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Published: Friday, 5/2/2003

Restaurant review: Easystreet Cafe ****

There's an Easystreet Cafe on South Main Street in Bowling Green, close by the Bowling Green State University campus. It was cloned at Michigan and Washington streets on the fringe of downtown Toledo, just shy of five years ago.

Toledo's Easystreet resembles its campus origins, with a full menu page devoted to 33 sandwiches, five hot dogs, and a baker's dozen burgers, all fairly inexpensive. Nearly a hundred listed beers, imported and domestic, are more than Kelsey's customers ever expected to see or asked for. (Kelsey's was a locally famous watering hole, the previous occupant.)

The Easystreet mood, too, is relaxed, the service casual but efficient, the old building fairly alive of an evening with laughter and music.

Inside, electricity has been added sensitively, illuminating the dark room - dark colored floor and ceiling (of old-fashioned pressed metal) - yet preserving an intimate mood and lighting enough to read the menu without squinting.

Saying that an eatery puts one in mind of school days is no disparagement, for a campus market is critical, vocal, and demanding. In contrast to the Easystreet sandwich menu, the dinner menu is short and select.

Of 13 entrees, three are seafood: shrimp sauteed in a garlic and wine sauce; shrimp lightly battered and either deep fried or broiled, and a fillet of orange roughy, this, too, either deep fried or broiled. There is also a shrimp and tenderloin kabob; it and the sauteed shrimp that head the list are served on a bed of rice. Otherwise, dinners are served with potatoes and the vegetable of the day.

Currently, as in many area restaurants, broccoli is that vegetable, and because it's said to be very healthy it may offset a house specialty, sauteed chicken livers, for which the diet-conscious guest may substitute a breast of chicken.

I must say that the steamed broccoli I had with dinner the other evening was tender and fresh. But it's the potato I want to recommend to you. Yet another specialty, it is twice baked, with a crisp, buttery crust. With a dash of salt it was the perfect complement to the ribeye steak, one of two unless you also count the charbroiled chopped chuck with mushrooms.

Of the ribeye I can't say enough. It starts with a very carefully selected cut of lean meat, with some fat to contribute a delightful flavor. (Too often, ribeyes are overwhelmed by strips of outer and intersecting fat.) The steak is broiled so that when it comes to the table, it's cool and pink in the center, just perfect in my estimation. The Easystreet must be on very good terms, moreover, with its meat purveyor, for the meat was tender and free of sinews.

Pork chops and a ham steak, a half rack of ribs, and chicken complete the dinner menu, save for one addendum. If you have an extra, leisurely hour with good friends for an exotic dish that is as rare as it is appealing, try the fondue with beef, shrimp, or both. A fourth fondue, the perfect gift with which to conclude a party with a chocaholic friend, is - you've guessed it! - a dessert fondue, featuring chocolate and pieces of fresh fruit.

Entrance to the ample parking behind the building, and to the restaurant itself, is off Michigan Street. This is a one-way street south, easily accessed from the east-west streets such as Monroe, Jefferson, Adams, and Jackson.

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