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Published: Wednesday, 12/29/2010

Recently reviewed restaurants: 12-30

Summaries of recently reviewed area restaurants, in the order in which they were reviewed, with the most recent at the top.

Zia's Restaurant, 20 Main St., at the Docks, emphasizes the sturdy fare Americans have come to consider Italian cuisine: pastas, cream or tomato sauces, pizzas. But if you look closer, you can find chicken, steaks, and seafood, mostly with creative Italian twists. Service is pleasant and efficient, and desserts are wonderful. $$$ 3 stars.

Ahmed's Steakhouse, 1923 West Alexis Rd., exudes family atmosphere and warmth. As its name suggests, one of the menu's strengths is the restaurant's steaks, but there are plenty of seafood and chicken offerings, all served with a Middle Eastern twist. $$ 3 stars.

Spaghetti Warehouse, 42 South Superior St., remains largely unchanged in the 28 years since it opened in a one-time brewery on downtown's south side. That holds nostalgic charm for some; for others, it appears dated. But if you're hankering for hearty pasta in a big place full of stained glass and antiques, and you don't mind a wait staff that encircles patrons with hand-clapping birthday chants, add this family-friendly spot to your list. $$ 3 stars.

Baldy-Q Rib Shack, 90 Dodge St., Swanton, is on its way to being known as the place to go for ribs. The smoky, fall-off-the-bone ribs, paired with one or more of the house barbecue sauces, makes Baldy-Q a destination place for meat lovers. Don't forget to leave room for the tasty corn cakes. $ 3 stars.

Sebastiano's Italiano,4448 Heatherdowns Blvd., is simply a delightful little neighborhood place that has an owner with a huge smile and an even bigger talent for re-creating the Tuscan recipes of his mother and grandmother. The Tricolore will make a carnivore forget about meat, and the Mare and Monte offers a great combination of flavors and textures. If veal marsala is on the menu, it's worth every penny. $$ 4 stars.

Balance Pan-Asian Grille, 541 The Boulevard, Maumee, offers a unique 'modular' menu that's big on flavor, variety, and value in a cool minimalist bistro. Diners choose one of five proteins, along with one of five carbs and one of the spectacular sauces to customize fresh, healthy meals. $ 4 stars.

Adam's Place, 2417 West Laskey Rd., is back in the hands of its original owner, serving excellent steak, fish, and ribs along with a fine sampling of desserts at its Wernert's Corners location. With the feel of a big-city neighborhood restaurant, this place is an understated gem. $$ 4 stars.

Table Forty 4, 610 Monroe St., is a handsomely renovated century-old building downtown, with a well-rounded menu of tasty sandwiches, specialty salads, and entrees. Opened in April by the owner of the Maumee Chop House, it has a great street-facing patio for mild weather. When crowded, it's noisy. $$ 4 stars.

Plaza Azteca, 5125 Monroe St., offers Toledo authentic Mexican food that isn't swimming in liquefied cheese. The chori-pollo has a smoky flavor with a little kick from the chorizo, and the tacos al pastor rival some of the best tacos in the city. And don't forget to say, "Mas margaritas, por favor." $$ 4 stars.

DiBenedetto's Italian Bistro, 121 South Main St., Bowling Green, has a prime downtown location with a sophisticated urban atmosphere and excellent food. The chicken saltimbocca is spectacular as is the antipasto plate. For dessert, the amaretto parfait is a sublime guilty pleasure. $$ 4 stars.

Wei Wei Seafood Restaurant, 1202 North Reynolds Rd., does an admirable job with poultry, meat, and seafood dishes, including some unusual offerings, from Szechuan, Cantonese, Hunan, and Mandarin cuisines. Fresh veggies and homemade sauces, such as ginger/soy/cilantro, are a plus. Interior is spartan. Lunch, four days a week, is a good deal with 26 plates under $6 including egg roll and rice. $$ 4 stars.

Main Street Stable and Tavern, 116 N. Main St., Blissfield, Mich., offers plenty of good food -- from the prosciutto and fresh mozzarella melt to the planked whitefish -- as well as ambience. The chile-braised beef brisket is tender, and you can't go wrong with the honey-barbecue salmon. $$$ 4 stars.

City Barbecue, 7402 West Central Ave., is part of a small regional chain that focuses on southern-style barbecue. The ribs are solid and the half chicken excellent, but unfortunately on both of our visits the side dishes were cold and the atmosphere generally drab. $$ 2 stars.

El Camino Real, 551 West Dussel Drive, Maumee, has a great atmosphere and tasty margaritas, but the Tex-Mex meals are rarely better than ordinary. The guacamole was one delightful aberration. $$ 2 stars.

SamB's Restaurant, 163 South Main St., Bowling Green, practically wrote the book on bistro cuisine in this unassuming college town with perfectly prepared seafood and steaks. The excellent hazelnut creme brulee and exquisite crab cakes are worth the drive. $$$ 4 stars.

Calvino's Restaurant and Wine Bar, 3143 West Central Ave., serves Italian fare that focuses on a wide array of specialty pizzas, heaping plates of lasagna and sandwiches. Don't miss the stromboli, especially the tasty Greek with spinach, feta cheese, pine nuts, and more. $$ 3 stars.

Treo Restaurant, 5703 Main St., Sylvania, presents simple elegance in a charming old downtown building. Open for lunches and dinners with an Italian, French, and American menu and lots of pastas and sauces. $$$ 4 stars.

Ipoh, 3527 Dorr St., is one of Toledo's best little "hole-in-the-wall" Chinese restaurants. Short on style, but big on flavor, it offers very generous servings at a price that even a college student can afford. The wonderful noodle soups make it easy to overlook the loud, tattered interior. $ 3 stars.

Nick's Family Cafe, 2516 Reynolds Rd., is the quintessential greasy spoon, a place to go for mounds of food at a modest price. The huge menu features American and Mediterranean standards, from omelets and burgers to grape leaves and gyros. $ 2 stars.

The SouthBriar Restaurant, 5147 Main St., Sylvania, is a quirky, charming place that serves an eclectic variety of American, German and other types of food. If you go on Wednesday, one of the owners, Tom Henkel, will be out front grilling excellent steaks and other items. Highly recommended. $$ 4 stars.

Plate 21, 3664 Rugby Dr., near Detroit Avenue and Glanzman Road, is a stylin' coffeeshop that turns out deliciously interesting beverages, sandwiches, soups, and desserts. The interior design alone is worth a visit. $ 4 stars.

Mayberry Diner, 2155 South Byrne Rd. and 8523 Mayberry Square, Sylvania, are sister restaurants that do a fine job of serving standard American breakfasts and lunches. It's simple and satisfactory. $ 3 stars.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries, 3305 West Central Ave., focuses on top-quality burgers and fries in massive servings. Some of the unexpected burger toppings include grilled mushrooms and jalapeno peppers. The fresh cut fries, cooked in peanut oil, are delicious. $ 4 stars.

Black Pearl, 4630 Heatherdowns Blvd., across from the Stranahan complex, takes over where its predecessor, HJ's, left off. The decor is still the same, as are parts of the menu and some of the staff. The prime rib is tender, mouth-watering, and served in generous portions, and the perch deserves attention too. $$$ 4 stars.

Grumpy's, 34 South Huron St., is the best place downtown for an interesting lunch that combines creative taste pairings with a certain no-frills attitude and approach. They serve the best burgers in town and the Garbage salad is exceptional. $$ 4 stars.

Deez Diner, 2007 North Holland-Sylvania Rd., goes heavy on the retro, complete with oldies music and images of Betty Boop. It's the kind of place where breakfast is served all day and menu items are named for people. Try Grandma Faye's homemade soups and Johnny's original chili mac. $ 3 stars.

Rumors Restaurant, 5205 Monroe St., serves big portions of Mediterranean and American standards. Atmosphere is casual, and quantity sometimes trumps quality, but it offers long hours (breakfast to late dinners), a kids' menu, and a full bar in busy West Toledo. $$ 3 stars.

Jasmine Thai Cuisine and Japanese Steakhouse, 5834 Monroe St., Sylvania, takes over where Toledo tradition En Japanese Steakhouse left off: with Japanese classics, sushi, and teppan yaki and an expanded Thai menu. The pad Thai and mango and pineapple curry are excellent. $$$ 3 stars.

South End Grille, 5105 Glendale Ave., offers standard pub grub enhanced by some delicious additions, including a perch dinner and St. Louis-style barbecued ribs. A laid-back ambience during the week gives way to a livelier -- and louder -- scene on weekends. $$ 3 stars.

Prestige Restaurant, 3439 Hill Ave., does diner food right. Ample portions of comfort food are served piping hot from breakfast all the way through to supper. The restaurant features American, Mediterranean, and Italian food and specializes in breakfast. $$ 3 stars.

Cheers Sports Eatery, 7131 Orchard Centre Drive, Holland. Tucked away in a strip mall, this sports bar is full of pleasant surprises, from interesting salads to huge grinders to soft pretzels. For a real treat, try the fantastic homemade salsa, then top it off with a Texas-sized burrito. $ 3 stars

El Salto, 219 Golden Gate Plaza, Maumee, serves a wide variety of Tex-Mex fare quickly with good service. Portions are large, sometimes spicy (ask), and prices are decent, but the decor is a bit shabby. $ 3 stars.

Detroit Beach Restaurant & Pizzeria, 2630 Grand Blvd., Monroe, is a hidden little dive dishing up hearty portions of superb pasta and pizza with loads of authentic atmosphere. Tons of fresh garlic accent the sauces on the flaky, thin-crust pizza and the light-as-air gnocchi. $ 4 stars.

Mancy's Steak House, 953 Phillips Ave., has earned its stellar reputation as a Toledo institution in business nearly 90 years. Its steaks are superb, but the restaurant also delivers excellent seafood, homemade bread, and great desserts. Toss in a classy atmosphere, and this is one of the best the city has to offer. $$$ 5 stars.

New Empire Restaurant, 6540 Centers Drive, Holland, will suit lovers of such standard Chinese-American dishes as sweet and sour pork and fried rice as well as those with a taste for the more exotic. The walnut shrimp with cream and the Empire special, with scallops, lobster, and shrimp, are excellent. Dim sum, small sampler plates of interesting items, is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $$ 4 stars.

Big'z Bar and Grill, 2600 West Sylvania Ave. Bigger is better at this gleaming sports bar, where an endless array of televisions promises to entertain diners, and giant containers are waiting to be filled with adult beverages. The menu offers a wide variety of bar favorites and a few unexpected twists but mostly is uninspired. $$ 3 stars.

La Fiesta, 11191 South Telegraph Rd., Erie, and 102 Tecumseh St., Dundee, Mich., does a good job serving hearty portions of the kind of Tex-Mex food we're accustomed to: enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, tamales, fajita salads, cheesy refried beans, rice, etc. $$ 3 stars.

JB's Sarnie Shoppe, 4195 Levis Commons Blvd., Perrysburg, has outdoor seating and a cosmopolitan feel. The exceptional bread, high quality meats and cheeses, and great attention to detail contribute to truly astounding sandwiches. Bruce's roast beef and the turkey avocado are worth a stop, as are the fresh, flavorful salads. $ 4 stars.

Rosie's Italian Grille, 606 McCord Rd., combines traditional Italian food such as panini, strombolis, pizza, and lasagna with more sophisticated fare. The food is uniformly excellent and it's the perfect place for a night out, a casual dinner, or a business lunch. $$ 4 stars.

Toledo's Mainstreet Bar & Grill, 141 Main St. This East Toledo eatery excels at what bars do best: greasy, tasty bar food. That means yummy fried appetizers like breaded cheese ravioli and a slew of stand-out sandwiches made with toasty ciabatta bread. $ 3 stars.

Tandoor Cuisine of India, 2247 South Reynolds Rd., has 43 delicious meat, poultry, and fish entrees and 16 that are vegetarian or vegan. Food cooked in the clay oven (tandoor) is especially recommended. $ 4 stars.

Uraku Japanese Restaurant, 1616 East Wooster St., Bowling Green, offers excellent sushi and an intimate cool interior at astonishingly low prices. The chirashi roll and lunch specials are stand-outs at this hidden little gem. $$ 4 stars.

Vino 100, 3355 Briarfield Blvd, Maumee, is a great place for a bite to eat after the theater or film. The menu is heavy on interesting appetizers, and the bar offers cocktails, craft beers, and an abundance of wine by the glass or bottle. $$ 4 stars.

Swig, 219 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg, specializes in making its own sausage and serving it with a wide array of beers. Polish sausage, kielbasa, hot Italian and fresh hot dogs lead the lineup on a menu that's fairly limited but satisfying. The vibe in Swig is laid back and fun, with a great wait staff, making it a nice gathering place with friends. $ 3 stars.

Uncle John's, 3131 Secor Rd., in the Westgate area, has built its reputation on its morning menu, including a wide selection of omelets -- the popular Greek chicken omelet being a standout -- as well as pancakes, delicious bacon, and other morning staples. But the flip side of the menu reveals a full slate of sandwiches, burgers, and a Friday night all-you-can-eat fish fry dinner that's worth a trip. $ 3 stars.

Skillet Delights Cafe, 1007 South McCord Rd., Holland. The menu boasts breakfast all day, but there's much more to crow about. How about heaping helpings of comfort food that will put a smile on your face and ingredients such as avocados and artichokes that allow some real creativity if you want it. $$ 3 stars.

Masala Cuisine of India, 1855 South Reynolds Rd., Toledo, is the newest and possibly least expensive of restaurants that spring from the great subcontinent. Lots of vegetarian fare as well as chicken, lamb, and shrimp. Decor is simple but pleasant. If your taste receptors are heat-averse, order dishes without spice. $ 4 stars.

Domo Restaurant, 1208 North Reynolds Rd., offers a wide variety from steaks to Japanese and Korean specialties, but sushi is the star of the menu. Novices will appreciate the beginners' sushi. Lunch service is a good value with bento boxes featuring excellent sweet marinated beef and light crunchy potato korokke. $$ 3 stars.

Jim Shull's Rib Cage, 144 Chesterfield Lane, Maumee, is an unpretentious, inviting neighborhood cafe that serves outstanding ribs and deep-fried lake perch. Other entrees, such as the beef stroganoff and the veal marsala, are perfectly adequate but not memorable. Service is outstanding. $$ 3 stars.

Dale's Bar and Grill, 322 Conant St., Maumee, keeps its focus strictly on good, solid bar food, which it does quite well. The menu emphasizes sandwiches, soups, and plenty of appetizer choices. It's the kind of place you can get a grilled bologna sandwich and a big pile of onion rings and settle in to watch your favorite team on one of the big-screen TVs. $$ 3 stars.



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