The fifth entry to the Mancy Restaurant Group is a harkening to a harkening, that in itself is a harkening. The Ideal in a West Toledo plaza-verse is a reimagining of the original Mancy’s — depending on your imagination and definition of original.
Like any fit of time travel, it can make the visitor invigorated and joyous from the new perspective, and other times left out of step, but not so much that the trip isn't worth it.
For example, the Ideal’s Double Cheeseburger ($8) is Marty McFly when he goes to the past the second time, brimming with confidence, totally aware of the surroundings and how to manipulate them. It’s a diner burger perfected with modern application. Add a fried egg ($1.50) and fries ($3) for the skateboard trick scene.
Address: 5333 Monroe St.
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Average Price: $$-$$$
Credit Cards: MC, V, D, AE
But the Greek-Style Striped Bass with stewed tomatoes and peppers ($23) is the DeLorean when that kid finds Marty emerging from it in the livestock barn, and no party is really familiar with the other.
But before this disintegrates into time travel tropes, what exactly was the original Mancy’s? Allow for our first flashback.
As immigrants, Gus Mancy and his cousin Nikolas Graham opened their first restaurant in 1921 as a 24/7/365 place on Phillips Avenue named simply “Mancy’s.” It was a decidedly more hopping, gravy plate slinging affair than today’s china clinking, 1,500-degree steaks. It is reported that the restaurant needed to call a locksmith when it closed for the first time on Christmas Eve in 1946 because no one had a key.
From that era as an appetizer, try the Ideal’s Thick Cut Local Bacon ($8). Crackling with brown sugar, black pepper, and molten pork fat, it is a half pound of bacon in three terraces. Standalone bacon on a dinner menu is Doc Brown falling and hitting his head to invent the flux capacitor: It is wacky, fiendishly simple, and works wonders. It may also hurt you. We suggest sharing. The same goes for the Breaded Onion Rings ($6).
Service and standards at the Ideal were above reproach on our visits. Mancy’s restaurants are known for consideration of guests almost as much as family.
That brings us to our second flashback. In 1964, after a family rollover in ownership, Mancy's became Mancy’s Ideal. But after a fire in 1973 destroyed the original building, another family hand-off prompted Mancy’s Steakhouse at the location it remains.
From this time period, aim for the Fried Chicken dinner ($17) with honey butter, house pickles, and mashed potatoes. Lip-smacking crisp and juicy yardbird is basically when Doc Brown’s dog Einstein completes the first successful time travel: It's a no-brainer and everyone is still impressed. To add some bite, ask for a side of the housemade hot sauce that appears on the Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich ($9), which is delicious in its own right. (Note it is not Nashville Hot Chicken, thank the Hill Valley Clock Tower.)
In some cases on the menu, there isn’t a tension of past and present per se, but there is a reaching for harmony. One of the called-out menu items is herbed Chicken Wings ($9). They're quite good, but out of sync. Sides of Stewed Tomatoes and Zucchini ($4) and Broccoli Hollandaise ($4) were on brand, but atavistic.
Menu chatter claims the restaurant does things like they did 100 years ago, with no shortcuts, while using sustainable methods. But those three things can’t exist in concert. A kitchen in 2018 is not a kitchen in 1921 — for the better. Marketing sentiments aside, on the table, the Ideal has mostly created homage in sensible ways, if broadly.
Raw Oysters ($15) and Shrimp Cocktail ($13) boast choice ingredients, but was that 1921 Toledo trolley car rider fare?
Here we enter our final flashback. Isn't time travel fun?
Delmonico’s in 19th century New York City, and versions of it, housed America’s first early perfections on Euro classics. It is where cuisine thematics we sense as wallpaper today were first patterned. Why does nearly every true sit-down American restaurant serve shrimp cocktail, no matter how landlocked? Yes, a lot of us like shrimp. But that style is the direct descendant of Delmonico’s, which was referencing predominantly Anglo and Franco traditions.
At the Ideal, for that era and transmuted geography, get a Classic Wedge or Waldorf Salad (each $7) before ordering a fact-of-the-matter Mancy’s steak. Go for the Filet or Strip ($24, 4 ounce; $26, 12 ounce); it is seared and prepared with imperceptible detail.
The steaks are Marty when he comes back to his new present for the first time, and his life is like it was, but better. Biff is still there, but he is the pickled turnips served as a garnish.
That is Mancy's Ideal. It isn't really the past, but it's the past after you went back to the future.
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