The newest restaurateurs at The Docks complex in East Toledo say they want to create the kind of place where businessmen in suits can sip drinks at the bar and feel just as comfortable as boaters who come in for dinner wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
“I want it to be laid back but also have that classy feel,” Jonathan McQueary said Monday before diving into preparation for the New Year’s Eve rush.
Mr. McQueary is the manager of Forrester’s on the River, the steakhouse-style dining restaurant that occupies the spot that was once Toledo’s Navy Bistro and most recently Admiral's American Grill. He’s the son in a father-son team running the restaurant. His father, John McQueary, bought the space at auction for $198,000 in November after the previous operators walked away from the riverside restaurant.
Forrester’s opened for friends and family on Dec. 18 and eased into the Christmas season, electing to close on Christmas Eve so staff could be home with their families. They’re still putting the final details in place, but the restaurant has been operating on its regular hours since Wednesday.
The McQuearys are both veterans of the restaurant industry. John McQueary has been in the business for 25 years, managing locations in corporate chains and running his own restaurants in the Toledo area. Previously, he had the Briarfield Cafe in Maumee and the now-closed Golden Jade in Oregon.
Forrester’s is currently his sole focus. Jonathan McQueary has been in food service the last eight years, starting as a server and working up the corporate chain with Olive Garden. He recently managed two bars in the Columbus area and has moved back to Toledo to manage Forrester’s.
“It’s just a beautiful, beautiful property,” he said. “It’s a shame the last guys didn’t work out, but we’re looking at being here long term.”
The name of the restaurant has a family connection. Forrester is Jonathan McQueary's middle name. Forrester’s keeps the nautical theme — it is on the water, after all — and much of the ambiance that the eatery had when it was Tom Cousino’s Navy Bistro.
They’ve uncluttered the bar area, removing sports attire and some of the televisions that were added when it was Admiral’s American Grill. Mr. McQueary said they’re going for a more laid-back lounge-style bar reminiscent of what Mr. Cousino had. “We have a great opportunity. We’re excited to be here, to bring back the life they had. They had something great going on here and that’s what we’re looking for too,” he said.
Their menu features steaks, seafood dishes, chicken, and vegetarian fare. The owners said two diners could have an appetizer, a glass of wine, and dinner for less than $50. Chef Brian Joyce, a Toledo native, was brought in to run the kitchen.
The McQuearys are the second family to take on The Docks property since Navy Bistro closed in January, 2011. From April, 2011, to September, it was run by the Howard family. They partially blamed their closure on a dispute with landlord, Dashing Pacific Group Ltd., over utility lines they said were intertwined. Mr. McQueary said Monday that issue has been resolved.
Though he said things have been slower than they anticipated to start, Mr. McQueary said he and his father are banking on consistently good food and service to bring in a growing customer base.
They’re planning to reopen the wine and martini bar, where they’ll also serve small plates, and will add a barbecue grill to the patio for summer.
They’re also working to book events for the 3,000-square-foot banquet facility as well as hold some of their own, including perhaps a Valentine’s Day ball, and is toying with holding a regular weekly nightlife event that would cater toward a more mature crowd and young professionals.
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6134.