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Change is good at Rick’s City Diner

Eatery once visited by President Obama moves to new site

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Rick Salem, the owner of Rick's City Diner, 5333 Monroe St., holds up a card from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo thanking him for a $6,900 donation to the club. The diner opened Monday after moving from Bancroft Street.

THE BLADE/NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
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Some people stick with the advice, if it ain’t broken don’t fix it. However Rick Salem, owner of Rick’s City Diner, thinks whoever listens to that in the world of restaurant business is a fool.

“My mentor, Jimmy Hamway, said you have to constantly change,” said Mr. Salem, 68.

True to that philosophy, he moved his business to Monroe Street in Toledo this month.

The place at 5333 Monroe St. replaces the eatery’s former home on Bancroft Street near the University of Toledo. It was there that the restaurant was put on the map last year on Labor Day when President Obama stopped during a campaign visit to Chrysler Group LLC’s Toledo Assembly complex.

The new 20,000-square-foot diner seats about 150. The diner’s former location was a destination spot, but the bustling traffic on Monroe Street is more accessible to customers and will allow him to grow, Mr. Salem said.

In addition, the new open design and bright dining room, which has a wall displaying pictures of his mother, Nafie, and father Mitch, and his father’s artwork, also has a private meeting room that seats 20. Both parents, now deceased, operated restaurant and bar establishments in Toledo, including the Ottawa Tavern when it was on Bancroft Street.

Mr. Salem, who keeps up on trends in food by attending cooking classes in Chicago and Massachusetts, said he has updated the menu. For example, BLT sandwiches are served with slices of avocado. Gruyere cheese tops burgers, and the menu has a selection of vegetarian soups and fruit smoothies.

“He has always been up on the menu,” said Toledo resident Abby Sominski, 39. She eats at the diner because of the variety and offerings that other diners don’t have, like potato pancakes, she said.

One morning with a cluster of customers, Mr. Salem said, “Everyone’s equal.”

Even when President Obama visited, he received the same treatment as other customers, getting a hug from Mr. Salem, who is warm with his clientele.

Mr. Salem’s warmth and kindness pour into the community.

For the opening, he raised money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo by donating what customers paid for meals. He raised $6,900. The children of the club signed a card thanking him for his generosity.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356 or ntrusso@theblade.com

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