“Go big, or go home!” might be the slogan for The Iron Skillet restaurants.

“Go big, or go home!” might be the slogan for The Iron Skillet restaurants.

I say restaurants, because there are two by the same name in the southern Georgian Bay area. One in Collingwood and one in nearby Wasaga Beach. Both have the same owner.

The Wasaga Beach location of The Iron Skillet Restaurant and Pub has been open for about nine months but that in no way tells you about the long-standing and vast restaurant-operating experiences of owner-chef, Tony Sensenberger. So, in this review, I'll tell you!

Four of us visited The Iron Skillet in Wasaga Beach on December 19, 2019. We all came away from this Mosley Street dining establishment full, happy and cheerful having enjoyed our meals and a chat with not only our server, but also Tony, the owner-chef.

Wasaga Beach, because of the seasonal nature of this community, is a difficult place in which to run a restaurant. Let me explain. Wasaga Beach, which has blossomed in population to 22,000, has lots of stuff happening there during the summer. There's lots to do even through the shoulder seasons for tourism, because people can still walk the beach in spring and autumn. Wasaga Beach gets far more traffic, from all over Canada and the world, during the warmest months because it has the largest fresh-water beach in the world.

The Iron Skillet is keeping up with the “largest” theory, judging by the portion sizes we found with our orders! One doesn't come to this restaurant if you're picky about counting calories.

One person in our party ordered liver and onions. It wasn't me and I do love liver and onions. The theory is to order it in a restaurant, rather than cooking it at home where that action can smell up the house.

Another ordered the Philadelphia Cheese Steak. Two of us ordered from the special's board, the Kansas City Clubhouse which promised roast beef and a smothering of other items. We were two couples and we took care of our billings to reflect what each couple had for lunch. Our bill included the “Philly” sandwich at $15.99. It came with fries. The bill also included my Kansas City Clubhouse for $15.99, plus $1.29 for a nice rich gravy on the side. Additonally, my diet Coke cost $2.99 and my partner's six-ounce glass of pink zinfandel wine cost $8.00. Our total invoice, for the two of us, came to $50.01 and that included $5.75 for taxes.

I sometimes think that it is like throwing a curveball at a chef when a group orders different things. In fact, it is a challenge when the kitchen receives different orders and goes to work to delivery them to the customers. It's a challenge to get all the orders cooked properly and delivered to the patrons in concert. By in concert, I mean all orders to the same table arriving together so that companion diners can start their meals together.

The challenge of delivering everything on time was well met when our four orders arrived, carried by two servers. While we waited for our food to arrive, I had wandered throughout the spacious restaurant admiring the photographs on the walls and the décor, some of it reflecting a nautical theme. This Iron Skillet fronts on Mosley Street in Wasaga Beach close to a traffic light. Their location has a large parking lot on the east side.

You enter The Iron Skillet from the east side, passing what is one of the longest access ramps leading to a restaurant that I have seen. This is good not only for people in wheelchairs, or with walkers, it is also good for anybody who has difficulty going up stairs.

Step into this Iron Skillet and you'll see the two-room nature of this restaurant's design. The first area, think of it like a large room, has the bar on the south side – complete with a street sign for Jack Daniels Road – and wall on the north side. On that north-side wall there is decoration which reflects beer bottles. There are two corridors. One on the west side which leads to washrooms and one on the east side, which faces the parking lot and has some booths at which customers can sit. From the corridors, you access a second large room which has tables and chairs and a large window area which gives you a view of Mosley Street.

This Iron Skillet sports its daily specials on wall-hung, electronic boards. Some people, with excellent eyesight, can read them from their seating. I don't have excellent vision, so I got up and walked closer to read the menu board. Additionally, we had their extensive menu explained by a cheerful server, or the conventional one at our fingertips.

In a way, I think of a restaurant as a little industry. Think about it. Tony Sensenberger employs between 40 and 45 people. I'd say that qualifies his business as a little industry and an asset to the community.

In talking to Tony, who had come to check on how we were enjoying our meals, we found out that he and his wife Doris had taken staff members axe-throwing at a Collingwood location before their company Christmas dinner.

Being a Collingwood resident who patronizes local restaurants, I can remember, some 20 years ago, when Tony Sensenberger's “Tony's Iron Skillet” (then on Hume Street across from the hospital) was one of the most-popular restaurants in town. Especially for breakfast, or lunch, on a Sunday. If you didn't get there early, you did not get a seat. Back then, as now, Tony's servings were best described as a “working man's” plateful. Today, it might not be politically correct to say that, but you know what I mean. Evenutally Tony moved his first Collingwood restaurant operation to a location on Balsam Street and then, more recently, to 49 Huron Street, near the provincial courthouse.

On this day in Wasaga Beach, at our table, the liver and onions disappeared, proof that our friend enjoyed every bite. My wife's Philly sandwich was like two meals in one for her. She ate half and took the other half home in a container provided by our server.

The Kansas City Clubhouses arrived and were mirror sandwich images of each other flanked by French fries. It was all that my friend and I could do to finish our huge clubhouse sandwiches! Yes, they were that large! Good thing we were not counting calories, but I think the food groups were well represented in one sandwich!

There's more to the Iron Skillet than just being a restaurant. With Tony the chef at the helm and thanks to his many culinary-exploration trips to other parts of the world, this restaurant also offers a variety of hot sauces. Best to chat with Tony about what you want in a sauce, something that just tickles your palate, or something that is fire-breathing strong. He's probably the only southern Georgian Bay restaurant which can offer you Moroccan food in addition to his usual Canadian food menu.

Tony's passion for food and drink is not only illustrated by what he sets in front of you to eat, or drink. As you look around at the décor you know that it sports Tony's touch when you see the various items which tell about drinks, or hot sauces. The sign for “Jack Daniels Road”, which hangs above the Iron Skillet's bar area was picked up by Tony during a visit to Lynchburg, Tennessee, the home of Jack Daniel's whiskey.

Some 20 years ago, the best, year-round restaurant in Wasaga Beach was the Hotel Waldhorn, operated by “Mr. Wasaga Beach” (as many people used to call him) the late Karl Fuhre Sr. The Hotel Waldhorn closed years ago and The Iron Skillet is now topping the restaurant list with promotional menu items that tie to different days of the week. For example, Mexican Monday, Smokin' Tuesday, Schnitzel Wednesday, or Pasta Thursday. They have steak on special on Friday nights and seafood specials on Saturdays. Sundays, children under 12 eat free with the purchase of an adult meal (not valid on long weekends, or special days).

All in all, The Iron Skillet at Wasaga Beach proves it is run by a man of many talents. Talents that will have us going back for another meal someday. We'll be sure to be hungry on that day!


14 Jan 2020

By George Czerny