As I headed out to Mark's Landing, I had no idea what to expect. I'd never been to Guilford Lake before but I'm a water lover so I couldn't wait. As I turned off the main road, I headed down a narrow lane, I almost thought I'd made a wrong turn but saw a sign, "Mark's Landing straight ahead" with a big arrow, so I kept going. As I rounded the bend, there it was. Mark's Landing on Guilford Lake. It was like an oasis. This lane literally ends in the Mark's Landing parking lot and when I say it's on the water, it's right on the water. The restaurant from the outside looks like something you would see in Florida. Turquoise and white paint with a touch of flamingo pink. The minute I walked inside, I got that laid-back kind of feel sensing a lot of history in a sort of nostalgic kind of way.
I was greeted by owner Bobbi Ieropoli and knew immediately I was in a good place. We began to chat about the restaurant's history. "Mark's Landing has been in business since 1946 and is one of the oldest surviving businesses in the area" Bobbi tells me. In 1981, she was working here as a waitress when she met Joe, a frequent customer, whom later became her husband. In 1988, Joe & Bobbi Ieropoli became the fourth owners of Mark's Landing and continue to carry on the tradition of Columbiana County's own little paradise.
Bobbi took me to the kitchen to meet Chef Ron who was going to make a few dishes from the new menu that will be coming soon to Mark's Landing. We left the master to work as we headed back to the dining room and grabbed a large booth in the corner. The multi-level dining room is separate from the bar and in the summer, patrons can dine on the huge outdoor patio. This is the place to be on those warm summer nights. Good food, good view, good times. The walls are adorned with everything from mounted fish and paintings to custom signs and minnow buckets that will keep you looking around if you can take your eyes off the beautiful lake view. There are several tables that are like scrapbooks. Tabletops with pictures from the past, historical papers, even a table with pictures from Bobbi and Joe's daughter's wedding. I was drawn to one table in particular that actually had pieces of pottery embedded into the tabletop with the history of pottery production in the area. There's a lot of history here, very nostalgic, and a place that once you sit down you won't be in a hurry to leave.
I could write about this place all day long but Chef Ron exited the kitchen and headed my way with an armful of plates. The plates were beautiful, the aroma had my senses on alert and I was ready to dig in. The first dish to catch my eye was the Prime Rib. It was huge. I've heard of a king cut before, but this one goes beyond. Had to be almost 2" thick and took up every inch of the plate. It was calling my name. One bite and it melted in my mouth. Simple seasoning, cooked perfectly with so much flavor. Ron says "it's all in the au jus." "With a cut this thick it's hard to season all the way through so the flavor all comes from the au jus." It was delicious and cooked to a perfect medium. Tender and plenty of flavorful au jus with every bite. Trust me when I say this one's for a big appetite and I have to say it's the best prime rib I've eaten.
I couldn't resist the prime rib being my first choice so I decided I probably should try the appetizers now which is where most meals begin. Ron brought out three for me to try; Fried Cheese, Ahi Tuna and Bruschetta. The Fried Cheese first of all looked fun to eat and it's fried and it's cheese so it has to be good right? Two skewers with three triangle wedges of provolone, batter dipped and fried to a golden puff and served with a side of Ron's own "tomato sauce". The sauce is very unique. A cross between a chunky tomato salsa and a sweet barbecue sauce. Bits of tomato and onion in a tangy tomato sauce. Very good and I love it with the cheese. Don't be surprised if you see this sauce on a future entree. It's that good.
The Bruschetta looked beautiful. This plate is full of color, fresh looking and you could smell the hint of garlic the minute it hits the table. A toasted baguette is topped with a mixture of fresh chopped tomatoes, red onion, garlic, fresh basil and cheese that's blended with a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar. A garnish of mixed greens in the middle add another texture to this simple, yet packed with flavor appetizer.
The third app happened to be my favorite dish of the day and I wouldn't have expected it to be this good. Ahi Tuna. First of all, I couldn't believe that this large portion was an appetizer but Ron insisted that it was. A large Ahi Tuna steak perfectly seared on the outside with a pink medium on the inside. It sits on a bed of ginger cole slaw, wasabi on the side and topped with pickled ginger. The tuna was amazing but it was all the other elements that took this dish over the top. The slaw has a light orange dressing that tastes like a typical sweet slaw dressing but has a nice heat to it. The wasabi adds another heat and pickled ginger cools it back down. Ron tells me, "the wasabi heats the front of your mouth, while the slaw gives you that after heat." I have one more dish to tell you about but let me tell you that this dish had no leftovers to bring home. I ate every bite. Ron turned to Bobbi at one point and said, "she likes that one." I looked up with a smile and said, "I love this one."
My final approach was toward the Chicken Caprese on Grilled Ravioli. Yes, Grilled Ravioli. I love trying things for the first time and I was just about to do that with this dish. Another great looking dish. Five large, cheese filled ravioli are first boiled, then cooled, then seared on the grill. Topped with a grilled chicken breast (that may I add was also perfectly seasoned), sliced fresh Roma tomatoes, melted cheese and a chiffonade of fresh basil. It's all drizzled with olive oil and a balsamic reduction. The ravioli gets a hint of smokiness from the grilling which works great with this dish. The chicken is tender, the tomatoes and basil fresh and vibrant and that balsamic reduction compliments it perfectly. A great dish that I thoroughly enjoyed twice. Once at Mark's Landing and for lunch the next day.
I love this place. I love the atmosphere. I love the view. Most of all, I love this food. Mark's Landing is the total package. It's a place for all ages. If you come in feeling down, the minute you walk in the door your mood will change and you'll be smiling for days thinking about your next visit. I can't say enough how good the food is here. I feel like I have new friends in Bobbi and Ron and can't wait to go back and see what else Ron has come up with from the kitchen. It truly is, Columbiana County's own little paradise.