Eating Local: A Digital Sampler

Looking for a good, local meal? One of Midstory’s High School ThinkLab students spent her summer visiting local restaurants, sampling their fare and delving into their stories. As Toledo has grown and diversified, so too has its food and restaurants—a sure sign of progress. Because, hey, Midwestern food isn’t all casseroles (although who doesn’t love a good casserole now and then?). Jenine Ball was a participant in Midstory's 2019 High School ThinkLab program.

Graphic by Logan Sander for Midstory.

If you’ve grown up here, you’ve probably heard at some point that Toledo has the most restaurants per capita. While that’s not exactly true, the Glass City is well known for its abundance of restaurants and, as of late, its growing diversity of options. While mass manufacturing and increasingly convenient shipping and trade moved stores and restaurants away from local food in the late twentieth century, recent trends have emphasized supporting local restaurants and local foods—and Toledo’s no exception, with the Downtown area and suburbs like Sylvania, Maumee and Perrysburg seeing new local restaurants opening up and old ones regaining momentum. 

With modern life often supporting convenience over sustainability, supporting local businesses is more crucial than ever in making a city thrive. It not only supports friends, family and neighbors, but also keeps dollars within our city’s economy. Next time you feel like getting fast food, check out the local restaurant down the street. And that’s exactly what I did. While there are many more local restaurants than I could sample in such a short time, these five meals left me with a satisfied stomach and an impression of authenticity, originality and true Midwestern spirit. 

Fowl and Fodder
Fowl and Fodder specializes in the “farm to table” concept: their products come from local bakeries, farms and businesses.

“Anything can happen in Toledo. We’re small enough to have a small town feel, but big enough where you can do anything, and if you do it well, it’ll be successful and there’s a chance that no one else is doing it,” said owner Scott Bowman.

The most popular item is their Chicken and Waffles, which has been made into shirts and signs after overwhelmingly positive feedback of the sweet-and-salty dish. 

By Jenine Ball for Midstory.

Dish: Chicken and Waffles 
Ingredients: Almond crusted chicken, local maple syrup, jalapeno hot sauce, and gravy served on a fresh waffle 
Price*: $13 (Add an egg for $1)
Restaurant Location: Fowl and Fodder | 614 Adams St. | Toledo, OH 43604 OR Fowl and Fodder | 7408 Central Ave | Toledo, OH 43617 (the latter is doing takeout during quarantine!)
Check out their new restaurant, Odd Fodder, as well!

Grumpy’s
Located on 34 South Huron Street, Grumpy’s has been serving the Toledo community since 1984. An important part of the Grumpy’s tradition is family. 

“My grandmother Connie felt there was a lack of food choices downtown and decided to do something about it,” said Maggie Bauman, Chief Food Truck Operator. “Family means everything. There is no better feeling than working to support ourselves.”

The restaurant’s most popular dish is the Garbage Salad—essentially anything you could think of in a salad is in it. While the restaurant is traditional mom ‘n pop, they’ve adapted quickly to contemporary life, offering an extensive vegan menu (the salad can be made vegan, too!).

By Jenine Ball for Midstory.

Dish: Garbage Salad
Ingredients: Mixed greens, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, raisins, grilled chicken, provolone, parmesan, mozzarella and feta cheese tossed in poppy seed dressing, topped with croutons and bacon bits 
Price: Mini $8, Full $13 
Restaurant Location: Grumpy’s | 34 S Huron St. | Toledo, OH 43604

Tony Packo’s
Tony Packo’s, the hot dog chain made famous by Jamie Farr in the television show, M*A*S*H, has been the center of nationally-known local restaurants in Toledo. Since 1932, Packo’s has been serving their Hungarian hot dog along with many other popular items, like the cherry strudel. 

Our food is the root of everything Packo’s!  Our authentic Hungarian dishes are what make us stand out. There is nothing else like a Packo’s Hot Dog. Our culture has been shaped, but we continue to evolve,”  said Lindsey Bond, Senior Director of Recruitment, Training and Marketing.

Packo’s at the Park is located directly across the street from Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens. On a summer night, this chili dog and a good ol’ ball game go hand in hand.

By Jenine Ball for Midstory.

Dish: Packo’s Original Hot Dog 
Ingredients: Hungarian dog with a freshly toasted bun, mustard, onions and hot dog sauce
Price: $3.39 (Add shredded cheese for 59¢)
Restaurant Location: Packo’s at the Park | 7 South Superior St. | Toledo, OH 43604

The Beirut
Since 1977, the Beirut has been serving authentic Lebanese and Italian dishes to the city of Toledo. Started by Labib Hajjar and Riad Abou-Arraj, the restaurant was started with the mission to make this space a “home away from home.” 

“Hospitality starts even before customers walk in,” said Hajjar. Iit’s how the community sees you and how you present yourself to those who take the time to come in and eat.” 

The most popular menu items are a wide variety of small dishes, including fatoosh, grape leaves, tabouli, hummus and khubz. As for an entree, Hajjar suggests going for the Shish Kabob (steak) or Shish Tawook (chicken) served on a plate of rice and steak fries. 

By Jenine Ball for Midstory.

Dish: Shish Kabob and Side Dishes 
Ingredients: Fatoosh (mixed vegetables, baked khubz, and sumac dressing), Tabouli (finely-chopped parsley, mint, and tomatoes), Grape Leaves (stuffed with meat and rice), Hummus, Shish Kabob (tenderloin skewers with green peppers, onions, on rice, served with fries) 
Price: Fatoosh $7.75, Tabouli $7.25, Grape Leaves $9.00 (½ order), Hummus $7.25, Shish Kabob $16.00 (½ order)
Restaurant Location: The Beirut | 4082 Monroe St. | Toledo, OH 43606

Home Slice Pizza
The Knight Family has been serving New York Style pizza since 2006, and the restaurant gets quite popular when a Mud Hens Game goes on..The three most popular pizzas include the Margherita, the Carnivore,and the Potato. I went for the Potato pizza, which was essentially potato skins on pizza dough: unique and delicious!  

By Jenine Ball for Midstory.

Dish: Potato Pizza
Ingredients: Garlic mashed potatoes, bacon and cheddar cheese served on fresh dough with a side of ranch or sour cream 
Price: $8.99 (Personal size)
Restaurant Location: Home Slice Pizza | 28 S St. Clair St. | Toledo, OH 43604

Other awesome eats we’ve covered:
Cocina de Carlos: Read for a moving history and a bilingual recipe 🌮
Michael’s Bar & Grill: Read for a granddaughter’s loving reflection and a grandfather’s story of perseverance 🍔
Food Trucks: Read for a dose of summer sunshine and thoughts about the history & future of mobile food 🚚
Boyd’s Retro Candy (Okay…not a restaurant. But, c’mon! It’s dessert.): Read for a rewind back to childhood and a palette of gum-ball pink that won’t fail to brighten your day 🍭
Rustbelt Coffee (So, again, not a restaurant, exactly, but caffeine is its own food group): Read for a Californian’s perspective on Toledo’s brewing coffee shop scene and the irony of our post-industrial aesthetic ☕
Mr. Freeze: Read for an imaginative resizing of childhood and a reminder of simpler times 🍦

*All prices and other menu details are accurate as of time of sampling. Please refer to their current menus for any updated details.

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