Any number of adjectives can be used to describe the look and feel of Toledo's various restaurants, among them sleek, cozy, hot, funky, upscale, downscale, high-concept, stodgy, and elegant.
As I walked into Tommy's Casual Dining on West Central Avenue, two more modifiers came to mind - plain and quaint. Though it has only been open since 1993, the eatery seems permanently rooted in the 1950s and '60s. As such, it could be regarded as a welcome throwback compared to all the themed
lookalike chains that dominate the current dining scene.
Instead of teams of perky servers, a dozen or more wide-screen TVs, sandwiches too big to lift to your mouth, and garish signage advertising karaoke, margarita specials, and Jell-O shots, here's what you'll find at Tommy's:
A bar that seats two people - yes, two. Earnest servers. A daily blue-plate special and soup of the day listed at the entrance. Modest lunch and dinner menus that don't take 20 minutes to peruse. A long row of identical booths with a humdrum view of Central Avenue traffic. Walls splattered with pictures of fighter planes (a passion of the owner), and a couple of smaller TVs.
I take that back. There is one wide-screen plasma TV located toward the rear of the place, an anomaly that appears to be Tommy's sole concession to the 21st century.
As for the food, it's as unpretentious as the dcor - plain but filling and reasonably priced. You'll find such items as hot roast beef, prime rib, steaks, seafood, liver and onions, burgers, and five varieties of shish kabobs.
Though our dining experience was checkered, a few dishes tickled our fancy, including roasted Hungarian peppers ($6.99) The hot peppers, garnished with an ample portion of olive oil, tomatoes, and feta cheese, are a good way to start a meal at Tommy's. They're best washed down with a soft drink or a beer.
A cup of navy bean and ham soup ($2.50) brimmed with potatoes and other vegetables, but the vegetables in a rather thin chowder overwhelmed the bits
of seafood. The house salad ($3) consisted mainly of iceberg lettuce, flecks of tomato, and a half-slice of cucumber.
For lunch, a patty of mushroom ground beef with mashed potatoes and gravy ($6.99) was tender and tasty, while a turkey reuben ($5.99) suffered from lackluster pressed turkey and bread that fell apart in the hands. Similarly, a dinner order of two cabbage rolls ($9.99) in a seasoned tomato sauce went down delightfully, while a 12-ounce junior prime rib ($15.99), ordered medium rare, was both too fatty and difficult to cut.
One more note about that two-seat bar: For patrons who might mistake it for a counter, the proprietors have courteously perched a small neon sign near the stools that says simply: "Bar."
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org