Knucklehead’s Kafe is as quirky as the “K” in its name.
The Southwestern-themed restaurant in Grand Rapids, Ohio — about 30 miles south of Toledo — has an original wood ceiling finished in a distinct cow pattern. A vinyl record collection and turntable are on display in the narrow dining room. Instead of wall art, there are flat-screen monitors cycling Western imagery.
All these offbeat touches lend the eatery a unique and fun personality that carries over to the menu. The offerings are packed with smoky, spicy flavor and feature some adventurous combinations.
Stars: ★★★ 1/2
Address: 9 N. St. Clair St. Address: 24208 Front St., Grand Rapids, Ohio
Phone: (419) 832-0108
Menu: Southwestern American
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average Price: $$
Credit cards: AE, MC, V, D
Consider the two burgers we sampled in our visits. The Bronco Burger ($13), topped with shredded barbecue beef, onion straws, and cheese, was a meaty marvel, and we relished every savory bite. On the other hand, the South of the Border Burger ($10) brought black beans, guac, pepper jack, and pico de gallo together in a combination of textures and flavors that, for us, didn’t quite work.
Or take the Comanche Chicken ($13): chicken breast rubbed with spices, marinated in tequila, and carefully plated with dollops of red pepper sauce and avocado cream. It was unlike anything else we’ve tried in the Toledo area and made for a surprising and enjoyable entree.
The sides were a bit hit-and-miss. The baked beans were smoky, slightly sweet, and really yummy. The refried black beans were dry and unappetizing. The seasonal vegetables were really just bland steamed broccoli.
One of Knucklehead’s signature dishes is the homemade mac and cheese, which can be ordered with a variety of toppings, including bacon, onion straws, and blue cheese crumbles. We tried the original, unadorned mac ($5), and it was creamy, cheesy, and satisfying.
In addition to these menu staples, Knucklehead’s features different specials throughout the week. We really liked the BBQ ribs ($15). The homemade sauce was great, and the tender meat fell right off the bone.
Among appetizers we sampled were the Cowboy Caviar ($7), a sort of guacamole dip with sweet corn and black beans, and the tangy Alamo Chicken Dip ($9). We really enjoyed the perfectly grilled Skewered Chicken Chunks ($7).
Knucklehead’s also has a lineup of generously portioned salads. We tried the Sweet Cherry Salad ($11). While the indredients were all fresh, the sweetness of the fruit, candied walnuts, and cherry vinaigrette overpowered the savoriness of the chicken slices.
For adults, the restaurant also features a bar with a nice selection of wines and craft brews on tap. Take note, if you’re planning a weekend dinner there, you’ll probably want to make reservations, as the small dining room can fill up quickly.
In each of our visits, the staff was friendly and accommodating, and combined with the offbeat atmoshphere and creative menu, it was a fun experience. For adventurous Toledoans who want to take a chance on something different, it’s certainly worth the trip southwest.
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