March 2009 Issue
March 2009 Feature Restaurant
One hundred and fifty years ago, a visit to Toledo’s newly opened Oliver House would have been an exclusive experience. The premier hotel with a swank reputation is said to have attracted the likes of presidents Lincoln, Grant and Garfield as guests. The inn also briefly acted as an infirmary in the late 1800s, housing wounded soldiers during the Spanish-American War.
Visit the Oliver House today and you will find that, while the purpose of the building has changed, hospitalities of years past echo in its the brick walls. In the hands of owners Jim and Pat Appold, the second floor of the old hotel has been transformed into Rockwell’s, a fine steakhouse committed to continuing the tradition of superior service for which the building is renowned.
Thanks to its rich history and tasteful decoration, the main dining area at Rockwell’s is defined by a rustic elegance. Original wood floors creak beneath waiters’ feet as they bring sizzling cuts of steak from the kitchen. Tall ceilings are illuminated with candlelight and glass partitions create intimate dining spaces. Though Toledo is not typically known for alluring cityscapes, the nightly view of the high-level bridge glowing over the Maumee River gives Rockwell’s patrons cause to think otherwise.
The dinner menu is short but varied, and the dishes are well-prepared. Appetizers include a cheese sampler, which offers a variety suitable for both casual grazers (aged cheddar) and cheese connoisseurs (imported pecorino). But the must-order starter on the menu is the shrimp cocktail: four pieces of jumbo shrimp served in a smoky cloud of dry ice that billows dramatically over the dish.
As for entrées, most guests choose the steak. And rightfully so.
“It’s the only restaurant in the region exclusively serving U.S.D.A. prime beef,” says general manager Karen Lucas.
The selection includes a flavorful Delmonico Ribeye, Cowboy Steak on the bone, classic New York Strip and Rockwell’s House Cut. The meat sizzles as it is presented on oven-hot, 500-degree platters, and continues to cook as you cut in.
Those inclined to forgo the steak are by no means out of luck. Australian lamb rack, Sicilian veal, South African lobster and pan-seared mahi-mahi topped with tropical fruit are just a few of the available alternatives.
Whatever the dish, the portions are generous, and it’s difficult to save room for dessert.
Then again, there is always room for dessert: Velvety crème brûlée or Rockwell’s obscenely decadent eight-layer chocolate cake offer a sweet ending to a night of fine dining and exceptional service.
“When you leave, we want you to know that we’d love it if you returned,” says Lucas, proving that a history of hospitality lives on at Rockwell’s.
27 Broadway in Toledo, 419/241-1253. http://maumeebaybrewing.com
. Hours: Mon.–Sat. 5–10 p.m. Entrees $24–$46. Reservations suggested. CR Handicap accessible