Enter HJ s Prime Cut on Heatherdowns Boulevard, and one of the first things to come into view is a curved wall immediately beyond the hostess station.
It looks as if the wall just separates the entry and bar from the main dining area, but another look as you re walking past shows that the arc is part of a private circular dining area for a group of eight or 10.
People call in to reserve the circle, the hostess said on one of our visits, and during the holidays, it s a popular place.
In fact, since HJ s opened late last fall after quite a bit of time was spent remodeling the old Rosie s Restaurant, rarely an evening goes by without a good number of cars in the lot.
One might wonder if, in this era of being advised to limit intake of red meat, Toledoans really need another restaurant that touts its prime rib. But the truth of the matter is, since Mountain Jack s pulled out, South-enders have missed having a casual place to go for good beef.
In fact, casual is a bit of a misnomer. It s true that you can show up in jeans and T-shirt and not feel too out of place, but HJ s seems a tad more upscale than that; khakis and polo shirt, perhaps, or appropriate dress for whatever is being presented in the Stranahan Theater just across the street.
But the food is the reason for coming back.
The restaurant is proud of its prime rib, offering it nightly in various sizes, from a petite cut for $13.95 to a monster cut for $24.95. The petite cut is a generous portion, sliced about an inch thick. Tender and well-seasoned, it almost melts in the mouth. It can be had in combination with shrimp, perch, scallops, or barbecued ribs for $18.95 or with a 12-ounce lobster tail, for market price.
Previous visits to HJ s have led us to explore the veal Oscar ($16.95); the sauteed veal medallions topped with hollandaise sauce enhanced with asparagus and crabmeat make a tasty combination. But currently on the "specials" menu is veal marsala ($14.95), again featuring the veal medallions but this time with a mushroom and marsala wine sauce. It s a matter of taste, of course, but the marsala sauce seemed a mite on the sweet side, and the mushroom were making themselves scarce. The caveats seem niggling, however, when you take into account that at meal s end, the plate was empty.
The seafood entrees didn t fare quite as well as the meat. The sauteed sea scallops ($14.95) were a bit bland, and the crab and lobster alfredo ($15.95) tasted just fine, but it was not as creamy as one might expect. Perhaps it waited under a heat lamp a minute too long.
Along with the prime rib, seafood, and veal, the regular and special menus offer nine steaks, ranging from the house steak, a ribeye, for $14.95, filet mignon for $21.95, and New York strip au bleu, topped with bleu cheese, peppercorn, and red wine sauce, $18.95.
Boneless breast of chicken is served seven ways, including cordon bleu, and the list of salads is extensive.
Meals come with a spinach or tossed salad (the homemade poppyseed dressing is excellent), a choice of potato , wild rice or vegetable of the day. A baked sweet potato is $1.50 extra.
HJ s is a departure from many Toledo restaurants in that it has no lunch service Monday through Thursday, but opens at noon on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Lunch choices consist of the back page of the menu 14 salads and 10 sandwiches, plus a special menu that features smaller portions of seven of the most popular dinners, including perch, scallops, veal parmesan, and the house steak. The server didn t know the size of the house burger ($5.95), but it looked to be about 8 ounces and was cooked to perfection. It came with steak fries, though other choices were cheerfully offered.
HJ s is quite an attractive restaurant. Faux painting techniques have been used on the walls, and black netting is artfully draped over large arched windows. There are about 20 tables and booths in the main dining room (not counting the circular room), plus more in the large bar, which is separated from the dining areas by another curved wall.
In a smaller dining room to the left of the hostess station, tables are often pushed together to accommodate large parties.