Clams casino, open oysters and Maryland style crab cakes all in Pike County? No, it is not a dream; it’s a meal at The Grand Restaurant and Tavern.
The Grand offers Waverly residents a taste of the shore by serving fresh-caught seafood delivered from Ocean City, Maryland. Owner Phil Sager drives between Waverly and Ocean City to supply his restaurant and treat landlocked Pike County to a unique dining experience.
During Christmas 2004, Sager returned to his hometown of Waverly to see that a lot of old buildings were being demolished in town. One of those buildings was The Grand Hotel. Sager says he thought back to his younger days and remembered the good times he had at the hotel. “That’s when I got the bright idea to restore it,” Sager says. “It’s been a project ever since.”
When Sager moved to Maryland, he fell in love with the local seafood. Maryland is known for its shore cuisine so he wanted a way to bring that same feel back to his hometown. “I wanted to give people inland a chance to visit the beach,” Sager says.
In 2009, Sager took the risk of turning The Grand into a restaurant that specializes in seafood. He says he was nervous in the beginning because diners were unfamiliar with the cuisine. Though slow at first, locals warmed up to the new menu.
Sager says most Pike County residents, especially the older ones, have not traveled as far east as Maryland. He says he definitely took a risk opening a niche restaurant like The Grand in a meat-and-potatoes town. “Their seafood primarily comes from a supply house or frozen from a box,” Sager says of other local options.
Each week, Sager finds out what the restaurant needs and picks it up from the docks and fish markets in Ocean City. Every Thursday morning, he drives the shipment to the restaurant and stays the weekend. Sager has lived in Maryland for 30 years and still loves the drive. Sager’s daughter and his ex-wife manage the restaurant during the week while Sager is on the road or in Ocean City. For them, seafood has become a family business.
One of the most popular dishes on the menu is the seafood platter. It comes with:
- Flounder filets
- Crab cakes
- Steamed shrimp
- Bacon wrapped shrimp with a hickory smoke barbeque sauceD
The Grand’s recipe for Maryland crab cakes, the restaurant’s most-popular standalone dish, was submitted to Time magazine by Maryland governor Martin O’Malley.
Chillicothe resident Chuck Dunlap says he had never seen them take a live lobster out of the tank and cook it. “It was cooked perfectly and served as fresh as you will ever get in Southern Ohio,” Dunlap posts on Facebook.
Local Dave Fosson commends Sager on his hard work. “I truly appreciate what a local entrepreneur is doing for a depressed area of Ohio,” Fosson says in a Facebook review. Other diners praise the large portion sizes and, of course, great food.
Now that The Grand offers a taste of the East Coast, Sager says he has no plans on changing anything else. He’s enjoying where his restaurant is at right now and is looking forward to more years of success and seafood.