Editor’s note: And so, after a two-year hiatus, I am back. I did not die and get better or anything; in fact, I wasn’t even sick. I have written here in the past about how the newspaper business, which I am still totally involved in, was dying, but I’m still sucking quite a bit of life out of it (and vice versa), plus various personal factors, none of them bad, have combined to put the ol’ Box on the back burner. I’ve been reading all your emails and comments, however, and the intention was always to start posting again. So here we go!
Here’s another fun restaurant post. But we’re going waaaaaay back this time, fifty years, to 1972 and 1974. (The cover photo is of Uncle Sam’s on Woodville Rd. in 1973.)
Today’s reminiscence is based on two special sections in The Blade – Sept. 29, 1972, “The Cogs Behind the Wheels,” which may seem a bit obtuse until you notice the section is dedicated to all the employees (cogs) who keep a restaurant (wheels) going – servers, cooks, hosts, busboys, etc. The other one is Sept. 27, 1974, “A Dining Out Guide to Toast Greater Toledo Restaurants,” and they are both great trips back in time.
The sections couldn’t possibly list every restaurant Toledo had in the 1970s, and it didn’t go into great detail about each one. Example:
LINCK’S CAFETERIA, 2015 West Central Ave. Chicken and dressing and chicken paprikas are among the favorites of the many retired couples who eat here because of the reasonable prices and home-cooked food. Open every day, Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
But both sections were landing point for a whole lot of advertising from some Toledo favorites. And oh my, the ads are practically more engaging than the copy.
CHARCOAL HOUSE, 4031 Talmadge Rd. An open pit where steaks are grilled is a highlight. Boston strip, porterhouse, New York Strip are among the steak favorites. Prime rib and seafoods also are featured on the dinner menu. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Organ misic Wednesday through Saturday nights. Prices begin at $3.50.
Today, there is an IHOP at the former site of Charcoal House and the pharmacy that was next door, which if I recall correctly was called Orchard Drugs. I had a friend in my teenhood who, if you needed to find his father, he was generally there (the restaurant, not the drug store).
The Skaffs, meanwhile, were a pretty prominent Toledo restaurant family. They had operated The Willows on Monroe St. which opened in 1948, and of course, Ricardo’s at One Seagate.
BUD AND LUKE’S, 1919 Madison Ave. Hello Friend has been the slogan since 1926. Low-cost meals served quickly bring crowds for lunch and dinner. Open every day but Sunday.
I had no idea this restaurant had such a history.
“The restaurant, founded by brothers and auto salesman Eugene “Bud” and Glenn “Luke” Fowler, had a reputation for the antics of its waiters — the brothers’ car salesmen friends, who led community singalongs and banged on pots and pans,” according to the 2014 obituary of the owner (when it closed in December, 1996), James E. Thomas.
John Grigsby, evidently freelancing for The Blade, wrote that the biggest boost to “that crazy restaurant in Toledo” came in 1937 when columnist Ernie Pyle, at the behest of the News-Bee, came to eat there and wrote columns about his experience, including being carried out the door when he couldn’t decide what to order.
“The off-the-wall operation, the vaudeville-type stunts, and the kidding of patrons by the coterie of waiter/comedians were featured in many newspapers, magazines, and newsreels. The restaurant ranked for years as one of Toledo’s top tourist attractions,” Grigsby wrote on its closing day, Dec. 15, 1996.
Siegle’s Delicatessen does not have a listing, which strikes me as odd, because it was damn good. It is certainly a place I would like to know more about.
Also missing from this listing is the Holland House, easily Sylvania Township’s finest restaurant, home of the Moron Burger, a huge hamburger.
The co-founder of the Holland House, Rosella Marie Lee, and her husband, were described as “fast food pioneers” in Rosella’s 2011 obituary. “Jack (Lee, her husband) cooked the hamburgers, and Rose was the cashier, and they lived above the restaurant. It was one of the first drive-thrus in Ohio, featuring a speaker where customers could order while in line and then pick up their food at the window – a revolutionary concept at the time. On Friday nights after the local football games, it was said that the cars were lined up for blocks down the street as hungry customers waited to place their orders.”
A downtown mainstay, THE WHEEL, 423 Madison Ave. Cafeteria and table service are offered. The 95-cent roast beef sandwich is featured. Rice pudding is the popuar dessert. Open at 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday, until 7:30 p.m. week days and until 4 p.m. Sunday.
The section from 1974 also featured restaurants that had not opened yet but were destined to be a mainstay. Especially this one:
Frank Unkle has a real Chrismas present waiting for Toledoans on Broadway. Mr. Unkle is the first to build a riverfront restaurant of any size in the 200 years the city has been on the river. Hoping for a mid-december opening, Frank Unkle’s boasts 150-feet of glass on two levels for a view of the river with spacious dining rooms on both.
Rather than keep it completely nautical, Unkle’s will be done in cork, orange and brown tones. Boots and chair upholstery will be in suede. Mr. Unkle operated the Park across the street for nine years and previously managed Lido Lanes.
And indeed, Frank Unkle’s was the place to go for a long time. The building is now the administration offices of the Toledo Zoo.
WHITE TOWER. Six locations have a new sandwich called the eggburger. A hamburger deluxe with a fried egg, it is $1.25. The chain’s butter-burger is 70 cents. More units are planned for 1975. All open 7 days, 24 hours.
CAPTAIN BILLY’s WHIZZ BANG, 2121 Mellwood St. Len and Jon Jenkins have been drawing crowds fr their seafood specialties since opening 18 months ago. Whole salmon, stuffed with crabmeat, $6.25, is one specialty. Vegetables and a salad bar, served from a boat, are features. Open Monday through Saturday for dinner only, from 5:30 p.m. and until midnight Friday and Saturday.
Mary Alice Powell spelled it out but I did not. And It did indeed pay to be different, as Cap’t Billy’s was quite a popular place; in fact, in 1980 it was voted the second best seafood restaurant in Toledo (behind Dyer’s, you guessed right). I was not aware the old building was even still standing at Laskey and Mellwood; It is a sports bar now. There is, however, a fun little Facebook page about the place with old pictures, menus, and so on.
FRISCH’S BIG BOYS. Home of the first double-decker hamburger called the Big Boy, now 85 cents, there are 13 units in greater Toledo and 6 in the area. Also known for strawberry pie. The unit at 3537 Secor Road is open 24 hours. Others are open daily from 7 a.m. until midnight.
The only reason I mention Frisch’s is I am floored to learn there are only three Big Boys left in Toledo? Perrysburg, Maumee and Alexis Road? That’s what the Bennett Enterprises website says! Color me stunned.
I am undoubtedly going to dig up some more of these restaurant sections, because they are a lot of fun and bring back a lot of memories. Also, closed circuit to Megan The Cartoonist: I can find no evidence whatsoever of a Laugh-In (the late 60s-early 70s TV show) themed restaurant in Toledo.