Help me discover Toledo’s food scene

Welcome to The Blade new Food Editor and 'Food Floozie' Mary Bilyeu

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  • Hi! I’m Mary, and I’m a self-proclaimed Food Floozie.

    Now let me explain that, so I don’t start my life in Toledo with a bad reputation. A floozie is, according to Merriam-Webster, “a usually young woman of loose morals.” So, a Food Floozie is not a woman who can be seduced by virtually any man, but rather a woman who can be seduced by virtually any food, other than sushi. I don’t like sushi. I don’t like tofu, either, or tentacles. But I’ll happily, heartily eat almost everything else. I’m an enthusiast: I love to cook, to bake, and — especially — to eat. And I’m always happy to talk about food.

    I’ve lived in Toledo for only 10 days, after more than 30 years in Ann Arbor, so I need you to introduce your city to me. Where can you get fresh doughnuts — my boyfriend, Craig, is quite the aficionado — in a shop that smells of sugar and happiness? Where can I find the best Reuben, which my 23-year-old son, Jeremy, will order any time he sees one on a menu? Who makes great crispy, chewy bagels? (And let me note that I was born and raised in New York City, so my bagel standards are very high.)

    Where will I find delicious and authentic Middle Eastern, Soul Food, Thai, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Ethiopian, Turkish, or Italian dishes? Which chefs are serving really creative flavor and ingredient pairings, making the best use of beautiful local items? What are some of the secret places I should know about, ones that deserve more attention, rather than the ubiquitous chains?

    I’m looking very forward to Paczki Day next month; what other ethnic foods and festivals are celebrated here? Who makes traditional specialties the old-fashioned way, and might consider inviting me over to show me how to make them, too?

    Are there cooking contesters in the area, or folks who compete on the barbecue circuit? I’ve judged pie, cake, chili, and brisket cook-offs in the past, and would be happy to volunteer for this fabulous, but very difficult, task again. In the immortal words of The Temptations, if any organization should have an empty seat waiting for one more jurist, I ain’t too proud to beg.

    I want to publicly apologize to every waiter or waitress in the city right now, as I am the notorious customer who will unfortunately have you checking on my table two or three times before I decide what to order. (If it’s any consolation, I’m a generous tipper to compensate for this inconvenience. I was a waitress for one day — just one — several decades ago, and I have consummate respect for how hard the job is.) If I were a picky eater, my decision-making process would be so much easier; I would know which few items met my limited standards and then choose accordingly. But almost everything sounds good to me, and I have no set rules about which foods are appropriate for a particular time of day ... thus, the paralysis when trying to choose.

    As you share information about the city, please let me know about food banks, soup kitchens, and other organizations and programs that help to feed the hungry; this page shouldn’t only focus upon recipes for those who have the resources to readily buy ingredients. I want to address a variety of food-related issues, from nutrition and health to trends and fads. I also want to meet farmers and urban gardeners, indulge at chocolate shops, learn about hand-crafted items, and hunt down great meal deals. Write! Call! Stop and chat!

    I could meander around the area (and the Internet) to find restaurants, bakeries, and markets myself — and don’t worry, I have and I will. But I want you to tell me about your town, your neighbors, your friends. Toledo is now my town, too, and you’re all my neighbors ... and, I hope, my new friends, as well.

    Contact Mary Bilyeu at
 or 419-724-6155 or on Twitter @foodflloozie.