"If an angry trout tastes this good, how good must a happy trout taste?" exclaimed a dinner companion at the Angry Trout restaurant, as she dissected a fresh rainbow, farm-raised just a few miles down the road.
In my experience, as much might well be said of not just the featured angry trout, but of every entree that comes from this kitchen at the stub end of the old Bay Bridge in Bay View, O. This is a restaurant not to be missed if you find yourself thinking dinner some evening along the Lake Erie shore between Port Clinton and Sandusky; not only is it worth a trip from anywhere thereabouts, but arguably even from Toledo.
Since the present-day Thomas Edison Bridge across Sandusky Bay displaced an earlier bridge - its first few hundred feet out into the bay left to fishermen, bird watchers, and a scattering of seasonal vacationers - the Angry Trout has had to be more than merely good enough, because there's no longer a stream of traffic passing by the front door. Though now it isn't on the way to anywhere else, it's easy to find, just two miles and two left turns off State Rt. 2 at the first exit east of the modern bridge.
There's a lively roadside sign to alert customers to the end of their detour, but the building itself - brown and squat, as if hunkered down against winter storms blowing in from the lake - is much larger than it first appears. Besides separate dining rooms for smokers and nonsmokers, there's a summer-weather deck tucked around the corner away from the road, where broad windows look out over the water. Rustic outside and in without overdoing it, the restaurant welcomes guests with an air of easy informality.
That the Angry Trout is a restaurant to be taken seriously, though it does not take itself seriously, is evident from the menu, arranging lunch and dinner offerings artfully and colorfully. Fish and seafood hold pride of place; 16 entrees, ranging from crawfish and 'gator tail folded into pasta and lapped in a Cajun sauce to farm-raised catfish, follow the signature dinner, the angry trout. The kitchen will pan-fry it or grill it over charcoal if you choose, but take my word for it, you'll be missing a truly memorable treat if you don't opt for the planked presentation. This comes on an oval fire-blackened board, the delicate white, boned fillets laid out artfully at one end, mixed vegetables in the middle, and a potato choice - do try the twice-baked duchess - at the other end. It is as delicious, every component perfectly cooked, as it looks.
One dinner companion took the angry trout on my recommendation, while others ordered a variety of entrees, each promising me a sample bite and a discriminating overall appraisal. Yellow lake perch, as the season goes on, are running larger than usual, but these were as tasty as one could wish, lightly breaded and sensitively seasoned. A bowl of seafood chowder, delicious and generous, was dinner enough, while a father and daughter argued over the relative merits of the perch and a beer-battered pickerel fillet. Even the french fries, crisp outside, soft inside, and the coleslaw inspired favorable comments.
For my part, trying a minor menu key, dinner this evening was a bourbon-grilled breast of chicken, boneless and skinless, served on a bed of wild rice. The touch of bourbon flavor was unmistakable, apparently an ingredient of marinade or the mixing of a light, deliciously crunchy breading.
All this talk about entrees and I haven't said a word about appetizers. Well, the list is 18 items long, including such oddities as gator bites, four shrimp styles, and smoked trout cakes. Prices are relatively high, and what's more, with an eye to one entree or another, I've preferred to move right on to the main course.
Temptations on a platter, desserts, will be brought around unless you say no - firmly.
I can't think of anything that would qualify the good things I've been saying about the Angry Trout, its kitchen and waitstaff, and the proprietors who bring together all the ingredients of this fine, unpretentious restaurant. Do put it on your summer list.