“What's Mancy's like?” a new Toledoan asked recently.
Well, which Mancy's? There's the steak house on Phillips Avenue and the relatively new Mancy's Italian, owned by the same family, on Monroe Street. When people around here say Mancy's, calling it one of the city's best, they mean the steak house. Otherwise, they say Mancy's Italian, which is not quite on the top shelf.
So what makes Mancy's, the steak house, special? Read on.
Age does not necessarily guarantee good food, but a restaurant that has been in business 80 years - with three generations of single-family ownership - has been doing many things right: food, service, atmosphere, and sound management.
Founded in 1921 by two cousins, Nick Graham and Gus Mancy, on the same site it occupies today, the steak house does a brisk business noon and night.
The original building, destroyed by fire nearly 30 years ago, was immediately replaced by the present structure. Many rooms on different levels, ornately carved dark wood, sculptured figures, low, restful lighting, and even a stained-glass window create the feel of an exclusive club. But an unburdened credit card or a plump wallet is all you need to settle comfortably in; dining at Mancy's is fairly expensive.
As restaurant dining goes today, though, what you get is a fair enough return on your investment. The servers, many of them long-term employees (which says good things about management) know what is expected of them, and how to do it. They are patient, within eyeshot but not obtrusive, knowledgeable of what's on the menu, and helpful.
To be sure, there is a list of appetizers: a conventional shrimp cocktail; an unconventional hot, spicy dish of jumbo shrimp sauteed with mushrooms, pieces of red bell pepper, and scallions in Cajun-spiced butter; spicy mushrooms stuffed with shrimp and crab, roasted under a slab of cheese, and varied mushrooms sauteed with port and served in a crock. The most unexpected, and pleasantly different, is a spread of fresh asparagus with hollandaise sauce. One evening, I picked an appetizer from the day's special menu: big, plump sea scallops wrapped in bacon, not around, but over and under; it was a bit less than a winner, for the scallops, more delicately flavored than shrimp, just didn't show up beside the pork.
Steak is really what it's all about at Mancy's. In response to concerns of health, refinement of taste, and availability from around the world, a proper steak house today matches its list of beef (one whole menu page at Mancy's) with a list of seafood (two-thirds of a page).
New York strips in two weights, 14 and 18 ounces, aged by the restaurant for 24 days, rolled in lightly herbed bread crumbs, and broiled, are the most popular steaks, and deservedly so. They are lean, tender, moist, and tasty. One of these steaks is what a steak dinner is supposed to be. Three sizes of filet mignons, a porterhouse, a T-bone, and a roasted ribeye complete the list of steaks unadorned except for potatoes or rice and the day's vegetable.
Specialties that follow include a tournedos oscar, a yummy New York strip blanketed with a toasted walnut, blue-cheese sauce, and a skewered tenderloin.
Mancy's is an exception to my rule of thumb to never order fish in a steak house and vice versa. There are nine seafood entrees, three surf-and-turf among them, and the ones I've had, a grilled swordfish steak - hold the Cajun spices, please - and a slab of salmon with hollandaise sauce, little redskins, and a massive stalk of broccoli, have been cooked by someone who knows how to do them.
To match any appetite, the menu concludes with one entree each of veal, lamb, pork, and chicken, none distinctive in concept or presentation. What will please some guests is a remarkably extensive wine list. Many people also will appreciate the well chosen, mouth-watering desserts.
Three drives off Phillips Avenue, just around the corner from Sylvania Avenue, open into an extensive, but often crowded, parking lot.
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