If you've never toured one of the Victorian mansions in Toledo's Old West End, you could do worse than dropping by the newly renamed Toledo Easy Street restaurant, on the rim of downtown, to luxuriate in the 19th century surroundings.
Amid the raw brick walls and tin ceilings is a swirl of glittering stained glass, Tiffany lamps, wood arches, pillars, and basilica wainscoting, plus nooks and crannies in the labyrinthine interior.
Dining amid the florid grandeur of the furnishings, you half-expect to see suffragette Pauline Steinem seated across the way in a big Victorian hat bobbing with ostrich feathers and tea roses, or Toledo's turn-of-the-century Mayor Samuel "Golden Rule" Jones in a frock coat, high collar, and pince-nez, talking politics with the boys.
Instead, on a recent visit we got seated at a table next to Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and his wife Amy, who were enjoying a quiet dinner. Also in the dining room was a table full of female barbershop singers who call themselves Sweet Harmony. The ladies even serenaded Toledo's first couple on their way out.
For years, the eatery shared a name and menu with the original Easystreet Cafe in Bowling Green, serving the kind of deep-fried, super-sized food fit for a college crowd. A few months ago, however, the Toledo satellite, taken over by new management, broke from the BG operation, according to employees. The result, in addition to the name change, is a pared-down choice of dishes.
Gone, or seriously truncated, are two pages devoted to sandwiches, hot dogs, and burgers, including a Build Your Own Burger option. Gone too are four Caribbean grill entrees, and olivenos, a delicious appetizer combining halved black olives with salsa, two cheeses, and jalapeno peppers.
Not all vestiges of the old Easystreet Cafe have disappeared. Patrons can still order a brawny Easystreet burger, great-tasting french fries, and several chicken, fish, club, and corned-beef sandwiches along with dinner salads, steaks, prime rib, seafood, and pasta meals. The restaurant also retains its large inventory of bottled beer - nearly 100 domestic and international brands. And a new lunch menu offers "Five for Five," five soup, salad, or sandwich variations for $5 each.
From the updated bill of fare we ordered a cup of prime rib soup ($3.25) and a bowl of chili ($3.75), both pretty good, and an appetizer of onion rings ($5.99) - giant, deep-fried tiles of breaded onion that all but commandeered the table. A New York strip steak ($16.99) was a bargain, serving up a juicy 12-ounce cut of meat with a choice of sides, salad, or soup.
Another holdover from the old menu, the Easystreet cheeseburger ($7.25), was an impossibly sloppy half-pound combo of beef, green pepper, onions, mushrooms, and bacon with mozzarella.
Service over three visits was spotty at best, the obvious result of overburdened help. And at a recent lunch, we were squeezed into one of the smaller rooms, having to go bumper-to-bumper with seven tables of other equally cramped diners while an adjacent room sat all but empty. Our server apologized and moved us promptly.
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Toledo Easy Street
*** (3 stars)
Address: 822 Washington St.
Category: Dress down.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday; 12 noon-11 p.m. Saturday; 12 noon-10 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are accepted.
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Smoking section: Yes.
Average price: $.
Credit cards: AE, Dis, DC, MC, V.
Meals are paid for by The Blade
The Brownstone Tavern, 847 Alexis Rd., turns out dozens of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and entrees seven days a week, from burgers and fries to steaks and chops. $; 4 stars.