Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Vermilion’s L’Auberge Du Port

A 1970 Lorain Phone Book Ad
Vermilion’s Chez Francois has enjoyed a reputation as one of Ohio’s finest restaurants for thirty years, known for its amazing gourmet menu, the exceptional service provided by its courteous and attentive staff, and the elegant, romantic atmosphere.

But did you know that Chez Francois was preceded at that same location in the 1960s by another French restaurant: L’Auberge Du Port?

L’Auberge Du Port (the name means “Inn of the Harbor”) opened in the spring of 1968 in a rustic building on Main Street converted from an old sail loft dating back to 1840. Didier Moritz and Erwin Mayer were the two young men who were the owners and operators of the restaurant; Vermilion’s Ted Wakefield had an integral role in establishing the restaurant as their mentor and chief supporter.

Here’s the article that appeared in the Lorain Journal on March 22, 1968 as the restaurant was about to stage its trial opening.

And here is the Journal’s coverage on March 27, 1968 of the restaurant’s opening to the public. It provides the story behind the restaurant: how Ted Wakefield met Didier Moritz on a cruise and a friendship was kindled; how Didier Moritz met Erwin Mayer; and how Wakefield’s suggestion that “someone ought to start a restaurant downstairs in the Sail Loft” directly led to the opening of L’Auberge Du Port.

And on April 19, 1968 the Journal featured L’Auberge Du Port in its Golden Crescent Guide to Dining. It also provides some background information about Didier Moritz and Erwin Mayer.
The opening of a fine French restaurant in Vermilion was big enough news to even make it into the March 30, 1968 edition of the Passing Scene.
In January 2018, the Toledo Blade published an article by Mary Alice Powell, its retired Food Editor, that caught up with Didier and Moritz in Fort Lauderdale. As the article notes, the two men stayed with L’Auberge Du Port until 1975, when they moved to Key West to operate the Southernmost Resort and La Mer, a guest house.

1 comment:

Mike Kozlowski said...

...Actually ate there once, not long before I left for the Air Force - it was the first time I'd ever run across a restaurant where they didn't list the prices on the menu, which led to a brief moment of panic as I wondered if I could afford dinner for me AND my date. :)