Cedar Point — not just for coaster enthusiasts

Zoe Greszler • Updated May 9, 2019 at 11:35 AM

SANDUSKY — Cedar Point is the roller coaster enthusiast capital of the world. This year though, the amusement park set out to prove that doesn’t mean it can’t excel in other areas as well.

Last year, the park unveiled the world’s first “hyper-hybrid” roller coaster, Steel Vengeance, which went on to win Amusement Today’s “Best New Ride of 2018” Golden Ticket Award. Cedar Point officials said the recognition is the roller coaster world equivalent to the Oscars. 

On Wednesday, when the media was invited to see what’s new at Cedar Point for 2019, two new restaurants were introduced instead of a new ride — BackbeatQue and Hugo’s Italian Kitchen.

BackbeatQue, located near the back of the park, is a rock ‘n’ roll/Motown-inspired “dining experience,” food and beverage vice president Chris Near said. The restaurant features indoor and outdoor seating, as well as an outdoor stage which will feature music from Cedar Point’s Backbeat Quartet.

Entrees include smoked brisket, chopped BBQ pork, smoked sausage, rotisserie half chickens, Lake Erie perch, fried shrimp and corn-dusted fried perch. It offers an assortment of sides to accompany it as well, with potato wedges, house-made macaroni and cheese, baked beans, corn on the cob, fried okra, salads, cornbread muffins and more. 

Guests can finish the meal with desert options such apple or smoked pecan pie, peaches and cream, banana pudding parfaits and fruit cups. 

Cedar Point took smoking its meats and creating sauce recipes seriously after it saw the success of another newer restaurant, Ms. Keet’s, last year, Near said. Everything at both locations is made from scratch. BackbeatQue’s though takes the traditional backyard barbecue and kicks it up a couple levels. 

“Going to your back yard and temping things — that’s good,” Near said, referring to experimenting with cooking. “We have the equipment here though that’s state of the art that makes it great, and consistently great.”

Near said after Ms. Keet’s success, the culinary team decided to “blow (the idea) up and really see what it’s capable of.”

“Even the equipment here is state of the art,” he said. “We have smokers that do 12,000 pounds of meat each. “We’ve been brain-storming to try to get the best product and if you have the best products, wit the best equipment, it tends to turn out well. Our mac and cheese — we actually make that fresh here. We use a little gouda cheese in with it.”

Hugo’s Italian Kitchen, located at the front of Cedar Point in the former Midway Market, isn’t a restaurant to disappoint either. Customers can watch pizzas as they are pulled out, piping hot, out of the brick oven.

Other signature items include meatball subs, chicken parmesan sandwiches and fresh pastas, fresh stuffed Strombolis and calzones. For those looking for dinner on a diet, there are plenty of salad options to be had. Italian-style cafe sides include house-made pasta salad, garlic knots, Caprese salad, white bean salad and more. 

The meal can finished with classic Italian desserts — cannolis and tiramisu. 

No matter the menu item, Near guarantees the quality of the food.

“For our chicken parm, we use a chicken breast and we pound it out, marinate it over night, bread it the next day and fry it,” he said. “We top that with sauce and cheese and we put a little scoop of shredded lettuce, tomatoes and fresh basil it. So that turned out really nice.

“I think we’re trying to give the best product here. When you get the best product to build something, you come out with something really good. We got really good equipment, the best equipment and we’ve been training everyone really hard. Then over the winter we all gained a few pounds,” Near added with a laugh. “I think we’re right on spot with where we want to be.”

Near and Cedar Point vice president Jason McClure agreed — the quality of life improvements are just as important as the thrill-seeking ones. 

“There’s really no comparison when it comes to the ride experience,” McClure said of Steel Vengeance. 

“We’re really proud of it. We had high expectations for this ride, but I think it really exceeded them. We’ve heard from a lot of guests that this is their favorite roller coaster. Usually if it’s your favorite roller coaster at Cedar Point, it’s your favorite one in the world. We’ve got a lot of really great coaster riding experiences and we’re still proud to have Steel Vengeance in the line-up.

“But, you know, some people who come run from coaster to coaster, but most people don’t. They spend a full day -—they take in the shows, they take in a meal. We wanted to make sure we enhanced those experiences as well.”

Near said the non-ride focus “balances” the park out a little more, giving something even non-adrenaline junkies can enjoy.

“Obviously we’re known for the best roller coasters in the entire world,” he added. “My goal as the vice president of food and beverage is to make us the best that we can be in food beverage.”

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