Red Lodge restaurant returns with prime cut fine dining

Head chef CJ McIsaac at Red Lodge Resort.

ASSIGINACK—Red Lodge Resort has enjoyed a great reputation for fine summer dining since its founding generations ago. The new owners of the resort, business partners Jean Wong and Craig Purcell, note they are in the business of “making memories.”

There are plenty of memories that have been created at this venerable Island resort that has proved popular for generations of both visitors and locals. The new owners are determined to maintain all that has been great about Red Lodge resort since its inception. When the two business partners took over the operation on July 28 last year it was basically a turnkey operation.

“The restaurant and lounge were closed two years ago because of COVID, but all the basic elements of the food business were in place,” said Ms. Wong. “We intend to operate is just as it was. It was a seamless transition.”

Ms. Wong and her business partner found the opportunity almost by accident. Ms. Wong explains that she owns a cottage but never had the opportunity in the summer to spend time there. She was looking for something closer to their other resort operation in French River when she came across the advertisement for the lodge. She still doesn’t have a lot of time to spare, but the view from her office just can’t be beat.

Head chef CJ McIsaac grew up on an island near Red Lake in Northwestern Ontario so when the opportunity came to take up a job on Manitoulin Island there was little hesitation. “The Island reminds me a lot of where I grew up,” shared the chef. “When I heard about the job on Manitoulin I jumped at the chance.”

Working in kitchens professionally since the age of 18, Ms. McIsaac, who is now 25, has a wealth of experience working in the hospitality industry, but the chef’s experience long predates the working life. “My mom was the kind of cook who burns soup,” laughs Ms. McIsaac. “So, I grew up doing most of the cooking in the family.”

Red Lodge Resort has two menus, a lounge menu associated with the bar that features “standard bar” offerings and a fine dining menu served in the resort’s main dining room.

“We serve mostly prime cut meat dishes, lamb, pork cuts and local fish,” she said.

The hospitality industry can be stressful admits Ms. McIsaac, but being passionate about food really helps to diffuse those stresses. “I love what I do,” she said.

Like most other hospitality operations, the challenge of maintaining staff during the lingering pandemic offers a whole new series of stresses, but thankfully Ms. McIsaac’s experience comes to the fore. “I have worked in just about every kind of kitchen, institutional, restaurants,” she said, so there isn’t much that phases her. “It’s a lot easier when you love what you do.”

On August 18, between 4 and 5 pm, Red Lodge Resort is hosting a Beer and Apps Tasting event with Manitoulin Brewing Company, which will be showcasing its prized craft beer. The offerings will include Ten Mile Point Pilsner paired with dry rub wings; Porter of Prov paired with beef brochette, Twin Bluff Vienna Lager, paired with a stuffed mushroom and Swing Bridge Blonde paired with local smoked trout spread. The event is $20 per person and there are only 24 spaces available, so book your space by calling 705-368-3843.