When you walk into the City Hall Grille on South Reynolds Road in South Toledo, the popular 1980s television show Cheers comes to mind. When I entered the restaurant for a late lunch recently, the first thing I noticed was the bar lined with patrons enjoying sandwiches and salads and engaged in lively conversation with staff members.
A manager wearing an apron stepped in to help two waitresses pour drinks while chatting with two men eating lunch. The waitresses joked with a couple as they catered to their needs.
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This is a good thing. I suspected there was a reason for the comfortable banter among the staff and its customers, a reason that kept them coming back until they were as popular as Norm Peterson and Cliff Clavin were to Sam Malone.
We were offered seating in either the small bar area up front or a larger open dining room. We opted for a high top in the bar area to be near the action.
On our first visit, two waitresses tag-teamed our table, ensuring we never were in need of a drink refill or extra condiments. Kudos to the waitresses who, instead of taking my half-empty glass of iced tea when I asked for a refill, brought me a new, full glass with another lemon so that I could enjoy what I had left in the first glass as I continued to eat.
For an appetizer, we ordered the hummus ($2.99). Sprinkled with paprika and served with soft pita chips, it was flavorful and creamy, with just the right amount of tahini, which is made fresh daily.
I was disappointed, however, when I couldn't find either the grape leaves or the falafel on the menu that I had spotted on their online menu. Apparently, they no longer served those items, but didn't specify why. (Sidebar: They spelled the word appetizer wrong on their menus. Fortunately the good food almost made up for the grammatical error).
Sandwiches appeared to be their forte, with everything from a traditional bacon club to a seared yellowfin tuna steak sandwich offering.
The gyro ($6.99) was served on quite possibly the biggest pita I have ever seen, it was piled high with lamb, tomatoes, lettuce, and onions, and came with a cold, creamy cucumber sauce. It was easily half the size of a small pizza.
I ordered the reuben, ($7.19) on the advice of one of the waitresses who said it was the most popular sandwich there.
The corned beef reuben was robust with flavor. The two dark pieces of rye bread were buttery and grilled to perfection. My only complaint would have been that I would have preferred a couple of thick shaved slices of corned beef to the very thin pieces of deli meat slapped in the middle of the sandwich.
Two people in my party ordered the chicken enchilada soup, ($2.89) which was excellent. It featured a rich, spicy red broth with plenty of vegetables, including zucchini, red pepper, and corn. Strangely, although served at the exact same time, one cup of soup was barely warm while the other was piping hot.
Murals in the bar and main dining areas depict Toledo cityscape scenes, including the SeaGate Centre and Mud Hens. A manager said the cool black and white photos of people and places in Toledo covering the other walls were reproductions of photos from the Main Library, and that the restaurant has been open 10 years, but used to be named Our Place.
On a second visit, the same scenario stood. A bar full of patrons, a lot of laughing and joking, a friendly call-out to "Mac" and a "See you tomorrow." (It wasn't from Danson, but hey ...)
A friend ordered the mushroom swiss cheeseburger ($7.29). He called it "very flavorful, and not disguised with mushrooms and cheese falling all over it." The gyro salad ($8.99) was excellent, with cold crisp vegetables smothered with tender gyro meat and a Greek dressing and a side of cucumber sauce. (The waitress said it didn't come with a particular dressing, but what else would you order with such a salad?)
A steak ($13.99), medium rare, was well seasoned, although, spaced on a big white plate among roasted new potatoes and steamed vegetables, the presentation lacked panache.
Overall, the atmosphere and the wait staff are what makes this place a delight, living up to its sign out front that reads "You Can't Beat" City Hall Grille.
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants. The Blade pays for critics' meals.