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Published: Friday, 8/22/2003

Restaurant review: Haskins Garden Restaurant ***

It would not be unfair to describe Haskins, Ohio, population 638, as a crossroads. It is not, moreover, on the way to anywhere else, and the absence of a major highway may have stunted its growth. That may be regarded by the community as blessing or curse.

One asset that Haskins enjoys, however, is a restaurant, recently revived by a new proprietor

In the past, as I recall it, there was one large dining room divided in half, the bar and tables on one side, a more conventional dining area on the other side. Now diners are served in a number of gently separated areas, including a small bar with tables alongside. The rooms are done in warm browns, with thoughtfully arranged lighting.

My impression of the business, each time I've taken a meal since the reopening, is that so far it enjoys strong local support. Put that beside a quick, unscientific survey of the cars parked around the restaurant and the license plates are mute witness to customers drawn from Lucas and Ottawa counties.

Without being able to say exactly why, I get the feeling that the menu is, quite sensibly, going through a series of revisions to match kitchen to customers. For example, ribs finished in a sprightly (and often original) barbecue sauce have a solid place across the appetite of middle America, while it never occurred to me to look for a chicken cordon bleu at the far end of the spectrum.

Those entrees, at opposite ends of my expectations, are what I would want to sample from the kitchen, so dinner one exciting evening was chicken cordon bleu, a skinless, boned breast of chicken, stuffed with ham and cheese. The knack of getting the stuffing firmly in place so it doesn't squish out a cheesy puddle on the plate is not easy. In the Haskins Garden kitchen there's a staff member who needs practice.

Your palate might well applaud the barbecue sauce on the ribs (which were not, by the way, overly meaty). If I were in the Haskins Garden kitchen, I'd be tinkering in a search for a sauce less sweet. However, as I looked around at what my neighbors were eating, it was plain that I was outvoted!

Getting to Haskins and the Garden is not difficult; there are not many possible alternatives in the area. From I-475/23, head south onto State Rt. 25. It's about 10 miles to two-lane State Rt. 582. Drive west about seven miles to Haskins Road where it is crossed by a railroad, go 3 miles north on Haskins Road, which becomes Main Street, to the first cross street, Findlay Road, and you'll see the two-story brick Garden, well marked, facing Findlay (though the address is on Main). It's not easy to get lost in Haskins, a living antique, a little leftover of America's past.

eIf you've heard a rumor that the Hathaway House in Blissfield, Michigan, is changing hands, it's true. Details will emerge as the transaction is completed.

Contact Bill of Fare by e-mail at fare@theblade.com.



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