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You “fall in love with the family”

Toledo has always been the underdog. We are the Rustbelt blue-collards making car parts for Detroit, always opting for the overtime, dodging the pot holes to and from work, before dawn and after dusk.

Toledoans are quick to joke about how the world views us and our struggling economy, but we are fiercely loyal, swiftly defending against any outside naysayers. We’ve lived in the shadows of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, but we don’t care. We support their sports teams and wear their jerseys, but we always come home.

Because home is where the food is. Toledo has long been rumored to have the most restaurants per capita in the United States – a standing that the dawn of the internet has proven no longer true – but we have always had a strong connection with food. Toledoans are known to be some of the friendliest people in the country and the currency of our kindness is food. We might not have a lot of money to give, but we will never let you starve. You will be welcomed to the head of the table and you will be served only the best food that our hands can make.

Families have immigrated to Toledo from all over the world, leaving us with a rich heritage of Lebanese, Polish, Italian, and Japanese families eager to expand their neighbor’s palette. Constant compliments and repeated large family gatherings paired with Toledo’s welcoming attitude have been tipping points for many restaurant owners in Toledo; pushing them to open their own establishments at the prodding of grandmothers and moms and aunts and cousins and friends.

Other area restaurants began after visiting chefs could not resist the lure of camaraderie and generosity that native Toledoans enrapture. Once you move to Toledo – even when the intention was a temporary visit – you “fall in love with the family” you are now a part of. Rarely do expats to Toledo leave. The food and the family keep you here. You learn to swerve around the potholes, you learn to drink bottled water during an algae bloom, and you learn to tolerate the cold and unpredictable weather. Because at the end of the day, there is nothing better than sharing the dinner table with your new family.

That is why our city’s Restaurant Week is different. Cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles created their restaurant weeks to celebrate fine dining and allow area foodies to sample local, upscale fare at a special price. Seventy-four cities celebrate Restaurant Week for seven to 14 days across America during this time of year, but Toledo is one of the only cities to put an actual cause behind the program.

In Toledo, we feed you and take care of you. Restaurant Week Toledo, happening all over town March 7-13, is more than just a reason to eat out. Each Restaurant not only pays to be a part of RWT, but they also donate 10% of sales (not profits, sales) to local youth. Money raised is given directly to Youth Leadership Toledo, Students in Action, and the Youth Jefferson Awards. These programs were designed to enable community leaders to introduce high school students to a variety of community issues and concerns, in hopes of inspiring those young adults to continue to create
a strong, progressive community. The kids’ efforts have resulted in over 400,000 hours of community service in northwest Ohio. In 2015 alone, Restaurant Week Toledo raised nearly $65,000 for Youth Leadership Toledo and Students in Action in a mere seven days, showing students that their hard work is not only appreciated, but also that Toledo wants their legacy of volunteerism to live on long after their high school years.

And after Restaurant Week Toledo is over, our hometown chefs will continue on, coming home in the late night hours after a night of unveiling culinary creations and scrubbing stainless steel after the last guest leaves, only to wake to create a new chalkboard menu for the day; to welcome more Toledo family members to their tables.

You will eat better in Toledo.

 

Anneke’s photoshoot took place at her favorite family restaurant, LaScola. I’ll let her tell you in her own words why this place means so much to her.

“Despite the beauty and lure of traveling the world and living overseas, I found my way back to Toledo to raise our son, Bruce, with my husband and fellow Toledoan, Brian. LaScola’s walls are covered with Toledoans’ stories; I could stare at the photographs and listen to their history all day long. The mystery of those hundreds of black and white photos mixed with the made-from-scratch food and the friendly owners who seem to be giving back to the community at every charity event in town make you feel good about eating there and about living in Toledo. Leadership Toledo’s Executive Director, David Schlaudecker, loves telling the story about how I was the first person to go through both Youth Leadership Toledo at 15 and the Adult Program a decade and a half later, but I think it’s to prove that home really is where the heart is and people do come back because it’s such a great place to live.”

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