GODERICH – The main attraction at The Beach Street Station is a bit of a toss up. Is it the intriguing menu of fresh, local foods carefully crafted by Chef James Welsh or is it the spectacular, ever-changing view served up by Mother Nature?
A close third place might be simply to glimpse the inside of this former CPR station, which was moved from one location to another with painstaking precision that drew a crowd daily in the summer of 2013, with its hipped roof over the central portion and a cross-gable and lunette trackside. Original interior features include a true ceiling with three large medallions, wooden screens, interior doors, fixtures, trim and decorative plaster. Its kitchen lies beyond a glassed wall so that diners can see their meals in the works.
On August 3, 1988, the last train stopped on the bridge to blow its whistle for a final time.
No matter the reason, it’s the first Saturday of a new season, and at 6:30 p.m. the main dining area at the Beach Street Station is packed, much to the satisfaction of owner Herb Marshall. He has picked out a table in the middle of the room for us, but offers to seat us elsewhere if the glorious light of the sun becomes too much. But those of us on the west side of the table bob and weave in order to block the setting sun for our dinner companions. It’s the price we gladly pay for a clear, sunny evening in late March.
The menu is expanded this season, with familiar dishes such as Yellow Perch and Chips ($18), and Great Lakes Pickerel ($24), and then there’s Five Spice Duck ($24) and Chicken Milanaise ($19). Vegan and gluten-free items are indicated on the menu.
Our table starts with: The enormous Huron County Charcuterie ($18), a mix of local cheese, cured meat, bread, marinated vegetables and mango chutney all served on a butcher block; a Roasted Beet Salad ($9), that’s divine in its simplicity; and an old favourite, two Crab Cakes ($12), served with a fresh corn relish and cilantro oil.
As a main, I choose the Great Lakes Pickerel, with its perfectly pan-seared fillets resting atop a mixture of roasted red-skinned potatoes, cauliflower and asparagus. It’s colourfully finished with a cascade of fresh salsa and dots of green that I fail to identify.
The fellow beside me passes around pieces of pork back ribs, which fall off the bone as he proffers a forkful across the table. Others also choose the pickerel, something of a must-have in a restaurant on Lake Huron.
By 7:30 p.m., the restaurant is much quieter, and the sun is just giving its final show on the horizon. There’s now a flourless chocolate cake sprinkled with icing sugar and a crème caramel topped with a chewy cookie being shared at our table. Both are delicious, according to those who test them. And the coffee, although not local, is strong and hot.
A perfect end to the day and a promise of a long summer on the lake.
Beach Street Station
Location: Goderich’s Beachfront
Hours: Effective March 16, from Wednesday to Sunday from 11:30 to 9 p.m. Subject to change as the season gets busy. It’s always best to call ahead and ensure the kitchen is open later hours.
Website: Check online for menus, history, photos and videos.