Goodbye to the Greasy Spoon

Lester’s Diner has been a staple in Bryan Ohio since its inception in 1955.  On Memorial Day 2011, it closed its doors for the last time.  Like many small towns, the restaurant was a gathering place for seniors who sat around the “round table” (whether or not it had an actual round table… I think Lester’s feature was its lunch bar).  Not only was it a hang out for the young-at-heart, I have heart a story or two about a group of young whippersnappers who frequented the joint after high school football games.

OK… maybe they were not so young.  My parents along with the former high school band director , his fiancee, and other friends would travel there occasionally after the game while high schoolers would head to Pizza Slut (err… Hut).  The next day, we would be regaled with tales of “Sweaty Betty” who would make perfect hamburger patties by placing a ball of meat under her armpit. Dad said that he once found a hair in his burger. All right, I doubt if that was true but it sure made for a good laugh for a 7th or 8th grader (I was in junior high at the time)!  I’m sure regulars could sit and tell tales a mile long about the “spoon.”

The atmosphere and scenery of the eatery took the diner back to the fifties complete with swiveling stools at the bar, four person booths with classic mini jukeboxes, and milkshakes served with the tall silver shake cup.  The giant sign outside the establishment featuring the giant “16 ounce cup” (I stand corrected, it was a “14 ounce cup”) of coffee was the inspiration for the sign outside Mel’s Diner on the 1970-’80s tv series Alice.

Yet another piece of Americana dissolving only to be a memory to those who knew it.


I’m not sure, but I think it moved….

Yes, I’ve heard that reaction to sushi on occasion. I think it came from my children. For the most part when they were growing up, and for some even now, they never wanted to try new food. From the limited diet of their childhood (not that limited, I did experiment in the kitchen), I have a couple that will try new foods, and one that even enjoys some different tastes. As far as I know none of them are as varied in their food trying as their dad. (I’ve eaten bugs on purpose and some were tasty ….)

So anyway I took my eldest daughter and her husband out to dinner this evening. The reason is this was her first week back at work after some time off. I just thought it would help not to have to cook dinner for one evening. Yes, we did go to a Sushi Bar/Japanese Restaurant. We went to the Koto Buki restaurant in Toledo.

If you like sushi, you should go. If you don’t, but you like some oriental foods, you should go. In addition to the sushi and sashimi, they have other oriental dishes. It is rather pricey when you start ordering a lot of Sushi. If you want less expensive, I guess you could order from the sides and appetizers. 😉

Anyway we all ended up eating all we wanted (and more) and had a good relaxing evening. As they say in the commercials, it was priceless.


There’s been a lot of buzz around here about a few new restaurants that are to be opening soon in our county.  One is a replacement for a restaurant that closed due to the tough economic times.  The old place had good food, but their prices were kind of high for the area, and their service was always very  slow – perhaps two reasons that led to their demise?  I don’t know much about their replacement, except that it’s to be called ‘Union Street Grille’ and will open in May sometime.  Hmm, grille.  Does that mean burgers and the like?

Next we will have a Sonic drive-in.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, Sonic is a fast food place, with burgers, french fries, chicken sandwiches and the like, but they also have outdoor booths where you can sit in your car and eat after your food is delivered to you.  I try not to eat too much fast food, but I do enjoy Sonic from time to time, and they have excellent slushies, ocean water, and especially flavored iced tea – YUM!  And Sonic has a Happy Hour from 2-4 when their drinks are half-price, so I’ll be there…

The other new restaurant in the area is a place called ‘4 Seasons’ and it’s about 20 minutes away.  They have (among other things) Greek food – my favorite!  Not a full spread, but enough to make me happy!  Their gyros are great (awesome tzatziki sauce), and they even have homemade hollandaise sauce for eggs benedict.  I think I’ve already rambled on in a few blog posts how important it is for good eggs benedict to have homemade hollandaise.  My husband and I have searched many states for good hollandaise sauce, and many places will say their sauce is homemade even if it isn’t.  I guess to a lot of people, “homemade” means that they’ve mixed the powder into the water.  But not to us – you can really taste the (ew) difference if there is powder involved.  The other night, we ate at 4 Seasons, and I made a comment – now we just have to ask them when they’re getting Saganaki (one of my favorite Greek dishes – it involves goat or sheep cheese, whiskey, fire, and yelling OPA!  Good stuff).  So my husband asked the waitress about it, and that’s when we found out that they HAVE it!  Of course – we find out when we’re way too full to even consider trying it, and on the eve of one of the busiest weekends we’ve had in a long time.  We will be up there to try it soon – no doubt!  Before that lovely piece of news, we thought the nearest Saganaki was Toledo or South Bend, Indiana!

Anyway, 3 new restaurants opening up within miles of my house is a big deal for us – especially for one to have THREE of our favorite dishes!  We eat out a lot, partly because the prices are reasonable in our area, partly because we’re very busy people and I’m not home a lot to cook, and partly because it’s really difficult to cook with 8 extra little feet in the kitchen to trip over!  Maybe some day I’ll have the time and the patience to cook more often, but until then, new restaurants opening in our area to give us more variety is a cause for celebration!  EUREKA!

Fun in South Bend Indiana

Of all the places to find fun, who would have thought that middle of nowhere, IN would be such a sight?  Every summer, we meet my mom there about 4 times to swap the kids.  She’ll take them for a week, twice a summer, so because South Bend just happens to be about as close to halfway for each of us to drive, that is where we meet.  We used to meet at a Wendy’s just off the expressway, but our horizons have broadened, and my husband and I have been venturing off the beaten path to discover new things to see and do in the area.  We found a good restaurant called Eleni’s with amazing gyros and saganaki, two of our favorite dishes.  We also found an authentic Greek restaurant called Elia’s right down the street, but oddly enough, they are almost never open.  They have more exotic Greek food like stuffed grape leaves, moussaka, and baklava, YUM!  Their food is excellent, though we’ve only been able to eat there once because of their strange hours and seemingly constant family vacations.  After eating and getting the kids back from my mom, we headed to the Potawatomi Zoo.  The zoo is a really cool size, perfect for our family of 3 small children and a now VERY pregnant woman.  Not much walking to do at all, yet it has a good amount of animals, native and exotic, all types and sizes from lions, tigers, and bears, to monkeys, bison, alligators, parrots, and red pandas.  I wil have to mention that the Potawatomi Zoo did not seem very well-kept.  A gardener in that place could have done wonders as there were many overgrown weeds, trees, and shrubbery, some even blocking what could have been better views of the animals!  One tree was so untrimmed it was blocking a drinking fountain!  But as I said, it’s a very cute little zoo, and they reciprocate with our home zoo, the Toledo Zoo, so our admission price was free and they don’t charge for parking.  I was surprised to see that the zoo wasn’t very crowded seeing as how it was a Saturday in June under 90°…  That zoo could really use a Jack Hanna to fix it up and get the publicity rolling – I see a lot of potential for it, but it does need some work.

After the zoo, we had kids begging for ‘one more fun thing’ (remember, they had been used to the fun of Grandma’s for just short of a week!), my husband whips out Mr. GPS, and apparently he has a phone book feature on him, so from your car, you can find gas stations, restaurants, and most importantly, fun places and attractions to visit!

So KUDOS belong to Mr. GPS this time!  Instead of getting us lost and chuckling at us electronically, he led us right to this strip mall that was like a step back in time, it was really strange.  It looked like it was right out of 1983.  I don’t know how to explain it – we should have taken pictures.  It would have been a great place to film a movie set in the early ’80’s, took me right back to my childhood.  Anyway, in this strip mall was a place called Mega Play.  From the outside, it looked closed down – they really need to get themselves a big bright ‘open’ sign.  But once inside, it was a huge space where they had tons of video games, pinball machines, indoor minigolf, bouncy castles and tunnels for the kids, lots of ride-ons for toddlers, and right out of 1983 – a ball pit!  The ball pit had a pyramid in the middle of it that the kids climb up with ropes and once they got the hang of it, they had a ball – cheesy pun intended.  That pyramid gave me a flashback of playing on the same thing when I was little.  I think they used to have them in KMarts, and my husband agreed.  It was neat to see vintage video games and pinball machines also.  The arcade ATARI games they had in one bouncy castle area were free to play – they had Kangaroo, Pole Position, Asteroids, and some shooting game I hadn’t heard of.  I walked over to the pinball machine area because days earlier, we visited this cool pinball shop in a suburb of Toledo.  The guy started it as a hobby, but it grew into a store, and he had all kinds of pinball machines, new and mostly vintage.  He had titles on display like Demolition Man, Star Wars, The Shadow, and Hercules (an older game – it was HUGE!).  He even had this Looney Tunes racing game (not pinball) that was really vintage and one-of-a-kind…  it was cool to see.  I wonder if the pinball guy outside of Toledo is familiar with Mega Play?  But anyway, back to Mega Play…  it was a huge, wide-open strip mall space that had tons of games, ride-ons, and bouncy castles packed into it – lots of fun there, but still spacey so you didn’t feel closed it.  It was the exact concept my husband and I had in mind for our own business of the same type we started a few years ago.  We ended up having to sell the business because it was too labor intensive for the time and staff we had however.  Too bad Mega Play is all the way in South Bend, or we could challenge our putt-putt-ing friends to the mini-golf course 🙂

After Mega Play, it was time to find something to eat, and before we knew it, we were out of South Bend and into the country.  The kids started getting crazier and crazier, and we vowed to stop at the very next restaurant we found before someone passed out or went insane – and some of us were close to either condition!  So, we stopped at a restaurant called Dakota’s in Elkhart IN, and I highly recommend it if you’re ever out that way.  They had the best cornbread, and their steak and cheese sandwich was simply AWESOME!  They also have barbecue items, and they happened to have karaoke the night we went…  it wasn’t too intrusive though.  They were in another room and we didn’t even know it was karaoke at first until the audience began applauding.  The DJ hosting the karaoke was singing a few songs also, and he was pretty good, so he actually sounded like a recording with a live quality.  I don’t how often they have karaoke there, but their food is great, prices reasonable, nice atmosphere, and the staff is amazingly friendly.  Keep in mind I say this coming from a super-friendly town myself, so we’re used to the usual chit-chat when we go out to eat –  but people in Elkhart were exceptionally friendly.

Overall, not a bad place to spend a day – fun and very inexpensive to boot.  Too bad with gas prices the way they are we can’t consider South Bend for a normal day trip for our family – there is plenty to do!  Maybe we’ll wander around some more the next time we meet Grandma there in July…