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It's hard to believe we reviewed 54 restaurants in 2013, but all we need to do is look at the extra notch in our belts to know that, yes, it's true.
Looking back, it's easy to see we've welcomed some new and exciting lunch and dinner options to the Toledo area, and we've seen some doors close.
The five-star highlights included downtown Toledo standby Georgio's Cafe International and newcomers Element 112 in Sylvania and 5th Street Pub in Perrysburg.
Here's hoping 2014 is just as tantalizing. Our tastebuds await.
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● Social, 25818 Dixie Hwy., offers a laid-back atmosphere with wallet-friendly prices, not to mention some of the best food in Perrysburg. The menu changes often, but if you happen to see the bacon-wrapped meatloaf or short rib beef stroganoff on it, don't pass them up. Craft beers and sipping bourbons are also a specialty. $$-$$$. 4 stars.
● Zingo's Mediterranean, 106 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg, adds a trendy touch to traditional Lebanese food and it works extremely well. The shish kebab is exceptional, along with the Mediterranean junk salad and don't hesitate to start your meal with an appetizer sampler or the homemade chicken rice soup with lemon. $$-$$$. 3 stars.
● The Briarfield Cafe, 3220 Briarfield Blvd., Maumee, serves comfort food in a comfy environment and with excellent service. Business is steady most days, with breakfast and all-you-can-eat specials drawing large crowds. We enjoyed the cinnamon swirl french toast and fish dinner. $-$$ 3 stars.
● Bloudan Mediterranean Cuisine, 7430 W. Central Ave., Sylvania Twp., with its airy, contemporary decor and full bar, has a menu with many of the Middle Eastern dishes Americans have come to enjoy. Marinated, grilled, and skewered lamb, chicken, beef tenderloin, and ground beef, are mainstays, along with salads, several nice sauces, grape leaves, and thin and thick pita bread. The simple lentil soup (vegan) is great and there’s a ton of feta cheese on the Greek salad. $$ 3 stars.
● Ye Olde Durty Bird, 2 S. St. Clair St., has some of the best "bar food" in Toledo's Warehouse District. The gastroopub has plenty of burgers, sandwiches, and wraps to choose from, but you can't go wrong with the Durty Burger with the house-made sauce or the Cuban sandwich with pulled pork. Calamari fries and onions rings are other can't-miss selections. The bar has a roomy, fun atmosphere and a free parking lot. $$ 3 stars.
● Restaurant Pacific, 7629 Sylvania Ave., has been under new ownership for about a year. Gone is the emphasis on Pan-Asian food and in its place is a more traditional Chinese food menu that focuses on standards such as cashew chicken, Szechuan beef, and various seafood dishes. $$ 2 stars.
● Saba’s Bistro 1705 at 1705 Tollgate Dr., Maumee, is a hidden gem with lots of standouts. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food and service offered at the restaurant, which doubles as room service for the Holiday Inn hotel in Maumee. $-$$$ 3 stars.
● PerrysBurgers, 220 Louisiana Ave., is burger shop in downtown Perrysburg that has a friendly atmosphere with plenty of toppings to choose from for your burger, plus "never-ending" fries. $$ 2 stars.
● American Table Family Restaurant, 580 Craig Dr., Perrysburg (and Fostoria are operated by the original owners) and three other attractive locations run by family and friends, sets a standard in its category. Soups and many other dishes and sauces are homemade and nicely prepared. Breakfast is served all day, and there’s a smattering of Greek and Italian foods. Open seven days. $ 4 stars.
● Cocina de Carlos, 27072 Carronade Dr., Perrysburg, touts the fact that all its ingredients are fresh — no frozen meat, nothing from cans — and all its recipes are homemade. This commitment pays off in a restaurant that custom-makes meals to account for your tolerance of spiciness and in fantastic dishes like the Don Charly (a half of a pineapple filled with meat, fruit, and cheese), and the mijas burrito. $$. 4 stars
● Glendale Garden Cafe, $-$$ 3 stars. 2521 Glendale Ave. The small cafe with big business serves decent food at decent prices. The lengthy menu boasts over a dozen breakfast omelets, along with lunch and dinner options. The house specialties are worth a try. We enjoyed the smothered fire chicken ($9.95) and the bacon and cheese omelet ($6.50).
● Korea Na Restaurant Sushi Bar and Lounge, 1423 Bernath Parkway, is an elegant step up for the Kims; she a talented chef, he a gracious host/manager. They’ve moved from Reynolds Road to the former Fifi’s Reprise and added sushi (loved the Dynamite Roll and The Vermonter). Ribs marinated in fruit sauce are scrumptious. So is dolsot bibim bap, a hot stone bowl sizzling with veggie/rice/protein and a fried egg on top. Lunch, served with five sides in a bento box, is an especially good value. $ - $$$ 4 stars.
● Mancy's Bluewater Grille, 461, Dussel Dr., Maumee, has everything you need for a business lunch to a more formal occasion such as a wedding anniversary. Fresh offerings such as oysters, crab cakes, and clam chowder set the stage for main dishes like maple bourbon salmon and Bluewater bouillabaisse. $$$ 4 stars
●The Roadhouse, 11535 W. Central Ave,, keeps it simple with a menu stocked with steak, burgers, fries, chicken, and bar food. Stick to the homemade items like the chili, chicken rice soup, and the big, fresh half-pound hamburgers. Tuesday night's Mexican menu is worth checking out. $ 3 stars
● Real Seafood Co., 22 Main St. A long time staple at the Docks, Real Seafood serves up some of the freshest seafood in town in a elegantly chic environment. Our favorites included the stuffed Atlantic salmon ($25.95) at dinner and the shrimp wrap ($10.95) for lunch. Side dishes include standard potatoes and vegetables and are sometimes inconsistent. $$ to $$$$ 3 stars
● Mama LaScola’s Italian Kitchen, 6060 Renaissance Pl. (off Holland-Sylvania Rd. north of Sylvania Rd.), is the newest of the LaScola group of restaurants. In a strip mall, its large, tasteful room black-and-white checkered tablecloths and Tiffany-style glass lamp shades. It has a large wine list, crisp Italian beers, and a vast menu, ranging from classic Italian and pizzas to sandwiches. Avoid the steaks. $$ to $$$ 3 stars
● Flame Asian Tapas Bar & Grill, 27250 Crossroads Pkwy., Rossford, has an impressive selection of main-course entrees as well as smaller-portion tapas. We were impressed with several dishes, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden dragon, House Special Spicy Noodles, Shrimp Purse, and Bangkok You So Hot wings. We weren't so enamored with others, such as Chili-Peppered Sfoft-Shell Crab, pineapple chicken, Ahi tuna salad, or the Mochi Flower ice cream. $$ 3 stars.
●Stella’s Restaurant & Bar, 104 Louisiana Ave., is located in a beautiful historic building in the heart of Perrysburg. The restaurant offers a nouveau cusine twist on comfort food. Make sure you try the excellent clam chowder, grilled ribeye cap steak appetizer, and the steak for dinner. We also were fans of the chicken maui lunch sandwich, the mushroom soup, and gazpacho. $$$ 3 stars.
●Reynolds Garden Cafe, 1220 S. Reynolds Rd. This place may have limited hours (it's only open for breakfast and lunch), but it's big on variety. With 20 breakfast omelettes, 20 lunch sandwiches, and many other options, you're sure to find something you'll enjoy at RGC. We particularly enjoyed the smothered chicken omelette ($7.50). Portions are large enough to share, for many of the restaurants meals. $ 3 stars.
● Del Sol, on the ground floor of the newly renamed Best Western Premier Grand Plaza Hotel & Convention Center, 444 N. Summit St., has a breakfast buffet (until 10:30 a.m.) and a lunch buffet (until 1:30 p.m.) with a theme that changes daily. Dinner and lunch share a basic menu with a few sandwiches, pizza, and meat/chicken entrees. Food is well prepared (steaks and pork chops are great) and veggies are top notch. It is tastefully decorated, has great river views, and is likely to be sparsely attended. We’re told a new menu is coming. $$ - $$$ 3 stars.
● Nick & Nino's Coal Fired Pizza & Sports Bar, 391 N. Telegraph Rd., Monroe, is a fun place to grab a pizza — with more than 15 to choose from — and a beer. You can see the pizza makers do their thing in the back of the restaurant, stretching dough and tossing pies. The menu has at least 80 items, so you are bound to find something you like. The ribs and recommended, as well as the never-frozen wings. $$ 3 stars.
● Sundown Cantina, 5680 Mayberry Square North, Sylvania, serves Mexican food with flair. Unique stylistic pairings such as Mexican eggrolls and pot pies sit next to traditional fare like fajitas, enchiladas, and tacos. The family-friendly restaurant isn't afraid to give its food a bit of spicy zing. $$. 3 stars.
● Epic Buffet at Hollywood Casino Toledo,1969 Miami St., is a winning bet, with a wide variety of dishes ranging from good to excellent. There’s Italian and Southern, Asian and meaty, soups and salads, and terrific desserts (don’t miss the bread pudding and creme brulee). Nearly everything is made in the kitchen. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when people 55 and older who have a Marquee Reward card receive a steep discount, there are long waits for lunch ($$), less so for dinner ($$$). 4 stars.
● Eddie Lee’s, 4700 Nantuckett Dr., is most known for its steaks and seafood, has a rich history, evident by the crowds of loyal customers who pour in and out of the restaurant. The entrees were tasty and the service, even better. Eddie Lee's has an old school flair about it, which its customers seem to enjoy. $$ 3 Stars
● Mister Spots, 206 N. Main St., Bowling Green, is a close as it comes in Ohio to authentic Philadelphia Cheese Steaks. The venerable sandwich shop, which is open daily until 2:30 a.m., is also known for its wings. $ 3 stars.
● Georgio’s Cafe International, 426 N. Superior St., is inarguably one of Toledo's best restaurants thanks to its consistency and high standards for fine dining. Fresh seafood offerings are presented daily and often featured with the restaurant's signature sauces. Make sure you save room for the homemade desserts and excellent chicken gumbo or French onion soups. $$$$ 5 stars.
●Irish Eyes Heavenly Pub NOW CLOSED*,, 3324 Secor Rd., is a large, open bar with homemade food that’s mostly off the fried/grilled grid, save for burgers and sandwiches. Lamb stew, fish and chips, and sheppards pie are stand outs as are chocolate potato cake and Irish bread-and-butter pudding. Lunch/dinner menu is the same and all meals are $9 or less. $$ 3 stars.
● Toledo Museum Cafe, 2445 Monroe St. Tucked in the museum just inside the Grove Place entrance, the museum's cafe features creative pairings that reward diners who have a sense of adventure. The menu is fairly limited but there are a few masterpieces. The salmon BLT is fantastic and the market salad is an addictive combination of flavors and textures. Plus, you get to visit a great museum on your lunch break. $$ 3 stars.
● Degage Express, 301 River Rd., Maumee. The lunch version of Degage Jazz Cafe features an expansive menu, laid-back ambiance and intriguing choices. The offerings are heavy on soups and salads, but the servings are large and the restaurant's emphasis on fresh ingredients is evident. We loved the homemade kettle chips, Degage's superb take on chicken salad, and its winning approach to a basic pulled pork sandwich. $$$ 3 stars.
● 5th Street Pub, 105 W. Fifth St., Perrysburg, cites that it is Ohio’s only certified Neapolitan pizzeria and that is good news for northwest Ohio residents. The pub, located near the city’s historic downtown, houses a handmade brick oven imported from Italy, and it is used to make some of the freshest pizzas around. Priced from $9 to $16, the pizzas are sure to attract gourmet food lovers as well as pizza enthusiasts. $$ 5 stars.
● Forrester’s on the River, at The Docks (26 Main St. in the former Navy Bistro), open since late 2012, has a long patio with superb river views of downtown and the setting sun. A sandwich menu for lunch ($5 to $12) covers the basics. Dinner emphasizes steaks ($23 to $33 - the rib-eye oozed with flavor), and six other entrees are $9 to $15. There are a few delights on the menu, including some vegetarian fare. Things weren’t perfect from the kitchen or the service side, but the place is young and the owners know the business. $$ 3 stars.
● DiBenedetto’s Italian Bistro, 121 S. Main St., Bowling Green, is a charming family-owned restaurant that belies its college town surroundings. Highly recommended is the gamberi con aglio featuring fettucine, shrimp, and bacon in a garlic cream sauce. We can also vouch for the seafood dishes, the gnocchi, and the delicious shrimp scampi. $$$ 3 stars.
● 31 Hundred, 3100 Glendale Ave., despite all the changes the hotel has undergone, 31 Hundred, the restaurant inside the Hotel at UTMC hasn't wavered from serving quality dishes. Our favorites included the black pearl pork chop ($22) and the roasted wild salmon ($20). The ghost town atmosphere makes for a lonely dining experience. $$ 3 stars.
● Gradkowski's, 1440 Secor Rd., is a new restaurant on the campus of the University of Toledo that will be a draw for non-student dollars for some time to come. The establishment, owned by former UT football star Bruce Gradkowski, boasts a classy atmosphere and several unusual menu items such as scallop and bacon pizza, maple-glazed donut, fried lasagna, and a $20 burger. $$ 4 stars.
● Tasty Thai, 1515 S. Byrne Rd., offers those same qualities you love about your favorite Chinese place, but with a kick of heat and a touch of exotic flavors. Recommended dishes include the Tom kha soup and the seafood clay pot. You'll fill your belly here without breaking the bank. $$ 4 stars.
● Miss Lily’s, 24174 Front St., Grand Rapids, cooks delicious vittles (a la the Grandma we dream of), breakfast all day, and emphasizes local food. Mom and Pop do it right at this worth-the-drive cafe in a charming river village. Soups, pies, barbeque, sandwiches, and pastas are scrumptious and reasonable value. Open for breakfast and lunch Sun.-Weds.; dinner is served Thurs.-Sun. $$ 4 stars.
● Sidelines Maumee, 1430 Holland Rd., Maumee, The fourth in a chain of locally owned sports bars, Sidelines Maumee offers typical bar food in a lively atmosphere. Appetizers, including the garbage fries ($7.99) and fowl bowls ($7.99) were the standouts during our meals. Weekly specials attract crowds most week nights. Service was sketchy and our waitresses weren't very familiar with menu items. $$ 2 stars.
● The Village Inn, 4984 Holland Sylvania Rd., Sylvania, is a neighborhood institution that features basic bar food, a low-key environment, and bands on the weekends. The food is solid, and if you're a fan of big hearty burgers, calzones, and po boys washed down with a cold beverage, this is your kind of place. It's nothing fancy, but it works. $$ 3 stars.
● QQ Kitchen, 3324 Secor Rd., delivers on its promise of authentic Asian cuisine. Korean-inspired bulgogi, General Tsao chicken, hot and sour soup are among the many can't-miss menu items that are cooked right in front of you. There are only five tables and a counter, but QQ Kitchen is great for takeout orders, and it also delivers. $ 4 stars.
● The London Chop House, 155 W. Congress in the heart of downtown Detroit, opened in 2012 after being shuttered for 21 years. It’s been returned to its former glory as a dimly lit, masculine den with a 1950s supper-club feel, where rich food (excellent aged steaks and seafood, terrific desserts, a vast wine menu, and top-shelf cocktails) is created. Live entertainment begins at 6 p.m. Figure about $30 for lunch and $60 for dinner; more with alcohol. Note: It is not wheelchair accessible. $$$$ 4 stars.
● The Bistro at Maumee Wines, 2556 Parkway Plaza, Maumee, is an upscale restaurant that isn't afraid to bring some complexity to its signature dishes. Tucked in the back of a wine shop, the establishment offers classy dining and a menu that changes with the seasons. We were impressed by the tuna piccata and duck and mushrooms madeira, rich, savory choices that were worth raving about. Make sure you ask about the house-made desserts as well. $$$$ 4 stars.
●Fat Fish Blue, 6140 Levis Commons Blvd., Perrysburg. Now in it's fifth year, Fat Fish Blue in Perrysburg has proved it has staying power. The restaurant serves up Creole cuisine in a fun atmosphere and prices are reasonable. The big pot creations, big daddy's gumbo ($5.59 small) and the mumbo jambalaya ($5.59 small), aren't truly New Orleans style, but are still good. The less complicated choices were the real winners during our meals. We loved Sister Mofo's mac n cheese ($2.99 as a side) and the sweet potato fries were a welcomed change. $$-$$$ 3 stars.
● Tea Tree Asian Bistro, $$$ 3 stars.4100 Chappel Dr., is a high class restaurant that seems to have lost its edge. Average wok-prepared dishes and superb sushi established a hit-and-miss pattern of food. Satisfactory fare, a few top notch dishes, and elegant décor, although much appreciated, do not justify the extravagant price tags. Still an enjoyable experience and not to be pushed aside, the menu at Tea Tree is broad and offers an excellent and tantalizing array of choices.
● Chuck’s on Monroe, 4477 Monroe St., has a homey neighborhood feel and serves some not-so-ordinary bar-food selections to sample while you’re hanging out and watching the big game with your friends. The 50/50 burger, grilled chicken wrap, chicken quesadilla, chicken skewers, and mac and cheese are some of our favorites. $ 3 stars.
● Te’kela Mexican Cocina y Cantina, 25481 N. Dixie Hwy., Perrysburg (in the former Maggie’s Family Restaurant), gives Tex-Mex an upscale spin. Steak, chicken, shrimp, and fish are grilled or sauteed. Everything we tried was good to very good, but some dishes (chili rellenos), have a real kick so if you don’t like the burn, ask your server. The bar carries dozens of tequilas, and a 3 to 6 p.m. daily happy hour sells half-price alcohol and appetizers. The place is packed and loud on Friday and Saturday nights. $$ 3 stars.
● Balance Pan-Asian Grille, 5860 W. Central Ave., features inexpensive, high-quality Asian food served fast and with a minimum of fuss. The menu is relatively simple, but it’s flexible with a range of protein, starch, and sauce choices along with a variety of specials, including Ramen noodles, shrimp tacos, and a vegan taco. The BangBang Balls are highly recommended. $ 4 stars.
● Element 112, 5735 Main St., Sylvania, instantly became one of the finest fine-dining destinations in town, and the only one even attempting truly modern cuisine. The small and ever-changing menu features the freshest ingredients cooked in reimagined ways. Expect clever amuse bouches, magnificent appetizers, exceptional bread pudding, impeccable service, and entrees that routinely achieve perfection. $$$$ 5 stars.
● Scrubs Pub and Grub, NOW CLOSED*, 3312 Glendale Ave., is suffering from some sort of identity crisis. With options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and a somewhat extensive kids’ menu, Scrubs takes on the feel of a family-friendly neighborhood diner. Its location makes it convenient for a quick lunch, but the full bar, televisions, weeknight and happy-hour specials give it a sports bar feel. The food is well above average. The gyro, Scrubs Hamwich ($6.99 each), and fries were all standouts during our visits. While Scrubs has the food side of the business all figured out, service is subpar. $-$$ 3 stars.
● Ye Olde Cock n’ Bull, 9 N. Huron St., doesn’t have any deep-fried ‘bar food’, but it does have a pizza for every palate, vegetarian options, daily specials, wraps, and appetizer dips. A baseball-themed interior and ideal patio are great for its location: directly across the street from the home plate entrance of Fifth Third Field. Oh, and there are 34 beers on tap, most of them craft, and lots of entertainment. $$ 3 stars.
● Paddy Jack's, 6725 W. Central Ave., is a bar-food paradise offering an impressive selection of beers and specializing in the most comforting of comfort foods: grilled cheese. Sandwiches can be customized with a variety of toppings, cheeses and breads. Although there are salad options on the menu, spring for the greasier fare. Stop in for dinner or take food home after a night out at the bar. $$ 3 stars.
● Bayshore Supper Club, 5307 Bayshore Rd., Oregon, is a 1970s throwback in decor and menu. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it features lake catches, seafood, and steaks, mostly unremarkable. There is a little view of an inlet on the bay at the end of a long gravel parking lot. $$ 2 stars.
● Papa G’s Pizza ‘n Grill, 5127 S. Main St., in Sylvania features homemade Greek and Italian dishes, along with an array of pizzas. It’s a family-friendly place with an emphasis on quality over showmanship and we recommend the lasagna, spinach pie, and lemon chicken soup. Desserts such as loukoumathes and apple cake are superb. $$ 3 stars.
● Great Lakes Eatery and Pub in Dundee, Mich. does a nice job of showcasing some of the state’s greatest assets. Everything from the Mackinac Bridge to the state’s connection to the Great Lakes and dozens of lighthouses across the state, gets a shout-out at the restaurant. The menu boasts a variety of traditional staples with few twists and a sandwich menu with five picks named after all of the five Great Lakes. Drawbacks include a non-existing dessert menu and limited side dishes, which include potatoes, potatoes, and more potatoes. $$ 2 stars.