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Part of the schtick at Grumpy's in downtown Toledo is that the employees supposedly can be kind of grumpy.
At least that's what the menu says, but I have always found the staff at the South Huron Street restaurant to be briskly professional and not the least bit surly. That said, it is true that if you ask for the well-known garbage salad without one of the listed ingredients — such as onions for example — you might be told “no” if the kitchen staff isn't in the mood to leave it out.
Tucked away in the Warehouse District beyond Fifth Third Field, Grumpy's is a mild hike for folks whose offices are in downtown proper, but not by much. It's in a cool, refurbished old building with hardwood floors, and I've never been there when it's not bustling for lunch. While the restaurant has full-scale catering, it's not open in the evening for dinner.
The menu is diverse with more than a dozen creative salad offerings. We find the garbage salad (two sizes: $8.50/$9.50) to be addictive. Built with mixed greens, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, grilled chicken, provolone, mozzarella, feta, raisins, and fresh parmesan tossed with poppyseed dressing, home-made croutons, and real bacon, the garbage provides a broad array of tastes that makes it far more interesting than a common lettuce salad. It's a meal in its own right.
The folks at Grumpy's are fearless in building their salads, and among the ingredients you may find in one of their concoctions are mandarin oranges, rare tuna steak, and raspberry wasabi dressing (the Charley; $10.50/$12.75) or red cabbage, parmesan, and pine nuts (the Princess Linda; $9.50/$10.50).
I'd argue that Grumpy's sandwiches rank among the best in town, starting with the restaurant's incredible hamburgers. Odd that a place best known for its salads and lunch sandwiches would offer what I consider the best burger in Toledo, but Grumpy's pulls it off.
It's as if there's a charcoal grill out back where the burgers are cooked because the meat is redolent with the taste of summer. They come in a variety — unadorned, cheese, blue cheese, bacon cheese, and bacon blue — but I am happy with a simple cheeseburger ($8.25.) While that price is high compared to a fast food burger, there's no comparison in quality and taste.
The other sublime winner on the sandwich menu is Mikey's chicken deluxe ($10). Featuring muenster cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pepper rings (which give this thing its zing), grilled onions, honey mustard and mayo, Mikey's is kind of the meat equivalent of the garbage salad.
I also had the tub ($9) — one-third pound of boiled ham, bologna, salami, mozzarella, and American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pepper rings, and Italian dressing on a French bread roll — and it was solid but clearly outshone by the other offerings on the menu.
There are more than two dozen sandwiches available at Grumpy's, not counting the ones you can create yourself, so variety is one of the restaurant's calling cards. When you leave, there are big cookies — chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, and others — that are perfect to take back to the office for a midafternoon snack with a cup of coffee.
The bottom line on Grumpy's is that it's the best place downtown for an interesting lunch that combines creative taste pairings with a certain no-frills attitude and approach.
Contact Bill of Fare at: firstname.lastname@example.org