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Untangled Vine

An attempt to sort through all things wine. Specifically of, and about, but not limited to: Food and Wine in Toledo, Ohio. Plus the day to day musings of a Wine Distributor...

Toledo Restaurant Rant

An open letter to Toledo,


You can affect change in this city. The food and wine culture can be improved. The resources are available, and it won’t cost you a thing. When we speak of Great Cities throughout the world, one of the first things we mention is Restaurants. Museums and Architecture are important too, but, that’s not the focus today (although, Toledo pretty much has the whole Museum and Zoo thing covered).We need to collectively change the way we think about food and wine in this city.

I know that Toledo is referred to as a restaurant capital. There is some sort of stat. out there that says that we have more restaurants per capita than any other city. So Toledoans are accustomed to going out to eat. Also, Toledoans have as much if not more discretionary income than most Midwest cities, and believe it or not, they spend as much per capita as most cities in Ohio. So, a conclusion can be drawn that Toledoans, relatively speaking, have cash to burn, and they spend it, and they go to restaurants at a record setting rate. Only one problem, Toledoans love Chain Restaurants.

Now I worked in Chain Restaurants. They can be well-run organizations that treat their employees and customers quite well. They can be also be quite involved in community events, and they can be very charitable. But in a city like Toledo, they suck the personality and culture out of the restaurant scene. Take anybody on the street, blindfold them, and stick the back of a van (just an example, please don’t do this), drive around for 3 hours, and drop them on Dussel Drive. Then, ask them what city they’re in. It would be impossible to determine, because every city in the U.S. with a population between 100,000 and 600,000 has countless streets with Freeway access that look exactly the same. Sure, you’d recognize the Maumee Water Tower, but that’s about it. Homogenization is the arch-enemy of a distinct wine and food culture.

Toledo has ethnicity, and historic restaurants. We need to stop flocking to these chain restaurants in such droves, as long as alternatives exist. We need to make a statement to the corporations that we prefer interesting food, with interesting (not always convenient) locations. And we appreciate individuality in dining. A single restaurant is the only way to convey the true vision of a great chef, artists in their own right. Ask yourselves this, If you are entertaining guests from out of town, where do you take them to impress them? Applebees? Olive Garden? Mancy’s? The Docks? Duh! It is your responsibility to make sure that these restaurants exist in between your guest’s visits. It is also your fault we have so many chains. But it’s not too late. Again, we have a burgeoning downtown restaurant scene, downtown is 15 minutes from anywhere. Ironically, people will wait 90 minutes for generic Italian food, but ask them to drive 8 more miles, and they say it’s too far. The Drive-thru from lunch must be making them logy.

Next time you go out to eat, try someplace new. Try something you’ve never had before. There is a difference between eating and dining. Dining doesn’t usually involve toys, lunchboxes, nostalgia or any other crap on the walls. Sometimes you may even find art when you dine, again promoting that whole culture thing. Plus the independently owned restaurants don’t cost any more than the chains, and you’ll get more bang for your buck. Hey, you might even be supporting your neighbor’s business. Food and Wine is all about Discovery.
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At 12:40 AM, Blogger Dave Yates said...

Same goes for Starbucks. They are devouring all the culture from the local independent coffeeshops. They must be avoided. They seem innocuous enough but they are evil... We don't want to live in generic Anytown USA - do we ?    

At 9:52 PM, Anonymous pam bondi said...

i still don't understand how people can live in the restaurant capital and decide to go to CHAINS. i was walking past a quizno's the other day and was disgusted to see the line almost out the door. *sigh*    

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