “pick at birdseed” for dinner, like my dad would’ve said. Come here with an empty tummy and still plan on a doggy bag or splitting with a pal.
It’s a casual, come-as-you-are place taking local foods, using family recipes, to improve upon even the simplest things to make them memorable. They’re also known for their coffee drinks, which I saw people ordering in to-go cups.
Way back in 1942, they created thick, hand-cut, made-to-order French fries that they originally sold at Cedar Point amusement park. You can even order giant platters of them or an app sampler that includes their hand-breaded sauerkraut balls. Localvore, baby!
They have a new item on the menu that I bet the family has already been eating for decades: Lake Erie Walleye. On nearby Pelee Island, Ontario, they call it “Pike Perch” and it’s a real Lake Erie delicacy. It’s a clean, mild flaky fish, which tastes great with a crunchy fried batter.