Admiral’s American Grill: Unique food on the DocksWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Even after viewing all the drama involved with family-run restaurants on the show “Kitchen Nightmares,” Mike Howard decided to open Admiral’s American Grill with his brother Habib and their cousin Mike McKarus.
Howard is confident they can revitalize the Docks after purchasing the restaurant formerly known as The Navy Bistro.
“It’s difficult, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else,” Howard said. “Obviously there are issues. Sometimes you have to pick your battles wisely. At the end of the day, we’re in it to have the best place possible. I want this to be one of the best places in Northwest Ohio, and it has the potential to be that.”
Howard, who graduated from the University of Toledo with a law degree and a master’s of business administration, has the most restaurant experience of the group. After working at Gatorz Bar & Grill on Monroe Street, he opened a Gatorz on Bancroft Street and ran it for two years. He sold the establishment in 2008 for $1.8 million and spent the next three years living in Columbus.
On March 18, Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. purchased the Docks for $2.15 million. Later that day, Howard and his relatives, operating as The Docks Venture LLC, signed a 25-year lease.
“They want this restaurant district to be their focal point,” Howard said. “We’re part of the centerpiece of a huge investment. That’s why I’m so happy to be here.”
The new owners are assuming the liability of $750,000 that former owner Tom Cousino owed to Genoa Bank.
“We were friends with Genoa Bank,” Howard said. “They kind of brought the deal to us. They had a bunch of offers. They gave us a better deal than anybody else. Since then, I’ve turned down two offers for it. I believe in it. I plan on being here for a long time.”
The deal also included the restaurant Tango’s, which The Docks Venture LLC is subleasing to El Vaquero. The restaurant plans to open as soon as the owners receive their liquor license.
“I used to go to their place all the time in Columbus,” he said. “I had five different Mexican restaurants interested, but I was waiting for El Vaquero. I’m excited for them to work out.”
The Navy Bistro and Tango’s shared one large kitchen which Howard split into separate kitchens for each new restaurant. Other renovations were made such as removing a staircase, raising awnings and adding televisions, but Howard was mostly content with the overall appeal.
“They definitely didn’t cut any corners when they built this place,” he said. “Anything we would have done would have made it look cheaper.”
Since they kept much of the Navy Bistro’s décor intact, Howard settled on a nautical name.
“I Googled ‘nautical names’, and one of the first things was admiral,” Howard said. “When we got in here, I realized there is a room called Admirals Library. We thought about calling it 26 Main because of the address, but this works better.”
After opening with traditional American cuisine, the menu has been changed to reflect the nautical theme with a selection of seafood along with pastas and steaks. The restaurant emphasizes fresh food, including making its own bread and chips daily.
“It’s unique food that nobody really has,” Howard said. “Where can you go in Toledo to get frog legs and oysters? It just doesn’t exist.”
The change in menu is a result of Howard learning the restaurant business on the fly.
“You’re constantly learning,” he said. “This was our third edition of the menu in about a month. We’ve gone through four different chefs. Finally I think we have a good crew.”
Another thing Howard learned is there’s a high demand for wine.
“I’m learning a lot trying to figure out peoples’ likes and dislikes,” he said. “I never realized how many people drink wine in places like this. I doubled and tripled my wine menu, now I’m going to start adding more to it.”
Along with the wine bar, Admiral’s features banquet rooms, a courtyard and a patio with a grill and live entertainment. Howard wanted to keep his focus on running the restaurant, so he hired a wedding coordinator to exclusively handle booking events for the courtyard and banquet rooms.
Admiral’s is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. weekends. The restaurant holds an all-you-can-eat brunch Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Visit the website www.TheDocksToledo.com for more information.