The first true test of any bar is self-evident: how well it does bar food. That means fried appetizers, burgers, and plenty of sandwiches oozing with anything and everything.
At Toledo's Mainstreet Bar and Grill in East Toledo, consider it Mission Accomplished. This eatery resurrected the location of the former Main Event bar about a year ago, and the results - at least in the kitchen - have been noteworthy.
Start with the appetizers. If you can fry it, it's probably on the menu. All the standards are there: you can get a taste of thick mozzarella sticks, juicy jalapeno poppers, crispy onion rings, and breaded mushrooms as part of the superb East Side sampler basket ($7.50).
Or you can branch out. Try the spicy fried pickle spears ($4.25) - they're good, really - or the breaded cheese ravioli ($5), plump squares that come with a tasty concoction of meat, mushrooms, peppers, and more for dipping.
As your body tries to absorb all the grease, enjoy the gleaming televisions offering up sports and news around the bar. There's live music some nights, a couple of pool tables, and a screen in an outdoor courtyard that could be great for watching Ultimate Fighting Championship matches when the weather warms up.
Despite its size and expansive layout, the bar evokes a homey vibe through old photos of the area on the wall and menu items named after East Toledo landmarks. Take, for example, the Waite Burger ($5.50), a solid if run-of-the-mill cheeseburger that shares its name with the nearby high school.
The sandwiches that really stand out are the "fold overs" that use warm and toasty ciabatta bread. The Cherry St. Club ($7.75) showcases a nice hunk of chicken, and while Toledo's Cheese Steak ($7.75) may not make Philadelphians as jealous as the menu says, it's good enough to warrant a try. The fries that come with these are simply great - thick, crispy, and well-seasoned.
Even though it's served on traditional rye bread instead of the ciabatta, the E.B. Reuben ($5.75) is another winner thanks to some thick, high-quality corned beef.
If carbs are your thing, consider the pizza and cheesy bread. The Garden Variety pizza ($7.50) offers a nice crust and the perfect blend of ingredients (mushrooms, onions, green and banana peppers, and black olives) without being too salty. The ranch strips ($5) of cheesy bread, with dressing oozing deliciously through holes in the cheese baked on top, could be a meal all by themselves.
The only real problem during our visits, both at lunch and for a weeknight dinner, was that there was almost no one else there. Maybe these were anomalies, but it was hard to ignore the feeling of emptiness, despite the good food and quick, friendly service.
A revamped menu that promises more substantial entrees apparently is on the way, and maybe that will help. Expanded offerings certainly would be welcome since the current ones are a bit limiting.
In the meantime, Toledo's Mainstreet Bar and Grill may have to settle for cooking up some quality bar food and letting the fried pickles fall where they may.
Contact Bill of Fare at
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org