Small Business Spotlight: Lake Hope Dining Lodge
Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month. Today we visit Lake Hope State Park Dining Lodge in Vinton County.
If you have ever driven State Route 278 to Lake Hope State Park, you may have noticed a beautiful building with lots of windows overlooking the lake. That distinct structure is the Lake Hope Dining Lodge, a destination restaurant in the region for nearly a decade.
Eric Lee, who operates the restaurant in the state-owned building, said his business will celebrate its anniversary on November 12. They are well known for their superior combination of atmosphere and food.
The dining room is light and airy with sky high ceilings and exposed timbers cut from the surrounding Zaleski State Forest. Windows line the room but the soaring wall of windows that overlook the lake provide a stunning focal point. A balcony provides intimate outdoor dining as well. Décor is simple – lots of wood and vintage black and white photos of people and places from Lake Hope past provide character. There are also some nods to the former dining lodge which was destroyed by fire in 2006.
While people do come for the atmosphere, the true star here is the food. A painstakingly perfected menu offers dining options aimed at pleasing a wide audience. “We are in a state park so we want to make it accessible to as many people as possible and we try to hit multiple price points. From hamburgers and pizza to prime rib, we try to have something for everyone,” Lee explained.
“People seem surprised that we actually cook the food here. Nothing is brought in and heated. We actually make everything from scratch and try to use as many locally sourced ingredients as possible,” he pointed out while listing ingredients like beef, cheddar cheese and lettuce as well as their local sources.
Lee said this allows him to provide guests better food but it also helped him avoid the supply chain issues that have plagued other restaurants in recent years.
They are known for their hickory smoked real pit barbeque, wood fired pizza and delicious burgers made with fresh beef that’s ground in-house every day. Top off any meal with a decadent dessert that will elevate your dining experience to a special occasion. A diverse menu of wine and craft beer may convince you to linger a little longer while you enjoy good company and beautiful views.
Speaking of special occasions, they are a destination for many people celebrating special occasions from an intimate anniversary dinner to a big bash for a crowd. In fact, an event room downstairs is a great place to host a party or wedding. It does have access to a ground level patio that provides a picturesque spot for a wedding.
A Sunday Brunch Buffet gives diners opportunity to taste the best of both breakfast and lunch worlds with offerings like Applewood smoked bacon, buttermilk biscuits, smoked brisket, wood fired pizzas, three cheese au gratin potatoes and their famous berry cobbler with fresh made whipped cream.
Some locals have a standing date with the brunch buffet while it’s a must-do for visitors as well.
Eric said they also offer a lot of bulk food orders for events that take place elsewhere. Carryout orders became the norm during the pandemic as hungry diners seeking a sense of normalcy picked up food for their picnics and campfires.
“We want people to feel welcome when they’re here,” Eric mentioned as he was discussing the connection many people feel to the state park and to the dining lodge. “It seems like everyone has a connection to this place and we hear a lot of stories. People were married here, they worked here, their parents were married here at the lodge or at the park. A lot of times they have pictures too and they’re proud to be here.”
Lake Hope is located in Ohio’s scenic Hocking Hills region. At about thirteen miles from both McArthur and Nelsonville, Eric said he had early concerns about having enough customers to fill the dining room. “When I first saw it I wondered how we would ever fill this place up and get people to come out here,” he said. Those fears dissipated quickly when hungry diners – both local and from afar – came looking for a quality dining experience with a view.
He welcomes regulars and invites newcomers to stop by and enjoy a meal. To learn more about the Lake Hope State Park Dining Lodge menu and seasonal hours, visit their website here. Also, call 740.596.0601 to place a carry out order. While they are located in the heart of Lake Hope State park just outside Zaleski, the address to map your trip is 27331 State Route 278, McArthur, Ohio.
Click the slideshow to view more pictures of the scruptious views and other features of this unique local restaurant!