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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2008

Restaurant review: The Chaparral ***

The inside of the Chaparral BBQ Steakhouse & Saloon brings to mind the dusty days of the Wild West, or perhaps more accurately, all those old western movies and TV series starring Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, and other sagebrush heroes of the silver screen.

The wagon-wheel interior of the Lambertville restaurant might be called bunkhouse chic, what with all the calico curtains, a swivel-stooled bar, trellises above the booths, and hanging baskets that for all I know might contain actual chaparral bushes from Old California. Even the name of the place is written in rope on one of the walls.

The eatery, at Secor and Consear roads, is the newest restaurant to be located there. Back in the '90s it housed The Mule Corral, later shortened to The Corral, then Snyder's, and after that the Trilby Tavern.

Now the place has returned to its western roots, to the point where I wouldn't have been surprised to see John Wayne or Hoss Cartwright amble in, spurs a-jangling, for a few swigs of whiskey or sasparilla after a hard ride on the trail.

The food, too, calls up the kind of vittles that cowpokes probably still dote on - barbecued ribs and pulled pork from the smokehouse, char-grilled beef steaks, smoked chicken, and a variety of salads, sandwiches, and seafood.

On the back of the menu, the owners boast that their barbecue differs from most, in that it is slow-cooked over an all-wood fire - no gas. As a result, customers are advised to be patient when ordering the smokehouse specialties.

The payoff for waiting is a full slab of 10 to 12 tender, meaty ribs ($16.95) slathered in a not-too-sweet sauce, plus good steaks, pulled-pork sandwiches, and other chargrilled fare. Dinners include salad, cole slaw, or soup, a choice of potatoes, vegetables, or rice, and a loaf of warm bread.

On a Saturday night, surf and turf was on the menu, an $18.95 special featuring a juicy, cooked-to-order six-ounce strip, plus a mess of battered perch and jumbo shrimp

The soup of the day was tangy cabbage and hot sausage, and for an appetizer we opted for a most un-barbecue choice: kasseri cheese ($6.95) flamed at the table as the cook hollered out the traditional Greek "Opa!"

Other nonbarbecue dishes include Italian sausage and spaghetti ($10.95), gyro sandwiches made with beef ($6.95), and Tex-Mex and $2 margaritas on Mondays.

Several half-pound burgers ($7.95) are variously dressed with garlic, bleu cheese, mushrooms, bacon, swiss cheese, and house barbecue sauce. The simplest, a cheeseburger ($6.95), done perfectly to order, has been added to my short list of metro Toledo's best.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com.



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