Tourists attracted to that laid-back atmosphere come into the city’s harbors each year, either staying on their boats or staying at some of the local bed and breakfasts and eating at the local restaurants. Vermilion’s population doubles in the summer, said Vermilion Mayor Eileen Bulan.
This makes Vermilion a particularly great place for small, unique businesses, such as boutiques, pubs and restaurants, that cater to the relaxed lifestyle. And that means money flowing into the coffers of the cozy harbor town of 10,500 residents.
“We had lots of development recently,” Bulan said. “2014 has a promising future” That development includes an on-the-move food scene, with the addition of restaurants like The Wine Vault, Blind Perch and Jim Trinter’s upcoming 41 North.
And for foodies who prefer the do-it-yourself route, downtown Vermilion is also home to a unique boutique called The Olive Scene — On The Lake.
The Olive Scene — On the Lake
•LOCATION: 512 Liberty Ave., west of Big Ed’s Soda & Grill
•WINTER HOURS: closed on Monday
•SUMMER HOURS: Starting in April, the shop will be open seven days a week with evening hours until 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
This business is in good taste and good health. It is also unique. “We do something no one else does,” said Tracy Lockhart, co-owner of The Olive Scene. “No other olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette has a single source with the quality we have. We bring in the freshest, and therefore most nutritious, olive oil in the world. Some nutrition levels we are getting in olive oil have not been seen before”
The Olive Scene features about 50 olive oils to choose from, infused with flavors such as tomato, grass, pepper and floral that become layered into the food. They also offer different balsamic vinaigrettes to try.
“The key is tasting” Lockhart said. It was natural for The Olive Scene to move into Vermilion, said Lockhart, who operates the business with Anne Eren and Alive Wiegard. The Olive Scene also operates in Rocky Ridge, its original location, and in Chagrin Falls. “I live out here. Vermilion is a happening town” Lockhart said. “They know what they are doing and are very business-friendly.
There is year-round support for local business, but summer seasonal business is great and it is centrally located, so I capture people from neighboring communities like Avon, Huron, Wakeman” The Olive Scene is a great place for someone to select an offering for the culinary expert in their life. “We make quite a few gifts,” Lockhart said. “As we say, it’s in good taste and in good health”
The shop also offers private parties, where a group can enjoy food offerings while having the entire store to themselves.
•LOCATION: 3700 Liberty Ave.
A fine-dining casual pub may seem like a contradiction, but that is exactly what Blind Perch is, with its locally-sourced food offered in a “speakeasy feel” environment with specialty cocktails.
Martino’s International Café
•LOCATION: 4415 Liberty Ave.
Jim Trinter’s first venture in Vermilion has been around since 1996, but it moved in November into the building that formerly housed Ponderosa.
“We were running out of kitchen space,” Trinter said. “Now we have space as well as a private banquet and meeting room”
Everyone’s favorite foods — international or American — can be found at Martino’s International Café.
But even though the food and atmosphere may be worldly, Trinter is a small-town restaurant owner, through and through.
“It doesn’t seem like work when you have good people coming in” Trinter said. “It’s a good community with wonderful people”
The Wine Vault
•LOCATION: 5581 Liberty Ave.
Josh and Maggie Frey envisioned and then created another unique space in Vemilion called The Wine Vault.
The restaurant is a converted space in the old Vermilion Bank building. It is small with limited seating and designed to be intimate, but it makes for a perfect romantic evening or for making friends out of strangers.
The space has a high-concept feel to it. If you go, make sure to ask your server for a quick tour of the wine “vault,” — the former bank vault repurposed as the wine cellar.
Josh has been working in restaurants for 17 years and said the space immediately spoke to him.
“People are surprised they are in Vermilion,” he said. “They say, ‘this place feels like it should be in San Francisco, Chicago or New York.’ It’s a good thing; it is an escape”
But those big cities weren’t even on the couple’s radar. The only place they saw themselves starting their eatery — and raising their young family — was Vermilion.
“We really love the little town of Vermilion,” Josh said. “There is a lot of opportunity here”
The Wine Vault offers creative, tasty contemporary cuisine with a great selection of about 60 beers and 100 wines.
The Freys are proud that all items on the menu except one cost less than $20. Seating is first-come, first-serve — no reservations are taken.
•LOCATION: 4503 Liberty Ave., in the old Martino’s International Café.
After operating Martino’s International Cafe for about 18 years, Trinter moved it a few doors down to the old Ponderosa building, but he had a lot of memories — and money from two remodels and an expansion — in the former Martino’s location.
Not wanting to walk away, his only option was to open up a second restaurant.
41 North will be a seafood and steak eatery with Chef William Skinner running the kitchen.
Trinter hopes to have 41 North open soon but has stopped trying to give a date when that may happen.