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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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Published: Friday, 1/5/2001

Maggie's Family Restaurant: Success starts in kitchen

Maggie's Family Restaurant looks like an old-time roadside eatery - the kind of place where motorists used to stop for lunch or supper before the days of Burger Kings, KFCs, and the like.

Maggie's, which occupies the end of a nondescript building on State Rt. 25 about a mile south of the I-75 exit in Perrysburg, would be easy to miss except that its name is written in large lettering on the side facing southbound traffic.

Maggie's draws very little business from passers-by on the highway. Today's tourists, whatever they may think of fast food, at least know what to expect from chain outlets.

Most of the customers who crowd Maggie's at noon and night are neighbors. Some of them are farm families celebrating a birthday or anniversary, some are single adults who find it a friendly reminder of real home cooking, and some are citizens of nearby suburbs who are happy to have found the predictably good kitchen that's the secret of its success.

There is a Maggie. She's Marge Roller, who oversees the cooking and relies on a competent, loyal staff to keep the dining room and bar in good order and the customers comfortably content. Roller's Hungarian background, her wait staff say, explains the extraordinarily good chicken paprikash.

The bar, where customers who smoke are served in a window-side row of booths, is firmly screened from the main dining room; I've met customers who hadn't noticed the bar's existence. Both areas are informal, hosting farmers in bib overalls as well as businessmen in suits and ties. Dressed up or dressed down, no one seems out of place.

For lunch, Maggie's offers a soup and sandwich special, a choice of several sandwiches or salads, and daily luncheon plates. People rave about Maggie's stuffed tomatoes, plump with tuna or chicken salad or with cottage cheese, served with hard-boiled egg on a bed of lettuce.

Most customers agree that dinner is where Maggie's kitchen shines. A first-time guest may be surprised to discover that this restaurant is resolutely table d'hote; that is, the menu offers two or three entrees, each served with a mix of vegetables the chef - with unerring good taste - considers appropriate, besides rolls and a salad that may be Waldorf today, Jell-O tomorrow, and cole slaw the next day. There is a daily homemade soup as well.

Entrees for the month are listed on paper table mats, so customers learn what to expect as they settle in to a table or plan a repeat visit. This wouldn't work well, I imagine, if the dinners weren't without exception very good and served in generous proportions.

Saturday, for example, is prime rib night. It staggers the imagination that for $11.50, customers can get a slice of standing rib, tender, inch-thick, with minimal seasoning, and surrounded on the plate with, say, oven-roasted red skins and green beans, and tossed salad on the side. If you're a fan of great roast beef, mark down Maggie's for dinner tomorrow. At that price, there's simply nothing like it.

Not everyone likes prime rib, though, and when it tops the day's menu, there's always an alternative to go with the same complements: Today it may be sauteed shrimp, next week stuffed pork chops, barbecued ribs with apricot sauce, or breast of chicken. I don't know whether the March menu will note anything special for St. Patrick's Day, but each month, there seems to be scheduled what anywhere else would be called a jiggs dinner: corned beef with cabbage, potatoes, and carrots.

About the chicken paprikash I've mentioned, it is so tasty and tender, the meat falling off the bone, that I can't remember ever having had better. Then, besides beef stroganoff one night, there's an entree listed simply as beef roast; it is a wow of a beef stew, with hearty chunks of meat with potatoes and thick brown gravy.

Meat figures prominently in Maggie's view of healthy eating, and except for fish on a very few evenings, there's little but a dinner salad for a vegetarian.

The Waldorf salad that comes with dinner on some evenings is almost a dessert, and might well be so described, were not the desserts, pies, and a fabulous chocolate cake so delicious.



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