In 2016, the NINE restaurant set up shop next door to Fifth Third Field in the Hensville district. An upscale setting just wasn’t the right concept for baseball or hockey fans headed to a game.
The Holy Toledo! Tavern is a much better fit, with its hamburgers, sandwiches, voluminous beer offerings, and a suitable children’s menu.
On a recent weeknight, we visited and were not disappointed.
Address: 9 N. St. Clair St.
Menu: Pub fare
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. through 11 p.m. Friday through Saturday
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average Price: $$-$$$
Credit Cards: MC, V, D, AE
It makes sense that a restaurant so close to the Hen House offers up $7.95 deviled eggs as an appetizer — so of course these were ordered up. The filling was a touch on the salty side; a little more of the sweet relish on each would help. The fried onion straws were a genius touch, though and an idea my dining companion said she would implement at home.
The turkey burger was reasonably priced at $11.95 and was far from bland, with a healthy dose of spicy heat. The creamy cool avocado and aioli sandwiched between buttery brioche halves kept it from being overwhelming. To make it even more interesting, my companion added cheddar and a fried egg. Kudos to the chef for not making the yolk so runny that the burger would be hard to eat. The tavern fries (steak fry cut) were substantial and not overly greasy.
The $11.95 Smokehouse Mac and Cheese showcased the tangy sweet Kansas City pulled pork against a rich, creamy three-cheese blend of smoked gouda, Swiss, and cheddar. The hearty corkscrew pasta — slightly past al dente — held the sauce well forkful after forkful. Oh, not to be forgotten is the topping of steakhouse-sized onion rings, which could be an appetizer all by themselves.
Of course, the visit had to include the Signature Holy Toledo! Burger, which our very helpful waiter Chad warned was 1-pound of meat and came with a double order of fries for $17.95. But the dish was disappointing. The burger had cheese, onion, pickle, lettuce on a bun that looked a little like a Frisbee or even the top of a giant pot pie. It was too greasy, and there just wasn’t a whole lot of flavor. If you want a little zip, get some barbecue sauce on the side. It could easily be shared by one, or even two, other people. If a single diner finishes it, he or she should get a T-shirt and a photo on the wall.
It was hard, but we did manage to save a tiny bit of room for dessert. The Muddy Skillet Brownie featured a healthy scoop of Toft’s Sea Salt Caramel Slam. The ice cream alone was delicious — it does contain chocolate-covered peanuts, which should be disclosed. But pairing the ice cream with a rich, warm brownie? Holy Toledo, that was good.
One warning about our evening visit is that it took much too much time to make it through the meal. From start to finish, we were there just shy of two hours.
Our lunch visit was much quicker, and we were easily able to finish during our lunch hour.
This time, we started with the $8.95 Loaded Tots, which lived up to their name. They are substantial potato bombs swimming in a three-cheese sauce. Perched on top, was tender shredded braised beef and a sweet pepper relish. Oh, and there was a smattering of bacon for good measure. There is no reason that a diner could not have an enjoyable evening by simply ordering one of the many tasty appetizers and having a beer from the expansive beer menu.
One of my friends started with the butternut squash soup — a seasonal, daily special — which was garnished with fresh scallion tops and swirl of cream, which foreshadowed the creamiest squash soup she said she had ever had. The richness was cut with just the right amount of spice.
And the soup paired nicely with half of a grilled mushroom stack sandwich. Served on toasted sourdough, it featured grilled portabella mushrooms, red onion, and eggplant topped with red bell pepper aioli sauce that suited the vegetables perfectly.
As a vegetarian, she commented about how many options were available to her. They were appealing dishes too, not just the afterthoughts you often find at places like Holy Toledo.
The meatloaf was quite a deal for $12.95, but it was served without any type of glaze or even gravy atop it, leaving it a little dry — and salty too. The three half carrots were a nice touch. The potatoes came heaped with an au jus-like sauce, but once that was absorbed, they too were dry.
Our final meal was the tomato bisque and a flame-grilled chicken breast combo. The bisque was hearty and comforting on a fall day. It could use a touch more sweetness to make it more bisque-like. And the sandwich was far from dry and had a nice flavor.
Holy Toledo! Tavern was not a perfect dining experience, but it was comforting and pleasurable and a good place to make a stop before or after a game, or even on a warm night when a meal and beer can be enjoyed on the patio.
Contact Bill of Fare at: email@example.com
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