The Dorr Street Cafe has all the strengths and weaknesses of the prototypical diner.
Friendly service, a few solid menu items that reward repeat visits, and the feeling that this is an excellent place to linger after a meal over a cup of coffee to gossip, talk politics, or catch up with old friends?
A handful of bland dishes that you could make much better at home, music that occasionally blares too loud, and bathrooms that are circa 1973?
In business for 20 years and located at the corner of Dorr Street and Reynolds Road in a West Toledo strip shopping center, the diner has a steady draw of locals, with the clientele refreshingly diverse. It calls itself "Toledo's House of Reubens," which is a bit of a misnomer because there are only three types on the menu.
We sampled the southern Reuben ($8.99), which substitutes cole slaw for sauerkraut and includes a honey mustard dressing. Served on rye bread it was slightly sloppy, with the sweet cole slaw and mustard covering for the mediocre corned beef.
Better to go with the lasagna or the fried chicken, both of which were superb examples of what a place featuring home-style cooking and fresh ingredients can deliver.
The southern fried chicken ($9.99) was exceptional. Three pieces -- leg, breast, thigh -- were served piping hot with a crisp skin and very little grease. Served with homemade mashed potatoes and corn (from a can, but it worked well with this meal) the portion size was generous and it was a meal a mom would be proud of preparing.
The lasagna ($9.99) comes in a massive portion -- we got three meals out of it thanks to the left overs -- and the two big meatballs that come on the side are unnecessary but welcome. The lasagna was baked just right with no crunchy end pieces and it was heated thoroughly. The meat sauce was rich without being sweet.
Disappointments included the prime rib ($16.99/$19.99), which had a nice flavor, but was chewy and lukewarm, making it seriously overpriced. It came with a medley of frozen vegetables that were inexcusably cold.
The chicken alfredo ($12.95) had a split personality. The alfredo sauce was bland, but the chicken was grilled and fresh. Once again, the meal wasn't warm enough and the giant plate of pasta felt endless. We found ourselves picking the chicken off and leaving the noodles behind.
Desserts included cheesecake from Eli's in Chicago. We tried both the turtle version and the plain and each costs $2.99. It's a creamier cheesecake and it makes an excellent companion with a cup of coffee.
Our service was good, but quirky. A young man who was handling tables one night based all his recommendations on portion size, but he led us to the lasagna, which was an excellent pick.
On another night the young woman waiting on us was charming and helpful, but too busy and she forgot one person's coffee that was ordered before the meal.
Also, the bathrooms need a serious upgrade. The men's room is dank and smelled bad. It also looks to be next-to-impossible to reach with a wheelchair. The restaurant includes a full bar and various TV screens for watching sports.
Contact Bill of Fare at: email@example.com.
Dorr Street Cafe: **
Address: 5243 Dorr St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average Price: $$
Credit Cards: AE, Dis, MC, V
Web site: dorrstreetcafe.com