Foodie Finds: The Best Place to Eat in Toledo, Ohio
We've found the best place to eat in Toledo, Ohio! Yes - I know. How can you narrow it down to one place? Well, we just have the Best Food when we are in Toledo, at a Toledo institution called Tony Packo's.
You may remember Tony Packo's from the tv show, M*A*S*H. Jamie Farr, a Toledo native who played Corporal Max Klinger on the show, wrote his own lines for one show: "If you're ever in Toledo, Ohio, on the Hungarian side of town, Tony Packo's got the greatest Hungarian hot dogs. Thirty-five cents...". Screenwriters then wrote Packo's into 5 episodes!
Another claim to fame is the Buns. What? I know. You walk in to Tony Packo's, and you see all these signed buns on the wall. It started in 1972, when Burt Reynolds signed a hot dog bun to commemorate his visit. Now there are thousands of signed buns, by all sorts of celebrities. It is fun to meander around the restaurant and check out the buns!
Tony Packo's is so much more than celebrity, though - it is all about Great Food.
So - onto the food. YES! We tried all of the signature dishes on the menu - the Hungarian Cabbage Roll, the Famous Tony Packo's Hungarian Hot Dog, the American Hot Dog, the fried pickles, regular pickles, and some macaroni and cheese for our daughter, who can't pass a macaroni and cheese dish.
As on our previous visits to Tony Packo's, the food was delicious! The hot dogs were loaded with mustard, onions, chili sauce, and cheese (optional). They were hot and very tasty - such an incredible mix of spices and meat that I wished we had ordered more. The American Hot Dog was also delicious, and was topped similarly. The Hungarian Cabbage Rolls were packed with meat and rice, and served with cabbage and stewed tomatoes on the side. The macaroni and cheese was reported to be delicious.
We were surprised, on our first visit, to learn that Tony Packo's serves FRIED PICKLES. What? I know. You might think that fried pickles are a bit strange, but they are amazingly delicious. They are something that we always add to our order when we visit. They come with three dipping sauces, and are hot and spicy.
We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with Tony Packo III. He noted that Packo's started in 1932, during the Great Depression. His grandfather, Tony I, started with a sandwich and ice cream shop, and created a Hungarian Hot Dog. This was a great hit with locals, and the end result is 5 branches of Tony Packo's restaurants scattered throughout Toledo (including a baseball-themed one, near the baseball stadium downtown), and Tony Packo products in many grocery stores. The Packos first started branching out with their famous pickles, and have used the same manufacturer for over 30 years, since they started packaging up their food products!
Tony III's father, Tony II, is still active in the business, as is his cousin. Tony III explained that the signature dishes of the restaurant are the Hungarian hot dogs, chili, fried pickles, and the Hungarian cabbage rolls (and yes, we tried all of the above!). He noted that Tony Packo's stands apart, as a family-owned business - a great dining experience, one of the special gems of Toledo.
We were also lucky enough to chat with Frank Petersberg, one of the managers. Frank was so enthusiastic about Tony Packo's that we could tell that he really enjoyed being a part of the restaurant and local history. Frank related that one of the best parts of working at Tony Packo's was the ability to meet a lot of people and having such fun with the customers. He loves hearing stories from both regulars and new customers, and related that all the good times and happiness that people share is unique and a definite draw of TOny Packo's. Frank also noted that people like working at Tony Packo's - some of the staff have been there for 20-30 years! He felt that he was so lucky to enjoy his job - and the staff that we talked with concurred, with big smiles. You can't fake that kind of satisfaction, both with the staff and with the food.
Our verdict? Even without the fascinating history, community involvement, and incredible staff, we'd choose Tony Packo's as the Best Place to Eat in Toledo.
1902 Front Street, Toledo, OH 43605
M-Th: 11am - 10pm, F-Sat: 11am to 11pm,
Sun: Noon - 9pm
Restaurant Phone: (419)691-6054
and four other Toledo locations.