Kings Island Executive Chef Nathan Gushulak works in Island Smokehouse, a new restaurant that recently opened in Kings Island’s Soak City Water Park. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Kings Island debuts new restaurant Island Smokehouse

Chef Nathan Gushulak tells you five things to know about the eatery, the fourth at Soak City and Kings Island’s 48th restaurant overall.

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1) The menu is a diverse selection of old and new

Hungry parkgoers can feast on mix of new concoctions and tried-and-true staples. There’s pulled pork cooked in a smoker for 12 hours overnight and served alone or inside a bun, as well chicken wings smoked for two hours then finished in a fryer to lock in flavor and help “crisp them up,” Gushulak said. There’s also breaded butterfly shrimp, Chicken Shack’s hand-breaded chicken tenders, brisket, baked beans, mac-and-cheese, cole slaw, corn pudding and breaded Tidal Wave fries.

“With our food truck festival, we saw how popular the smoked items were in the park and we had wanted a smoker in prior years,” he said.

Barbecue sauces come in original and spicy.

2) The food is all made in-house and from scratch

Gushulak said Island Smokehouse and its entirely from-scratch menu is a step in the right direction toward improving food in the entire amusement park.

“(Island Smokehouse) is entirely different than what most people think of when they look at Kings Island,” Gushulak said. “They’re thinking LaRosa’s, Skyline or chicken tenders from a freezer. These (Island Smokehouse items) are all made fresh throughout.”

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3) Gushulak is no stranger to new food offerings

Island Smokehouse isn’t the first new restaurant launch for Gushulak, who grew up in the Loveland area, started at the park 10 years ago and became executive chef four years ago.

Last season he helped the park launch Rivertown Funnel Cakes and previous seasons as a seasonal worker, he helped open Chicken Shack and Reds Hall of Fame Grille.

“I’d say this has had the best guest reaction in terms of food quality,” he said. “This is actually a really big step in the right direction for Kings Island as a whole.”

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4) The restaurant took less than a year to build

Gushulak said he and his supervisor worked together to start designing the kitchen last summer on the former site of a Dippin’ Dots stand.

The new location eschews traditional warmers for flat-top heating surfaces.

“That’s showing off the culinary approach where we’re using the pans that we use in the kitchen out front, showing that this is all fresh stuff,” Gushulak said. “We’re cooking this here.”

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5) Island Smokehouse isn’t the only change at Soak City this year

The water park also features additional shade structures, more changing rooms, cooling mister fans and expanded deck space, which doubles the number of chaise lounge chairs at Soak City. There’s also a new Skyline Express near Tidal Wave Bay.

The express lanes that help funnel foot traffic inside Island Smokehouse to its outdoor, picnic-table seating will be incorporated in other eateries within the park, Gushulak said.

“They can come through and grab something quick like a salad or a wrap and then just hit the registers instead of waiting in the line for the hot foods,” he said.

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