I have a love\hate relationship with my home town of Toledo, Ohio. Well, maybe not so much of a love\hate scenario but more like a "I love to hate Toledo" thing.
Toledo, the town which I am forever tethered, is where my family resides. They like it there because it is all they want. And that's fine... They're "comfy" there, but I need a little more.
I love Cincinnati. I love the access I have to the more exotic foods, and the selection of restaurants to chose from is more than ample. But, and there is always a "but", I sometimes find myself diving headfirst into a wading pool of nostalgia longing for a few of the old times.
Just recently, I tried coming up with a list of all the good things in Toledo and realized I was running very low on ideas. None the less, there are a few undeniably good places that forever changed my outlook on food and eating.
Charlie's Restaurant & Coney
Troy (AKA - Carnage) probably also looks back fondly on the days of us all piling into the Bucket and going to Charlie's in Perrysburg and in the Southwyck Mall looking for greasy burgers, gyros, chicken tenders and fries. Charlie's is basically a dumpy dive of a diner, but one of those places that NEVER lets you run out of a cup of coffee.
Calvino's is a place I often think back on when I make my own marinara or Neapolitan ragu. Calvino's is one of the few places you can go and get tomato sauce with fennel in it. They have amazingly good fresh baked bread and the atmosphere is intimate and cool. Still, the memories of driving to Calvino's in the pouring rain while listening to "Don't Fear the Reaper" probably still haunts Tom to this day.
Back around 1995, a great little coffeehouse opened up right off the campus of UT and they had one of THE best French Dip sandwiches I have ever tasted. Their coffee and desserts are so-so, but that sandwich paired with a heaping plate of perfect golden crisp french fries is to die for.
Poco Piatti serves as a compass when it comes to eating good food for me. Recently, after gushing over their grilled baby lamb chops, Kerrie asked me -point blank- why I like Poco Piatti so much. I froze for a moment and realized I had no acceptable answer except that the food is SO good. Grilled Pulpo, Kibbe Aras, Saganaki Kasseri, the aforementioned Grilled Baby Lamb Chops, sangria, and the list goes on and on... Never have I had a bad meal there, and more importantly, NEVER have I left unsatisfied. Poco Piatti serves as one of the few true dining experiences I've ever had.
And then what? A few places here and there, but nothing I long for. Many of the good places shriveled up and died (Carly Cheena's, Dominic's) long ago. Everything else is just There. Chains and crappy momandpops places that aren't NEARLY worth the capital it took to get them opened. What else can I say? (The Mango Tree was alright but not nearly the experience I had hoped it would be...)
On a side note, my Take 5 came out with spec-fucking-tacular results. Kerrie's sister Sue came to town with her daughter Claire just in time for the unveiling. It was, in my most humble opinion, well worth the effort. (Pics comings soon)
Matthew Sweet - Sick of myself
Butthole Surfers - Pepper
The Roots - The Seed 2.0
Ugly Kid joe - I hate everything about you