Sunday, Apr 23, 2017
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

COMMENTARY

Dining discoveries both new and old

  • soups

    A flight of soups from LaRoe’s in Grand Rapids, Ohio.

  • Mary-Alice-Powell-column

    Mary Alice Powell

How sweet it is to find restaurants that are new to me but have been in Northwest Ohio for years.

Yes — and please don’t ask me again — I miss Posey Lake, probably always will, but the area that is now home has a wealth of eateries that keep me on the road scouting for more that I think readers might like to try.

You could call it a fulfilling hobby.

The Bunker on Eber Road in Holland is not new to its large following. I had heard many good reports about the service and food and had it on my list to attend but just hadn’t done it until the night my flight was canceled at Toledo Express Airport.

What better time to check out the Bunker? It’s near the airport, just north of State Rt. 2, and the couple who had intended to drop me off at the airport and then get something to eat were game for their first Bunker visit, too.

The Bunker, owned for four years by Wes Frazier, was in its history a VFW hall. In addition to being a bar and restaurant, it is known in the area for banquet facilities. It is not connected to the Bunker on Dorr Street in Toledo.

It only takes a minute or two to peruse the menu and learn that chicken balls are the big things at the Bunker. Actually, the balls are irregular chunks of chicken served in many disguises including Garbage Balls, Pizza Balls, and Kitchen Sink Balls with a wide choice of sauces, from buffalo and parmesan garlic to Hawaiian sweet.

The chicken ball appetizer was a chance for the three of us to get acquainted with a large portion of chicken balls served in a bowl on a bedding of battered, fried onion petals and peppers.

Bunker half-pound burgers are also legendary, but in my new zest to eat more fish than beef, my main dish of cod well wrapped in an enticing crumbly coating sent me back home happy and counting the hours to a flight the following day.

But for customers searching for a good burger, regulars say the one topped with beer cheese and onion petals is the best choice.

No dessert here. How nice.

The Bunker is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.

* * *

Remember how bitter cold it was last weekend? I should have stayed home, but the more I thought about hot soup on a cold day I thought about LaRoe’s in downtown Grand Rapids and the eight soups that are offered daily.

Whether the server hands you the list of soup choices or recites them, it’s the same question. Which one should I order?

After hearing that question for years, owner Dave LaRoe answered it a year or so ago with the Soup Flight. The flight is five 3-ounce portions of soup, meaning the customer gets to make five decisions from the eight choices instead of just one.

I patronize LaRoe’s once or twice a week and have the menu memorized. But this visit proved you can eat in the same place over and over and try something different.

My choices for the soup flight were potato with bacon, spinach feta, mushroom brie, chicken dumpling, and lobster bisque. Other soups offered that evening were squash, french onion, and minestrone. Slices of warm italian bread were tucked between the mini soup cups; great for dunking. The soup flight is $9.95.

LaRoe’s soup brigade is a year round attraction that is equally popular in warm weather when customers flock to the patio overlooking the canal and Maumee River.

Along with the soups, customers are also given several salad dressing choices, but those who order anything but LaRoe’s original poppy seed are missing an excellent product. Bottles are sold at the restaurant, at Churchill’s, Sautter’s, and Kazmaier’s supermarkets, and at Rohr Fish and Mary’s Apple Orchard in downtown Grand Rapids.

The 40th celebration of LaRoe’s was recently acknowledged by Ohio with a citation signed by Governor John Kasuch.

* * *

While we all like to return to our favorite restaurants, it is also fun to try new places, especially the small “mom and pop” restaurants that sadly are becoming more and more scarce.

Mom’s Restaurant in Swanton is one of those places that townspeople have been patronizing for years but that also welcomes newcomers. The diner is off State Rt. 2 in downtown Swanton. The small space with limited tables encourages conversation between customers. As an example, I had a nice conversation with Tim Timko and his wife who just happened to be within arm’s reach at the next table.

Tim is the son of the late Betty Timko, a Toledo culinary queen whose picture is seen on Betty’s salad dressing labels in stores. With the arrival of spring and potlucks, we can expect to see a lot of Betty’s salads in the food lineup. They are attractive, easy to make, and reflect Toledo’s treasure of entrepreneurs who have developed original recipes for the commercial market.

Mom’s is typical of the hometown breed of restaurants that features original menu creations that are fun to try and we won’t find anywhere else. Home Fries Supreme and the Chicken Bowl are two definite originals. The Supreme is served as a full dinner plate or in half portions. More home fries than the average person can, or should eat, are tossed with bacon, onions, and cheese. The biggie is $6.15, but chances are the half size will be enough.

The Chicken Bowl is a meal in a bowl beginning with a mashed potato base and layers of fried chicken strips, corn, and topped with shredded colby cheese.

The beef that is listed from breakfast through lunch in steaks, hot roast beef, and hamburger steak with onions is from grain-free Holsteins raised at Gombash Acres near Swanton. The farm is owned by Dick Gombash, husband of Peggy Gombash, Mom’s Restaurant owner. Beef halves and quarters can be ordered from the company.

Mom’s hours Monday through Friday are 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. and from 8 a.m. until 1:30 Saturday and Sunday. Debit and credit cards are not accepted.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at poseypowell@aol.com.

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