Even the most seasoned food aficionado can get lost amidst Toledo’s vast number (600 or so) of eateries. Most tourists (and many locals for that matter) are unaware that fine dining in the Glass City does exist beyond The Docks. Award-winning dishes and intriguing atmospheres are hidden throughout the city and its surrounding suburbs. In Sylvania, on the corner of Central Avenue and N. McCord Rd., discretely tucked into a shopping plaza, I recently discovered such a gem — Avenue Bistro.
October 2010 Issue
Cuisine Type: American
Set aside an evening for a fine meal at a hidden gem of a restaurant, Toledo’s Avenue Bistro.
Locally owned and operated, the original bistro opened in 1998 but underwent renovations in 2006 after changing owners. The venue is split into two sections — to the left, a trendy, contemporary bar; to the right, a warm, inviting dining room. Lined with a dozen or so booths and dotted with small square tables, the dining room is an intimate space ideal for sophisticated groups of four or fewer. One of the bistro’s unique features is its open kitchen, which allows for close, personal interaction with the chef — unheard of in most restaurants.
On a recent visit, my guest and I were seated immediately upon entering the warmly lit space. Our server arrived shortly thereafter to take our drink orders and dictate the chef’s specials — which change almost weekly depending on the season’s freshest produce. She also provided us with an extensive wine list ($4.95–$9.95 per glass), which must have been compiled by an admirer of California wines. I took a stab at selecting my own, but for guests who prefer the perfect food-wine pairing, the wait staff is more than capable of suggesting a wine to complement your meal.
Typically, I try not to fill up on bread, preferring to save space for my entrée, but for any future trips to the bistro, I won’t expect to skimp. The rosemary bread and pesto dip we received after ordering was difficult to put down. The bread (the selection varies) is baked daily on site.
For starters, we ordered the chicken quesadilla ($9), a tortilla stuffed with marinated chicken, goat cheese, red peppers and Vermont cheddar, served with either a roasted red pepper or a mango salsa. We decided to try both. Of the two I preferred the pepper salsa for its fresh taste and crisp texture. In addition, we tried a cup of the bistro’s much-talked-about lobster bisque ($5), a creamy tomato-base soup infused with lobster and swirled with crème fraîche.
Next, our salads arrived, accented by the bistro’s own raspberry vinaigrette. I’m already a salad fan, but this vinaigrette would make a believer out of anyone. It was so delicious that even the pesto was abandoned as we soaked up the remaining swirls of dressing with the last of our rosemary bread slices.
I selected my entrée, an 8-ounce filet mignon ($26), from the regular menu. Atop my moist steak were sautéed mushrooms and onions (an extra $1.95) in brown gravy. Under the steak were crisp green beans on a foundation of thinly sliced potatoes. Across the table, the grouper ($24), selected by my guest from the specialty menu, was grilled to perfection and came with steamed rice and green beans covered in a lemon sauce. The fish was firm yet tender and, thankfully, not overly seasoned.
After devouring every crumb of bread, salad, and steak, dessert was out of the question — until I saw the dessert menu. I settled on the bistro’s signature carrot cake ($7), a slice that was easily big enough for more than one person. We also tried the Chocolate Oblivion ($7), a flourless chocolate torte served with raspberry sauce. It was enough to put any chocolate-lover on cloud nine.
Dining at the Avenue Bistro is more than just a meal — it truly is an experience. We enjoyed our meal for nearly two hours from start to finish and it wasn’t because we were chatting. The bistro is not a fast-food destination. Everything is made to order and that takes time. When planning a visit, be aware that this experience shouldn’t be rushed. Know that your meal will not be soon forgotten. — Colleen Kennedy
Avenue Bistro, 6710 W. Central Ave., Toledo 43617. 419/841-5944. centralavenuebistro.com. Lunch: Mon.–Fri. starting at 11 a.m. Dinner: Mon.– Thu. 4–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 4–11 p.m. Entrees $10–$26. Handicapped Accessible, CR