My wife, son and I spent all day Saturday at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. It was a grueling day of long, crowded lines and lots of walking around. We were more than ready to return home Sunday morning.
Our route back home to Michigan takes us right through Toledo, and we’ve often thought of stopping at the legendary Tony Packo’s. Usually we’re too tired or the timing isn’t right, but this time we finally decided to give it a shot.
For those of you who don’t know, Tony Packo’s Café is a landmark restaurant and a Toledo institution famous for their Hungarian hot dogs.
On the TV show M*A*S*H, Corporal Max Klinger (played by Toledo native Jamie Farr) frequently mentioned Tony Packo’s Hungarian hot dogs.
We’d never been there and thought we might arrive just in time to have lunch. We arrived about 10:20 a.m. and parked around back. It appeared they were not yet open. We decided we would wait awhile, but not more than half an hour.
I took a walk around front to see if their hours were posted. There I saw a man sweeping out the vestibule. I walked up and asked him, “Excuse me, what time do you open?” He replied, “Eleven-thirty.” I said “Oh. Okay, thank you” and I turned to go, disappointed it was over an hour to go.
Then he called out, “Where you going to get something to-go?” I turned back and told him, “No, we were going to eat inside. We’ve never been here and have always wanted to stop in, so today we thought we’d give it a try. But that’s alright, we’ll just come back another time when you’re open.”
The man (whose name, I found out later, was Irving) said, “Hold on, I’ll go speak with the manager. Are you parked around back?” I said "Yes" and he nodded, “Okay, he’ll come around back to talk to you.”
So I walked back to the van. Not five seconds later, out came the manager, whose name tag read “Kevin” - he greeted us and said that they don’t normally open until 11:30, but we could come in and look around while they were getting ready. We said, “Sure!” and we walked in with Kevin.
He let us each get a beverage, then showed us around. The first thing he pointed out were the hundreds of hot dog buns decorating the walls, each enclosed in a clear plastic bubble. Upon closer inspection, you could see that each one had been signed by a celebrity - a tradition that, Kevin informed us, was started by movie star Burt Reynolds.
Kevin went back to work and we walked around reading the names of all the celebrities who’ve signed buns there... Hollywood icons, sports legends, politicians - it was amazing, but we didn’t get to see them all because they were soon ready to take our orders.
Our waitress, Michelle, was terrific - attentive, personable and always smiling. We ordered a variety of things, hoping to try as many as possible. The food arrived quickly and we dug in.
I started with a cup of chili, which was spicy, meaty and rich – such a great start! Then I attacked my chili dog. It was, of course, fantastic - one can easily understand why their hot dogs are so famous – and the chili dog sauce was equally outstanding.
My combo also included a side of Paprikàs Dumplings, which reminded me of German spaetzle. They were creamy and delicious and, though just a side item, they were a surprise favorite.
I also had the Chili Mac, made by topping their dumplings with chili and shredded cheese. The dumplings soaked up the chili better than the usual macaroni noodles. It was superb.
My wife’s chili dog combo came with chicken soup. The soup had excellent flavor, big tender chunks of chicken and fresh veggies. She ordered a bucket to take home.
My son ordered the shredded chicken sandwich. It looked really good, but he devoured it so quickly that we never got a chance to try it - a pretty clear indication to us of just how good it was.
He wasn’t as fast with his macaroni and cheese though, so we all had a bite. It was rich and cheesy, just the way it should be. (He also got a bucket to go)
Included with all of meals are their famous pickles. They’re thick-cut pickle wheels full of bold flavor. Kevin even brought us samples of all four varieties, including their Original Pickles & Peppers, Sweet Hot, Garlic, and Bread & Butter. All were excellent – very fresh and crisp, each one a different taste adventure.
After our terrific meal, we stopped by the gift shop to pick up a few t-shirts, some hot dogs and chili sauce, and a few other souvenirs.
|Bubba Knows: Tony Packo's is awesome|
|My wiener dog, Joey, with his new Tony Packo's collar.|
|"Best Buns In Town" (Not me - Tony Packo's!)|
Thanks to Kevin, Michelle and the rest of the gang at Tony Packo’s... we had an excellent experience and were treated like royalty. We can’t wait to go back and try some of the other things on their menu like the stuffed cabbage, roast beef, and the colossal-sized hot dog, the M.O.A.D. (Mother Of All Dogs)
And a special thanks to Irving, my friend at the front door, for making sure we didn’t go home disappointed. You really made our day, Irving!
I advise everyone to visit Tony Packo’s Café in Toledo. You'll be glad you did!
Check them out:
Here's a map: