Fresh fish, sandwiches served with old fashioned charm.
Bound by the jigsaw-edged eastern border of Sylvania on West Alexis Road, the Seafood is one of the last Old Toledo restaurants. Located in a two-story neighborhood home, it was started in 1953, and long ago would have been the seafood specialty contemporary of steakhouses like Krotzer’s or the Charcoal House.
Its charms are in its no frills, extra casual approach to serving excellent, mostly lake fish prepared in an almost diner fashion that favors sturdiness over delicacy. On one visit we joked that the hashbrowns and onion rings were so good that the place could be the only seafood restaurant to open for breakfast.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Address: 5504 W. Alexis Rd.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, 1-9 p.m. Sunday.
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average price: $$-$$$$
Credit cards: AE, MC, V, D
Ratings: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Outstanding; ★ ★ ★ ★ Very Good; ★ ★ ★ Good; ★ ★ Fair; ★ Poor
Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants.
The Blade pays for critics’ meals.
And certainly it is easy to see how fantastic two sunny-side up eggs might pair with what was our best dish, the Lake Superior Whitefish ($21), blackened Cajun style with Hashbrowns (included with entrees, $3 a la carte), and state-fair quality Hand Battered Onion Rings (half order $4.50, full $6) made with fat Spanish onions. Everything about the plate except the parsley has a rich, shiny golden hue, which is tough for blackened fish to do.
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You may find equal success with the same accompaniments to their broiled Whole Pickerel (market price) or fried Yellow Lake Perch ($18).
The Seafood, in proper old-school fashion, also puts the right touch into all its periphery offerings. Though not everyone’s first choice for an appetizer, Grandma’s Recipe Homemade Creamed Herring ($7), served deftly with saltine crackers, is on the menu for a reason. And everyone’s choice for an appetizer, the homemade Maryland Style Crab Cakes (two $15, one $8) were just as chunky, rich, and savory. Same for the Clam Chowder (cup $5, bowl $6) and Lobster Bisque (cup $6, bowl $7, weekends only): loads of clams and actual lobster, respectively. Even the House Salad (included with entrees, $5 a la carte) with its beets and incredible homemade rye croutons has something special to it — we loved it with blue cheese crumbles and French dressing.
It is, however, 2017 and the Seafood seems reluctantly aware of that as it feigns interest with some new, trendy-10-years-ago everyday specials like Ahi Tuna ($19) and Fish Tacos ($7 breaded or broiled).
While cooked correctly and ostensibly not bad, the dishes felt like reaches into a world where the Seafood doesn’t need to go. The Ahi Tuna was prepared in the “seared rare with roasted sesame seeds” fashion that could be from any hotel in the Western Hemisphere. The broiled fish soft shell taco was fair, but the breaded one — well, if you like falafel, then that’s the fish taco for you.
Although, the Sole Picatta ($16) broiled with fresh lemon, capers, and garlic did satisfy. It also is from this permanent specials menu that offers the Seafood’s attempts at modernity. Though too heavy handed with the sauce, it was savory and the fish was prepared in that perfectly specific way where it is flaky and juicy but not tepid or watery.
Even some other meals that got outside of the Great Lakes, higher entry entrees like Scallops ($33), were just outside the world view of this sometimes raucous, fun blue collar room. Said one diner, “You know you’re in trouble when your hashbrowns have more magic in them than the main course.”
You have to stick to the Seafood’s blunt classics for that magic.
And we would be remiss if we didn’t address another clear hobo marker of a traditional Old Toledo casual fine-dining joint: the sandwich section. The Blackened Grouper Sandwich ($13) with straight fries can win as a hefty lunch or light dinner. And if you need some dry land, the Seafood hooks up a terrific open faced Steak Sandwich ($19) or “Cheeseburg” ($10). You know it’s good when they drop the “er.”
Finally, though there are no homemade desserts offered, the Seafood has to be one of the last places offering Peppermint Stick Ice Cream ($3). For the right kind of person, this kindness is an enchanting simplicity that briefly severs the complicated hustle of the outside world.
Contact Bill of Fare at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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