I have a lot to say about the new The Adams Street Café in downtown Toledo and all of it is good.
For a scheduled lunch meeting with some of my Toledo SOUP babes, we decided to try the newest addition to Toledo’s food landscape. The restaurant, at 608 Adams St., is in the former Ranya’s, a downtown staple for more than 20 years.
When Ranya’s closed, people were devastated. I was devastated. (I am still convinced there is no better lentil soup anywhere.)
It wasn’t long before signs of new life started to show up inside. A small sign on the door went up: The Adams Street Café: Coming Soon. I would walk by and wonder what was in store. In August, I finally just asked.
“Our theme is sort of a BBQ-deli café, making our own beef, pastrami, smoked turkey, and salmon, as well as salads and some vegetarian dishes.” said whoever was manning the restaurant’s Facebook page that day.
The restaurant is owned by John Kerstetter, a Toledo guy who went to Bowsher High School and studied culinary arts at Monroe County Community College. Before opening The Adams Street Cafe, he worked for nine years at Stella’s in Perrysburg.
“The motivation for opening really was the progression of my career,” he said. “I’d been a chef for several years working for other people and got the opportunity to finally go out on my own, so I did.”
When I walked in to the restaurant, I immediately noticed how it was 100 percent different from Ranya’s. That might seem like a “Well, yeah?” kind of comment, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a new, local business and noticed it looked the exact same as the business that just left. There’s definitely been a few places that have recycled décor, and, sometimes they even recycle the name. It’s bad.
Not only is the inside of The Adams Street Café totally updated, but it’s awesome. The walls are a dark, brick red, with the lower half covered in a painted aluminum. It’s very rustic, very barn-like, very appropriate for the food and overall atmosphere. The ceiling was painted black, new light fixtures went in, and some dual-bladed ceiling fans are up and we think they look like carved wood (very cool).
The tables are all covered in mismatched cloths, though the theme of picnic/barbecue is felt and cohesive. The plates are the same way. It’s brilliant. The mix ups make it feel a lot like home, or eating at a friend’s house. Maybe even grandma’s …?
(For the record, that was on purpose. John said the existing tables couldn’t be presented as they were, and there was no room in the budget for new ones, so he went out and thrifted all of the table coverings.)
The other thing I noticed immediately upon walking in was the smell. The barbecue scent kisses your nose right away. Remarkably, it’s not overwhelming which I imagine could easily happen.
I was so impressed by the quality of the food and service, especially given that, on the day we visited, it was the second day of the restaurant’s soft opening (and, without any advertising, it was pretty steadily crowded the entire time).
Molly, Lyndsey, and I didn’t hold back in ordering. There was way too much goodness to choose from.
Molly went for the soup of the day, a tomato basil, and the side salad. Lyndsey and I agreed to split the burger and each order another entrée that we’d shared, too. She went with the poutine; I got the roasted vegetable roll.
The burger, ordered medium, came out exactly such. The center was perfectly pink and it was served with fresh – and, really, I mean fresh – vegetables. Lyndsey and I agreed that the quality of the beef was obvious when tasting.
Her poutine was a sight to behold. A mountain of French fries with cheese curds, gravy, and pork shoulder, topped with a fried egg. Wow.
“I’m getting that face I get when I’m eating something I really love,” Lyndsey said after taking a bite.
Let’s be honest: We all know that face. We all have that face.
The roasted vegetable roll was excellent. I wasn’t convinced I’d made a good choice with my first bites – there wasn’t much flavor, but as I kept going, the vegetables melded with a sauce of some kind and I fully understood everything. I mean, secrets of the universe, even.
Fortunately, Lyndsey decided she didn’t want any of my vegetable roll and I ate the whole thing.
I have a feeling The Adams Street Café will become a downtown lunchtime favorite for folks lucky enough to work nearby. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
John said he’s open to exploring expanded hours — he’s assessing the demand for breakfast and is in the process of procuring a liquor license. He won’t start a dinner service until he has one, so don’t expect to have dinner there for about a year or so. The menu will grow, too, with time (and change seasonally).