It’s no secret that Toledo has its fair share of restaurants. The city has become a test market for franchises like Taco Bell, yet local restaurateurs are not intimidated by the city’s reputation. We have burger joints and sandwich shops, authentic Thai, Lebanese, Vietnamese and Mexican restaurants. Any type of food that you desire the Glass City most likely has it. However, while many restaurants sprout up each year, and others shut their doors, it is truly inspirational to see a restaurant survive the tests of time. Intensely popular and insanely addictive Grumpy’s in Downtown Toledo has done an excellent job of luring in hungry customers for 27 years!
Located at 34 S. Huron, just a few short steps from 5/3 Field and the Erie Street Market, Grumpy’s is the ultimate lunch spot for any business person looking to escape the confines of the office. Their menu is extensive to say the least- from thin crust homemade pizzas to fresh cut salads, grilled burgers, piping hot soups, and killer sandwiches. While it is a favorite for lunch, Grumpy’s also has delicious breakfast options like Eggs Benedict Pizza, Steel cut Oatmeal, and World Class Morning Buns. Get your caffeine fix with their “Custom Roasted Coffee [that] will kick you in the pants!” Everything is made by Aunt Jenny- Grumpy’s lead chef for 27 years.
We sat down with co-owner Dustin for what was supposed to be a brief interview that turned into quite the conversation about the history of Grumpy’s, how he took ownership with his 2 aunts, and the supplies he just can’t live with out.
Grumpy’s is an interesting name. What’s the origin?
It was my grandfather’s nickname. He wasn’t what you would call the friendliest guy. Some customers loved his attitude, others not so much. But the name stuck.
How do you select where you will purchase your meats, vegetables and produce?
We order from a variety of places depending on availability. We love shopping at farmer’s markets whenever possible. What’s most important is the quality of the vegetables and meats we need.
How do you select the equipment and supplies in your kitchen?
Quality as well as price. We moved to our current location about 12 years ago and had our entire kitchen redone. So when something needs to be replaced now we usually go back to that particular manufacturer, since it was able to withstand the rigors of our kitchen for at least 12 years. When shopping for supplies, customer service is key. I like to come in to Burkett’s and look around at different products and get some ideas. It’s nice to be able to do that.
What is the most used item in your kitchen?
The griddle! We use it for lots of our menu items like burgers and chicken breasts.
What is the one item would you be devastated to lose?
The red coffee grinder on the coffee bar. That would be horrible. It’s so old- it’s been here since my grandfather owned the place. It’s got to be at least 20 years old. Definitely irreplaceable.
Other than Grumpy’s of course, where is your favorite restaurant to eat at?
Well I eat here a lot! But outside of Grumpy’s I love the Beirut, Mac & Tong’s, and San Marco’s. They all have great food.
What is the most popular dish on your menu?
The Garbage Salad. It’s like a burger version of a salad. It has a salty sweet poppy seed Dressing, croutons, raisins, bacon, and cheese. Their burgers are also very popular. According to the Toledo Blade, “I’d argue that Grumpy’s sandwiches rank among the best in town, starting with the restaurant’s incredible hamburgers. Odd that a place best known for its salads and lunch sandwiches would offer what I consider the best burger in Toledo, but Grumpy’s pulls it off.”
How did you come up with your menu?
The menu is a product of being open for over 25 years. A lot of the new items are based on the kitchens creativity and then whether or not our customers respond well to them. We add a new dish every few months. Many of our sandwiches are named after customers who invented them.
How has Grumpy’s been able to succeed in a franchise heavy market like Toledo for over 25 years?
We’re consistent like a franchise. Aunt Jenny’s been in the kitchen cooking the same dishes with the same consistency since the beginning. Customers expect to come in every week and order their favorite dish and for it to taste the same each time. Our goal is for hungry patron’s to know that eating at Grumpy’s is a no-brainer!
What advice do you have for a new restaurateur opening a restaurant in a franchise heavy city?
Know the customers you have and the customers you want. You’re not going to appeal to the whole city so work hard on appealing to your desired audience. For example, our customers are mainly business professionals and lawyers so we offer them delivery and catering service as well.
What would you like to see the city do to help local restaurateurs such as yourself succeed?
Continue to foster the “local concept” through organizations like Toledo Choose Local. Making Toledo a destination spot because of the restaurants we have. There are some very unique restaurants here that people would encourage people to visit Toledo for a weekend just to eat there. One example is Tony Packo’s on the east side. That place has some amazing history. There are buns on the walls signed by famous people who have eaten there. Very cool place.
What city events is Grumpy’s involved in?
I’m personally involved in Toledo Choose Local. We are members of the Toledo chamber of Commerce, the Warehouse District, and the Museum of Art. Grumpy’s is also a Business Council Member for the Toledo Museum of Art. We participate in Taste of the Nation as well.
By the way- Just in case you can’t get to Grumpy’s for breakfast or lunch they do occasionally hold dinner services. On Valentine’s Day, they’ll be open and accepting a limited number of reservations. Visit their Facebook Page for more information on the Valentine’s Dinner as well as what’s happening there.