Nestled in the Cuyahoga National Park is a local watering hole with award-winning BBQ, killer chicken wings, and the spirit of a flapper.
The History: Before the building’s construction in 1881, the site of the Winking Lizard Tavern was a stop along the Underground Railroad which helped slaves escape the American South from 1820-1861. Since the construction of the building, it has consistently been a tavern of some kind. Over the years, it has been a speakeasy, a dance hall, and a bar. Today, the Winking Lizard Tavern acts as a bar and restaurant as well as a whiskey bar down in the basement from Thursdays through Sundays.
The Haunting: A piece of history is said to reside within the walls of the Winking Lizard. According to legend, the spirit of a middle-aged flapper haunts the halls of the tavern, usually seen in red. It is believed that she was a dancer in the bar during the 1920s. According to Tana who has worked at the Winking Lizard for over ten years, strange occurrences happen in the basement and whiskey bar. From motion sensors going off when the building is empty to computers being thrown across the room, the spirits of the tavern like to make themselves known. So much so, that many of the managers refuse to be alone in the building.
This isn’t the most frightening location I’ve visited, but definitely one of the more welcoming. I made the massive mistake of visiting on Labor Day for dinner, and it was a madhouse. It was clear that the staff was overwhelmed, but they still made time to talk with us, tell us the ghost stories, and show us around. For that, we are SO thankful! The Winking Lizard isn’t going out of its way to advertise that it’s haunted. However, they are on every list of haunted restaurants in Ohio, and if you ask the staff if they’ve had experiences, someone is willing to talk with you. I wish I could have gotten down to the whiskey bar, but due to the day I visited, it was closed. According to Tana, even though other staff members don’t like being alone in the building, she believes the spirits are just saying hello, and she loves the space.
This menu is massive. There are so many different things to choose from–appetizers, salads, wraps, wings, ribs, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, and a “Great Big Draft List.” The menu was actually so extensive, it was overwhelming, and I had a difficult time finding something to order. I ended up ordering one of the tavern’s specials, the BBQ chicken club. Chicken sandwiches are always rough, so I’m not really sure why I ordered it, and I definitely wasn’t blown away. However, the appetizers we ordered were incredible, and I would make the four-hour drive just to get them again. I highly recommend the ribs. The Winking Lizard has award winning BBQ sauce, so you can’t not order some ribs while you’re there! They have different size options ranging from the BBQ Lizard Bones appetizer to their famous Bucket ‘o Ribs. I’m not a huge BBQ lover, but I devoured these guys–they were a little fatty, but the smokey flavor and creamy sauce were to die for. Our waiter also recommended the spicy garlic wings. Now, I’m from Buffalo, NY, home of the chicken wing so I like to consider myself an expert when I try wings around the country. The Winking Lizard has 23 different flavors ranging from the safe BBQ and honey mustard sauces to the insane ones like Fire in the Hole and Magma. The spicy garlic sauce is fourth from the top–garlic sauce mixed with 911. The wings were nice and crispy, and the heat had a nice slow build that still makes my mouth water when I think about it. Seriously, if you visit the Winking Lizard, you must order the ribs and spicy garlic wings. Trust me.
Type of Experience: Restaurant and bar
Dining Style: Casual
Price Range: $4.49-22.99
Address: 1615 Main St, Peninsula, OH 44264
Phone Number: (330) 467-1002
Hours of Operation:
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The food here was delicious!!! And the stories told by the manager were very exciting. I would definitely go back!