Restaurant Week Toledo to feature healthy optionsWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience, say organizers of Restaurant Week Toledo.
Among the healthy dishes planned by local chefs for this year’s event are a sesame-seared Chilean sea bass at Rosie’s Italian Grille, a slow-roasted pork chop stuffed with spiced apples at Bar 145 and a chicken shish tawook sandwich at Poco Piatti.
The third annual Restaurant Week Toledo, set for Feb. 21 to March 2, will feature at least one healthy option at each of the 28 participating, locally owned restaurants, said Becca Gorman, co-chair of Restaurant Week Toledo.
Participating restaurants are Bar 145, Barr’s Public House, The Blarney Irish Pub, Bobby V’s American Grill, Burger Bar 419, Caper’s Restaurant, Gradkowski’s, ICE Restaurant and Bar, La Scola Italian Grill, Loma Linda, Mancy’s Bluewater Grille, Mancy’s Italian Grill, Mancy’s Steaks, Manhattan’s, Maumee Wines and Bistro, The Oliver House (Mutz, Maumee Bay Brew Pub, Rockwell’s and The Café), Plate 21, Poco Piatti, Registry Bistro, Rosie’s Italian Grille, Shorty’s True American Roadhouse, Tea Tree Asian Bistro, TREO, Ventura’s and Zinful.
Each venue will feature a special Restaurant Week menu priced at $10, $20 or $30. (Drinks, taxes and gratuities are not included unless specified.) A portion of the proceeds will benefit local nonprofit Leadership Toledo’s youth programs.
The catalyst for making Restaurant Week Toledo healthier was feedback from diners at last year’s event and the commitment was solidified when Medical Mutual signed on as a presenting sponsor, Gorman said.
“We hope people will feel they can participate fully in Restaurant Week Toledo with no regrets,” Gorman said. “We want them to try multiple restaurants and experience new dishes and new flavors all around town and still feel like they are taking care of themselves.”
A healthy diet helps to prevent or lessen the negative effects of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and obesity, said Connie Beutel, manager of health promotion and wellness at Medical Mutual.
“Almost all restaurants have healthy options and a lot of that is about requests. There’s a movement and a trend, recognizing that it is possible to eat out and eat healthy, so I think you’re seeing that a lot more and this is a perfect fit,” Beutel said.
Many people are surprised healthy food can taste as good as less healthy dishes, said Mark Tooman, communications manager for Medical Mutual.
“I hope when people see these healthy options are available, they make the connection that they can eat healthy and still get delicious, tasty options at these restaurants,” Tooman said.
Beutel said she also hopes the healthy options will help people learn to navigate menus and recognize keywords signifying healthier dishes.
“There’s a lot of awareness that will come out just seeing things labeled as healthy options,” Beutel said. “How it is prepared and what it is will stick in people’s minds that this is healthier.”
Rosie’s Italian Grille
Rosie’s Italian Grille in Toledo plans to offer not just one but three Healthy Option meals on its Restaurant Week Toledo menu.
For lunch ($10 including a small side salad), Rosie’s plans to offer grilled herb chicken with fresh sautéed vegetables marinated with homemade Sicilian herb dressing. For dinner ($20 including a small dinner salad), Rosie’s will offer the grilled herb chicken as well as a Cajun herb grilled Mahi Mahi with fresh vegetables or a sesame-seared Chilean sea bass with fresh vegetables finished with ginger sesame drizzle.
Rosie’s owner Phil Barone and chef Eric Kish both called fresh sea bass their favorite fish.
“It’s very moist. You don’t really need to do a lot to it because it’s really flavorful anyway,” Kish said. “It’s very simple and healthy and really tasty.”
The herb marinade is a tweak on an old family recipe.
“It’s very light, not overpowering,” Barone said. “I’ve never found anything better to marinate chicken or fish with. It just gives a little twist, keeps it nice and moist and it’s good for you.”
The Mahi Mahi has a little spice to it, Kish said.
“It’s got that same herb dressing on it, but then we spice it up with some Cajun seasoning as well,” Kish said. “Grilled — that’s the way you want to do it. It’s a steakier fish.”
The herb chicken dish features two 6-ounce pieces of tender chicken.
“It’s simple and healthy,” Kish said. “There’s a lot of flavor, but it’s not bad for you.”
Barone and two of his brothers started Rosie’s more than 30 years ago. The eatery is named after their mother and uses recipes she brought with her from her hometown in Sicily. This year will be the third time Rosie’s has participated in Restaurant Week Toledo.
“It’s grown,” Barone said. “The first year was kind of quiet. Last year, we were very busy and it was fun. I love it when things are hectic. The people I met were very friendly and very complimentary. They really enjoyed Rosie’s, some of them for the first time, which is good for us. It’s why we like to do specials like that, to bring in new people who may not have tried Rosie’s.”
Kish said he was happy to comply with the focus on healthy options.
“It’s what people want, especially now more than ever,” Kish said. “I just think that’s what it’s evolving to more and more. It’s just going to make it that much more popular.”
Chef Robby Lucas of Bar 145 said he enjoyed the challenge of coming up with healthy options.
“No chef likes to be handcuffed and be told, ‘This is what we’re doing,’” Lucas said, laughing. “But every chef likes a challenge so I think if we can get the Bar 145 identity across while staying within those guidelines then we’re better off for it. I definitely got excited for it.”
Lucas came up with an herb-roasted chicken breast with an apple and strawberry winter salad for lunch ($10) and, for dinner ($20), a slow-roasted bone-in pork chop stuffed with spiced apples and served with an arugula salad and a gelato dessert.
“We use an all-natural chicken — hormone-free, antibiotic-free. You can really taste that when you’re eating the meat itself.
“It doesn’t taste processed. It tastes like chicken,” Lucas said, laughing. “As often as people say that, I don’t think people realize what chicken is supposed to taste like.
“With the pork, we actually stuff the pork with the apples and as that cooks together it really infuses the flavor throughout the meat itself.”
Lucas said he’s used to being creative with healthy food because his girlfriend is a vegetarian.
“I assume it gets a little boring being a vegetarian, so I’m always thinking [of new ways to prepare food],” Lucas said and laughed again. “I absolutely love cooking proteins, but vegetables are kind of the unsung heroes in a chef’s world. There’s nothing a chef gets more excited about, especially our vegetables we buy from The Chef’s Garden in Huron. When I open up this crate of Ohio-grown carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and stuff like that, it really gets chefs excited.”
This will be Bar 145’s second year participating in Restaurant Week Toledo. The eatery opened in 2011.
“We had a great response last year,” said Lucas, who worked in Cleveland before moving to Toledo. “Restaurant Week in Cleveland is huge, so when they approached us and said they were doing one in Toledo we absolutely wanted to be part of it and we definitely wanted to do it again this year.”
Bar 145 is known for its burgers, especially its stack-your-own option, but Lucas would love if Restaurant Week Toledo helps spread the word about the rest of Bar 145’s menu, which changes seasonally and offers unexpected twists, such as duck wings in place of chicken wings.
“A lot of times people see bar in our name and they associate us with just bar food. Then they hear the burger in our tagline and think we just do burgers and we are so much more than that,” Lucas said. “Our burgers are great — I stand behind them 100 percent and they are amazing — but our menu encompasses so much more.”
How food is prepared goes a long way toward making it healthy, said Lucas, who started cooking when he was 9 at the Put-in-Bay restaurant his father managed.
“I’m not going to say we’re health-food oriented here, but we serve homemade food from scratch. We don’t have a freezer here. Everything you eat that day is prepared that day,” Lucas said. “Rather than shortening or fat alternatives, we try to use a lot of healthy oils and canola oils that lend themselves well to the flavors we’re trying to accomplish.”
Jake Guthrie, director of operations for Bar 145, recently moved to Toledo from Columbus and said Restaurant Week Toledo brings some of his former city’s “foodie” culture to the Glass City.
“I’m excited. Hopefully it gives people an opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and do something or try something they may not necessarily be prone to do,” Guthrie said. “It’s also one of those things that promote the culinary world in general, where people are excited to go out and dine. And what’s good for one is good for all.”
Poco Piatti, featuring Lebanese, Italian and Greek food, is already known for healthy dishes, said Elias Hajjar, owner of the Levis Commons eatery.
The name means “small plates” in Italian and refers to the communal tradition of sharing dishes around the table with everyone trying a little bit of each one.
“Mediterranean food in general is very healthy. We tend to use a lot more olive oil than butter, lots of vegetables, lots of lean meat,” Hajjar said. “We’ve always focused on being healthy and prided ourselves on offering our guests healthy options.”
For lunch ($10), Poco Piatti will offer a choice of chicken shish tawook sandwich, falafel sandwich or poco burger served with a choice of hummus, feta dip or lebanee.
For dinner ($20), diners can choose from two skewers of beef or chicken kabobs or salmon with a side dish. Dinner also includes a choice of chicken wrap, ara-yes or sauteed mushrooms and a dessert.
This is Poco Piatti’s third year participating in Restaurant Week Toledo, and each year has gotten better, Hajjar said.
“We have always believed very strongly in community and eating locally,” he said. “When the opportunity came up to join together with other locally owned restaurants and help charity and promote our businesses at the same time, it was the perfect combination of win-win for us.
“The first year was good, but we were just getting the word out. The second year was much better for all the restaurants.”
Hajjar expects this year to the best yet.
“We’re excited to be a part of it. I really think it’s going to be great.”
Toledo Free Press is a media sponsor of Restaurant Week Toledo.
For more information, visit www.restaurantweektoledo.com.