Smash Toledo aims to showcase local foodWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
Josh Wagy eats out — a lot.
The self-described foodie has worked his way through the menus at several Toledo-area restaurants and now wants to share his knowledge by offering the “inside track” on local eats.
On March 24, the 33-year-old South Toledoan will officially launch Smash Toledo, a website where he plans to post videos highlighting one local eatery per month. The first video will feature Barry Bagels.
“Smash is going to go behind the scenes of Toledo’s staple dishes, its new and upcoming dishes, chefs and people doing really cool stuff in the city,” Wagy said. “The best way I can describe it is it will be simple and functional, like a Yelp or an Urbanspoon, where you’ll be able to search restaurants, cuisines, areas.”
The site will focus on the positives, Wagy said.
“I don’t want Smash to turn into Yelp — and I’m not throwing them under the bus; I use them all the time — but when people are upset they definitely leave more reviews than people who had a good time. Comments are often about the server having a bad day; they have nothing to do with the food or the history of that place,” Wagy said.
“I’m all about being critical of a place; I think that is necessary. But all places can have a bad day and Smash is going to be way more of a lighthearted thing, a way to say ‘This is why you want to go to these places and support these people and what they’re doing.’
“Every time you go somewhere and ask them what they do best and they say, ‘Everything,’ it drives me crazy. It’s not true,” Wagy said. “Chefs are better at certain things and restaurants are better at certain things. Yes, everything might be good, but there are a couple things that are ridiculous.”
Try something new
Wagy said he hopes the project will inspire people to try something new.
“There might be a restaurant a mile down the road from them they never tried,” Wagy said. “It’s a comfort food thing, a comfort zone thing. Someone might have made you go eat somewhere and you loved it so you always go back there and you won’t try the place next to it because you know this place is good. That’s where the video comes into play. The power of video is amazing. We want to show people what they are missing out on.”
Wagy said the hardest part will be choosing which restaurants to feature.
“Barry Bagels, Packo’s, Mancy’s Steakhouse — there’s a bunch of places like that. Toledo staples that aren’t going anywhere and they’ll always be doing something fantastic,” Wagy said. “Then you have a bunch of new places doing stuff no one else is doing, so there’s going to have to be a mix of both. I’m not sure how we’re going to choose to be honest with you. We’ll get to everyone eventually, hopefully.”
Wagy said he chose Barry Bagels to kick off the project because the eatery is a Toledo staple.
“That’s the No. 1 thing I’m asked for when I go out of town: ‘I need a dozen salt bagels,’ or ‘I need a dozen everything bagels. Don’t show up here unless you have bagels,’” Wagy said, laughing. “When I’m not in Toledo for a long period of time, you do crave it.”
Mark Greenblatt, president of Barry Bagels, and his father, owner Barry Greenblatt, said they were honored to be chosen.
“The fact he asked us first, I really appreciate it. It just goes to show how much he enjoys eating at our establishment,” Mark said. “I saw the video and he did a great job. [Smash Toledo] is great.
“It’s great for my industry and it’s great for Toledo to get the word out about how many wonderful independent restaurants there are in the city of Toledo — and there are a bunch. It’s really cool and we’re quite happy he’s doing it,” Mark said.
Wagy was born in South Carolina, grew up in New Orleans and moved to Toledo with his family when he was in fifth grade. He graduated from Bowsher High School and the University of Toledo.
By day, Wagy is an industrial engineer at Fuse Tech Inc., which provides ceramic welding repair on glass furnaces. He also has a background in Web and graphic design. His wife, Emily, manages her family’s South Toledo restaurant, Caper’s Restaurant & Bar.
Wagy said he can’t pinpoint exactly what draws him to food, but he loves eating and the experience of dining out. He also likes to support local businesses and try new things.
“I’ve lived in Toledo for a long time and people will ask, ‘Have you tried this place?’ and I’m like, ‘I haven’t even heard of that place,’” Wagy said. “It’s amazing. That’s the point of all this.”
Wagy’s father, Bill Wagy, was a television sportscaster in Toledo for years and his grandfather was a newscaster in Washington, D.C.
“I grew up in news studios,” Wagy said. “I always kind of wanted to do video, but never really got around to it. But with me having such a huge passion for food, bringing them together just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Wagy started thinking about Smash Toledo about a year ago. He came across the name while browsing available URLs.
“I just loved the way it sounded,” Wagy said.
Next, Wagy and his friend Jim Korte, a former Sylvania resident now living in Cincinnati, tweaked the logo for months before they were satisfied.
“He’s helped out so much. He’s unbelievable,” Wagy said. “We’ve always gone back and forth like that.”
The project has already generated a lot of buzz, including partnership offers and inquiries about expanding to other cities. Wagy said he has a lot of ideas about the future, but for now he’s focused on launching a quality product in Toledo.
“It’s been unbelievable. It’s been really actually overwhelming. It’s been amazing that everyone’s been so supportive,” Wagy said. “Right now, I just want to not screw up. I just want to keep going. It’s funny because I’ve started other projects and Smash just feels like it’s the right time, right place kind of thing. I definitely think that’s why it’s going to be successful.”
Dozens of local restaurateurs have already come out in support of the project, many of them featured on a launch video posted at smashtoledo.com.
Sandy Spang, owner of Plate 21 in South Toledo, said she applauds Smash Toledo’s new take on an old concept.
“It’s a new format, but what Josh is trying to do is almost old-fashioned, like the old food critics that used to be out there and who were really powerful because they knew food and wrote really informed, meaningful reviews,” Spang said. “As much help as Yelp is — I use it myself — everybody knows it can be kind of capricious.
“Josh is the real deal. His enthusiasm is infectious. He’s got a passion for it. That’s what I think is going to make Smash different — that knowledge, that passion. Josh is going to find the little treasures, the unknowns, the unsung. I think that’s fantastic. He’ll raise the level for everyone. I’m all about making Toledo the best it can be and I think Smash can help do that.”
Dennis Chung, owner of KotoBuki in Sylvania, agreed.
“I thought it was an awesome idea and it seems to be going really well,” Chung said. “Toledo is very food-oriented and Josh is very passionate about food. It’s kind of a fresh new take on dining. It’s something easier to digest, especially for the current generation who probably don’t get their news from print as much.”
Moussa Salloukh and Tony House, co-owners of Burger Bar 419, said Wagy has been a regular customer since the eatery opened in 2011 and they are both excited about Smash Toledo.
“This is something Toledo needs to keep everybody in touch with the local food scene,” Salloukh said. “He promotes a lot of local restaurants out there doing cool stuff, so I think it’s going to be a great vessel. He’s doing great things with this. It’s going to be big.”
For more information, visit smashtoledo.com or follow @smashtoledo on Instagram and Twitter.
Tags: Barry Bagles, Barry Greenblatt, Bill Wagy, Bowsher High School, Burger Bar 419, Caper’s Restaurant & Bar, Josh Wagy, KotoBuki, Mancy’s Steakhouse, Mark Greenblatt, Moussa Salloukh, Packo’s, Plate 21, Smash Toledo, Tony House, University of Toledo, Urbanspoon, Yelp