Menu is small, but diverse, with only 10 mainstays, a few side dishes.
At the Adams Street Cafe in Toledo, the versatile vegetable and the mighty piece of meat are treated with equal adoration.
The new cafe’s menu is a balancing act between vegetarian or vegan dishes, and carnivorous helpings of smoked meat entrees and sandwiches, served up to a downtown clientele hungry for something different for lunch.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Address: 608 Adams St., downtown Toledo
Phone: 419- 214-1819
Menu: New American
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Fridays
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average price: $$
Credit cards: MC, V, D, AE
Ratings: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Outstanding; ★ ★ ★ ★ Very Good; ★ ★ ★ Good; ★ ★ Fair; ★ Poor
Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants.
The Blade pays for critics’ meals.
The restaurant is the brainchild of owner John Kerstetter, a former head chef of Stella’s in Perrysburg, who opened the Adams Street eatery in October in the space formerly occupied by Ranya’s Mediterranean. Kerstetter’s menu is small, but diverse, with only 10 mainstays and a few side dishes, but both a vegan and a meat-focused special are offered weekly to keep regulars (too soon?) coming back.
MENU: Adams Street Cafe
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He notes on the cafe’s Facebook page that the meats served at Adams Street Cafe are smoked daily. But word to the vegetable lover: Don’t be distracted by the signs in the shape of a pig on the windows; you, too, are welcome here with your meat-faring co-workers. A vegetarian companion who visited the restaurant with me recently was happy to have a choice among three vegetarian entrees that day, as well as a tomato basil soup and three vegetarian side dishes.
She ultimately chose the nine-vegetable salad ($8), a massive portion with a myriad vegetable favorites: red pepper, cauliflower, broccoli, large slices of carrots, and more. Raw almonds sprinkled throughout the greens were a bonus. The dressing was applied lightly, leaving the vegetables fluffy and fresh, and my friend was more than satisfied. She took a helping home.
This same friend and I decided we couldn’t pass up the vegan special that week, a bowl of sauteed brussels sprouts served in a sweet chili sauce with slivers of red pepper, and heaped over a bed of basmati rice ($8). It was a delicacy even for a carnivore.
I gave the cup of tomato basil soup ($4 cup, $6 bowl) a whirl, and it was chunky and warm, with a fresh basil kick. A nice slice of sourdough bread completed the journey.
Being a carnivore of the highest order, I chose the smoked turkey salad ($9) for my lunch, and was pleased with the fresh greens, asparagus, and smoky meat chunks, complemented by bacon, sharp cheddar, and a homespun buttermilk dressing.
One of my companions ordered a cup of the brisket chili ($4, $6 bowl) which he found rich in smoky flavor and studded with small chunks of beef, lamenting only the fact that it was served lukewarm rather than hot.
He had better luck with the smoked pork tacos ($8), a trio of expertly prepared tortillas filled with shredded meat, corn, pico de gallo, cabbage, and queso fresco. This entree was more than filling, but lacked even a hint of spiciness. The staff was quick to remedy this by offering a trio of hot sauces.
On a second visit — a Friday — the cafe was packed. Everyone is getting the memo, apparently.
I dove into the short rib poutine ($8), proclaimed a popular choice by our server. It came out piping hot and almost all components were as they should be; the fries were crispy, the gravy was warm and salty and the meat was tender. The only complaint would be the egg; it just wasn’t runny enough for my liking.
The pulled pork sandwich ($10), one of the weekly specials, featured a mountain of shredded pork and flavorful barbecue sauce, with a hearty bun that easily held up to its toppings. A thick slice of bacon added a bit of crunch.
My friend paired it with one of the sides on the menu, red slaw with kale ($3). It featured just enough dressing that the strips of purple cabbage, kale, and ribbons of carrots maintained their crunch. One minor complaint is that the salad was light on the kale, a misstep considering the leafy green was included in the dish's name.
The chef’s pastrami on rye ($10) got mixed reviews. One dining companion said he envisioned mouthwatering mounds of juicy, fatty, delicious meat piled between bread, and while he was not disappointed in his meal, he decided it wouldn’t threaten any veteran deli-masters who have been serving the cured meat in town for years.
The inside of the restaurant was very chic with flannel tablecloths (ours was black, pink, and white the first time, and adorned with blue, red and cream flowers on the second visit) and eclectic serving dishes reminiscent of a meal at grandma’s. The servers were casual, fun and attentive on both visits.
Currently, the cafe is only open for lunch. I understand chef/owner Kerstetter might be expanding into the breakfast and/or dinner hours, and I’ll make the prediction now that the downtown community will welcome such a move with open arms.
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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