Georgio's Cafe International is a Toledo institution that is one of the best restaurants in downtown.
Consistent excellence is difficult to pull off, especially in a business plagued by so many variables: staffing issues, the volatility of food prices, and the fickle nature of customers. Add to the challenge the stubborn refusal of so many Toledo-area suburbanites to take a trip downtown even though it's a short drive away.
But Georgio's on North Superior Street is just three years short of its 30th birthday and the quality of its entrees and the efficient, friendly professionalism of the staff never wavers. That is a testament to the Kamilaris family, notably chef George Kamilaris, co-owner Chris Kamilaris, and various relatives for whom the quality of Georgio's meals is taken personally.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Address: 426 N. Superior St.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch Monday through Friday; 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. for dinner Monday through Thursday; 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. for dinner Saturday. Bar opens at 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Reservations are accepted.
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Average Price: $$$$
Credit Cards: AE, Dis, MC, V.
Web site: www.georgiostoledo. com
Sauces rule here and whether it's a champagne dill, a red wine marsala, or a lemon butter garlic, all are expertly paired with the proper dish and in exact proportions, so the effect is complementary rather than overwhelming.
Fresh seafood served at market prices is a significant component of Georgio's and we are always impressed with the presentation of the scallops ($14), which are large and tender. It should be noted that for the purpose of this review, all of our visits were for lunch. But over the years we've dined there in the evening numerous times and the dinner and lunch menus generally mirror one another, with additions such as beef tournedos ($29), veal chop ($32), and lamb chops ($28) for dinner.
Dinner prices generally are in the $19 to $32 range while lunches hover around $14.
The beef stroganoff ($14) was exceptional, succulent sirloin tips served in a redolent sauce over noodles. It was comfort food, no doubt, but your mom would be hard pressed to come up with something as good as this five-star version.
Equally remarkable was the pork tenderloin ($14), which came with a red wine marsala sauce that had subtle hints of Mediterranean flavorings, and a Norwegian salmon ($14) served with the champagne dill sauce. Soft-shell crab ($20) was a bit salty, but still a treat.
All of the meals came with rice and steamed vegetables that were expertly prepared.
We tried the chicken gumbo soup ($2.50), which had a serious spicy kick -- black pepper, perhaps some cayenne pepper -- that is not for the faint hearted. When we commented on its intensity to the waiter she offered to replace it with another starter, which was a nice gesture but unnecessary for our purposes.
We also were seriously impressed by the French onion soup ($2.50), which had everything you would expect -- thick melted swiss cheese, soaked bread crumbs and of course the broth -- working in concert with one another.
Georgio's staff makes all of its desserts and if you are an aficionado of tiramisu be sure to ask before you get your hopes up because it is not always available, which we learned during one of our visits.
But not to worry: the authentic New York-style cheesecake ($3) and lemon mousse layer cake ($3) are worthy dessert selections. The restaurant is too classy to slather its cheesecake in syrupy toppings, but a few fresh, sliced strawberries on the side were a nice touch. And the lemon mousse cake allowed the flavor of the fruit to work as an accent to the light, airy frosting and cake rather than as a cloying show-stopper.
One of the great qualities of Georgio's is its ambiance. The restaurant is dark without being gloomy and generally there are regulars and family members in the bar area who say hello when you walk in and goodbye when you leave. The restaurant is usually bustling with the business crowd and folks who are looking for an upscale lunch beyond sandwiches and chips, which contributes to the sophisticated atmosphere.
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org.