Jolly Roger Seafood House, Port Clinton, Ohio


Jolly Roger's Seafood House had been located at 1737 East Perry Street in Port Clinton, Ohio, since April 1980. In April of 2021, Jolly Roger’s moved into space previously occupied by a Burger King restaurant just two doors down, right next to a Frisch’s Big Boy restaurant. Jolly Rogers has nearly tripled in size and seating, and has added a wonderful outdoor patio facing Lake Erie. Even some of the indoor seating offers an excellent view of the shoreline. The lines of hungry diners are just as long as they were before but with this new space, Jolly Roger’s ship has truly come in.

Jolly Rogers is now located at 1715 East Perry Street, across the street from the Best Western motel. The new building is spacious and wonderfully decorated with much of the memorabilia from the old location, plus a few nautical items recently acquired from local businesses. Jolly Rogers has grown from a well-worn shrimp shack to a fully built-out restaurant with a varied menu. This venue is now open year around, seven days a week, whereas before it would close in late November to reopen in May. A drive-thru is also available, plus online ordering and delivery. The parking lot is bigger, too.

Jolly Rogers has a line at ten minutes past six on Wednesday, June 23rd, for dinner in peak season. The dining rooms are packed, but there are still a few seats outdoors. The drive-thru has been receiving steady business this evening, and today’s lunch hour has also been busy. Having stood in that line for several days in June, it does indeed move quickly and indoor seats open up as diners finish their platters. There is still no dessert on the menu, but anyone eating here knows that Scooters Diary Bar at 425 Fremont Road has Toft’s soft-serve cones and is open from noon till 9 pm everyday.

Lake Erie’s finest breading pit is constantly busy when Jolly Rogers is open. This is the most exciting spot in the store, as diners wait in line to approach the register to place their orders. The new menu board is posted nearby for everyone to see. All of the meals are being prepared on the other side of the glass, as the window looks into the kitchen. Fresh Lake Erie perch is ready to be breaded by the breading machine. An order of mushrooms is next. This kitchen is larger than at the old location and has upgraded equipment and more staff.

The register set-up at the new Jolly Roger’s location is just liket the old one. The menu is posted above the register, but also at the entrance so diners can choose what to order as they come in the door. Adult beverages are now being offered, including beer, wine, and hard seltzer. Folks should know that there are potential allergens in that all of the food is fried in the same oil, seafood and non-seafood alike. That oil is cholesterol-free canola oil. If a diner is particularly satisfied with the friendly service at the register, he or she can leave a tip in the mouth of the blown-glass fish in the center of this photo.

The beverage and condiment station at Jolly Rogers is also set up similarly to that of the old location, although it is much more spacious. The drink area and condiment counter is also just as spotless as it was down the street. After placing an order at the register, the cashier will hand each person a cup so he or she can get a drink before sitting down. There are the two large ice and soda dispensers on the left, the water dispensers with the two levers, the twin cold tea dispensers, hot coffee, lids and paper straws, covered tray with lemons; plus vinegar and hot sauce that can be taken to the tables.

After placing an order at the register and selecting a beverage and condiments, it’s time to find a table. Tables turn over very quickly here, as Jolly Rogers is often just a quick meal break on the way to other adventures, like the Jet Express dock to the west or the Miller Ferry dock to the east in Marblehead. The cashier will give each diner a large plastic number card, with the number of that diner’s order. The diner will place it on the edge of the table or in a stand in the middle of the table. A server will find that number and bring the food to the table and get anything extra that is needed.

This is another dining room at Jolly Rogers, and this one has large garage-style doors that allow guests to enjoy marvelous views of Lake Erie, without being outside. (The lake winds on summer days can be brisk!) This second dining room was part of an expansion (there are three dining rooms total, plus the patio), which brings the indoor square footage of the new location to 5,100 square feet. This location feels solidly and thoughtfully built, and does not smell musty. There are no traces of the often-empty Burger King site, which due to the Covid-19 crisis, had begun operating as drive-thru only.

This is the walleye-and-chips basket at Jolly Rogers, ordered at the register just after noon on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. This restaurant is fairly busy with the lunch crowd on weekdays in season and there was a line to get in to place an order. The line moved quickly, however. The food in this order was delivered in less than ten minutes and the hot food was hot. The tartar sauce at this new location is the same rich tartar sauce as at the old location, and is a little heavier tasting than what is served next door at Frisch’s Big Boy. Frisch’s is still there and is crowded at breakfast time.

The chicken-and-chips basket comes with four big chicken strips, an ample portion of waffle fries, and two cups of barbecue sauce. Again, all of the food is fried in the same canola oil, seafood and non-seafood. These chicken strips were all white meat and were hot and juicy. The waffle fries were likewise hot and fluffy with crisp sides and tasted amazing with Heinz malt vinegar. There was a napkin dispenser at each table. Servers bussed the tables in the dining rooms and asked how things were. Jolly Rogers now uses satellite radio, and “New World Man” by Rush was playing in the dining room.

The shrimp power bowl is a new menu item for Jolly Rogers. This bowl has five large breaded shrimp with sweet chili sauce, dehydrated citrus slice, avocado, and a hard-boiled egg cut in half over a bed of black bean and corn salsa with red onion and kale. This bowl was extremely filling and can be somewhat customized, and is on the take-out/online ordering menu. Jolly Roger uses Toasttab.com for its online ordering platform. This year’s menu is the same as the menu for 2020, as owner Alex Hoty said that he would keep last year’s menu due to them moving to their new location this past April.

A lot of the memorabilia from the old location has migrated to the new location in the far dining room, especially the old license plates that were posted to the walls above the old seating areas. This section of memory lane is displayed near the main entrance, and folks standing in line will catch a glimpse of all of these plates. The washrooms are much brighter and more user-friendly and can accommodate more than one person at a time. If diners have a few minutes to spare after eating, it is worth spending a little time looking around at the decorations around this new restaurant.

This is the dining room that has a lot of items from the old location. There are a couple of old lanterns, trophy fish, propellers, and the old favorite, the Jolly Sailor. “The sea worn sailor here/will find the porter good/the treatment kind.” Truer words were never spoken. The mounted news clippings from this spring and last, from the Port Clinton Herald, explain how many people will drive two or three hours to eat the fresh perch and walleye here, because that’s what they did when they visited their grandparents when they were little. April 18th was the last day of operation at the old location.

The old menu board was taken from the old location and is now preserved in the third dining room. The new restaurant opened on April 22nd, 2021, but was hit with major flooding on May 28th, at the start of Memorial Day Weekend. The roads were briefly closed but both the roads and the restaurant reopened the next day when the water levels went down. Entrepreneur Alex Hoty bought Jolly Roger’s in February 2013 from Deno Toccaceli. Mr. Hoty said that due to a population increase in Port Clinton and Catawba Island that he wanted to expand his new restaurant.

This is the fabulous new patio at Jolly Rogers. At just before 7 pm on a weeknight, the parking lot here is packed. The main dining room is on the left and the “garage” dining room is to the right. The garage also has a gas-burning fireplace, along with the best indoor view of any restaurant around Port Clinton. At the old location, the patio was a poured concrete slab with a few tables under the shingles of the main restaurant, plus a few seats out in the front of the restaurant near the roadway. The tables and chairs here are much more comfortable, and there is room to go inside if rain comes.

This is the famous lobster bisque soup, which is served during the summer. (Jolly Rogers has clam chowder during the winter.) This tray also has a dinner salad with shrimp added and a side of hush puppies and a soda. The hush puppies and the lobster bisque arrived at this patio table piping hot. The salad, with the shrimp, was nicely chilled. Ken’s fat-free raspberry vinaigrette is delicious, and all of the dinner rolls were fresh. The table was clean, and the view out onto a calm Lake Erie was amazing. Everything that was ordered for this meal arrived at the same time, plus utensils and sauces.

Jolly Rogers bills itself as “the best little seafood house in Port Clinton,” which is true. The staff is friendly and efficient, and the parking lot is now large enough to accommodate the traffic. This restaurant is now open seven days a week year around, and there is no guesswork as to when it would close down for the season. The Covid-19 crisis of 2020 accelerated online ordering, drive-thru ordering, outside dining, and a current menu is always posted online, with a link available on their Facebook page. The new location of this little fish house is an adventure in itself, right in the heart of Port Clinton, Ohio.

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