I knew I wanted to write about Salzburger Hof, an authentic Austrian and German restaurant/hotel on the shores of Superior, before meeting owner Karen Elsigan-Van Der Swan. But after meeting her, I was even more intrigued. I recently met Karen at a meeting of tourism operators and community supporters who are the midst of developing a food/culinary tourism strategy for the Algoma Region. Her enthusiasm for her industry and business was evident, her insight and knowledge very much valued by the group.
My husband and I decided to make the short trip North in early June, after Karen asked me to come anytime after Mother’s Day weekend. What a treat to drive into this delightful resort off Highway 17 North and about 7 km along Corbeil Point Road, overlooking Batchawana Bay on Lake Superior! When we arrived at our destination, we were presented with beautiful panoramic scenery and a lovely Austrian-inspired resort consisting of a motel, studios, chalets, and two separate dining buildings.
I sat down with Karen in the main dining room, just before their busy dinner service. Karen’s wonderful story unfolded about being raised along with her three sisters on Batchawana Bay at Salzberger Hof. Their parents, Ralph and Ann Elsigan, immigrated to Canada from Salzburg, Austria in the late 1950s. As a young couple, they were looking for opportunity and adventure. To raise money to buy their first resort, the enterprising couple sold minnows and worms to tourists out of Sault Ste. Marie to come up with the down payment. They successfully owned another resort and air service for 12 years before buying what is now known as the Lake Shore Salzburger Hof Resort.
Built in the 1960’s and originally called “Superior Wonderland” the Elsigan’s bought the property in 1972. It was Ralph and Ann who came up with the design theme for the resort. They wanted a little bit piece of Austria in Northern Ontario for everyone to enjoy.
Karen told me that one of the most unforgettable years for the resort was “in 1975, when the property lost 40 feet of shoreline in a violent storm, the same storm that lead to the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior.”
With the tourism business in their blood for over 46 years, it’s truly been a family-run operation. Lake Shore Salzburger Hof attracts guests from all parts of Canada, U.S., Europe, South America, and South Africa. A good number of these travellers stop in as they make their way across the country or across the province. While many others are cottagers and locals from the area and from the city, who come to enjoy the food.
“Accommodation guests receive a complimentary pass to one of the three Provincial Parks in the area, and this added bonus has been a big hit with visiting families,” says Karen.
The charmingly decorated, warm and quaint main dining room is open for dinner to guests as well as the general public. Picnic lunches are available for those staying in the rooms.
As head chef, Karen is proud of her menu. With Austrian/German and Canadian dishes, she’s a stickler for authentic cuisine, true to the country of its origin. For example, Karen spent months researching flavours for their different types of Schnitzel to ensure it tastes the way it’s supposed to taste in Austria. Did you know that “wiener” means Viennese-style? To Karen, authenticity also means it’s fresh and rated as top quality. Karen is proud and enthusiastic to discover new, locally sourced food products and ingredients. All of their in-season vegetables are from local Mennonite farmers, east of Sault Ste. Marie. Their fish and fish products come from Agawa and Sayers Fisheries. The beef is from Penokean Hills Farms.
The dining room serves Ontario wines and beer as well as spirits and cocktails from around the world, including original Austrian beer.
I asked Karen what is planned for the season, and she said they’re always striving for new, fresh and unique dishes, while having consistent quality.
From June to September, the all-you-can-eat Fish-Fry Fridays have become a popular addition to the lineup. Reservations are highly recommended.
Servers and staff are friendly and well informed about the surrounding area and are happy to give advice and suggestions on where to go and what to see.
Lake Shore Salzburger Hof employs 10 people from seniors to students. Some are local in the area, and three staff live on the site. Karen, her husband Ben, sister Robin, sister Sylvia, and her husband Armando run the resort, along with other family members who have worked there at various times over the years. Sister Doris, along with her husband, own and operate Errington’s Wilderness Island Resort.
They are open seasonally from Mother’s Day weekend to the weekend after Thanksgiving.
What a wonderful legacy Ralph and Ann have left for their families and for their guests. A taste of Europe on the beautiful shores of Lake Superior. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and visit and are looking forward to checking out the Fish Fry this Summer.