Great expectations

. May 24, 2013.
Hungry-I-cajun-shrimp-pasta

The Hungry I
6060 Renaissance Place   
Toledo, OH 43623
419-517-5570
Mon-Thur:  11a.m.-10p.m.
Fri-Sat:  11a.m.-11p.m.
Sun:  11a.m.-9a.m.
The minute I got wind that The Hungry I restaurant was back I said, “I can’t believe it! We gotta go soon!”  I’m certain the good news traveled fast, because by the looks of the restaurant the night my family and I stopped in, half of Toledo appeared to share my enthusiasm.  Gus Nicolaidis and Moussa Salloukh, also owners of the outstanding LaScola Italian restaurant, opened the Hungry I December 1, 2009.  
I was spreading the word to all my Toledo transplant friends who never had the chance to dine at the previous Hungry I or the Oak’en Bucket, also owned by Nicolaidis.  I just knew it would exceed expectations. After my visit, I can confidently say that my assumption was spot on.  
Pleasant surprises
Soups and sandwiches danced in my head all day as I waited try the Hungry I part two.  Recalling the first Hungry I, my family and I were dressed quite casually for this outing.  But upon stepping through the doors I thought, “Oops.  Did we under-dress?”  Not to worry.  The casually elegant atmosphere, with sage green walls and white tablecloths, is  nothing pretentious and welcoming to all. As Nicolaidis said, “It’s kind of New York like.”  He wanted it nice, yet low key.  The dining area with the beautiful bar also had three wide screen TVs.  So go ahead and dress up a little if you want. If not, you’ll still fit right in.  
My second surprise was the menu.  As I expected, sandwiches and burgers galore graced its pages, but so did several entrees such as pasta dishes and grilled salmon and filet mignon. The children were given kids menus for those 10 and under that included activities to keep them busy while I drooled over the menu.  So many choices, so little time.
Drinks were not included with the kid meals, so by the time all was said and done, each kid’s meal cost us $7-$8.   I hadn’t really planned on spending $23 on kiddie meals, however, the burgers were big and juicy, and the four cheese homemade mac & cheese is now my second favorite around town.  So I guess what they say is true — “You get what you pay for.”
Our crab cakes appetizer ($11.99) was loaded with fresh crab. The French Onion soup and Cream of Mushroom soup were so good I could barely tear the bowls away from my three year old who was only supposed to be taking a small taste. He doesn’t even like mushrooms, if that’s any indication of how tasty the soup was.

So much to choose from
Seated near the kitchen, we had a bird’s eye view of everything going out to the tables.  When I saw an enormous Reuben sandwich go by, without a doubt I knew it would be good.  “We sold 1,100 Reubens in the first 11 days,” said Nicolaidis.  Yes, Toledoans have long
memories.  The Reuben had always been a favorite at the first Hungry I.  The Classic Gyro sounded tempting for $8.99 and came with fries.  Admittedly, I was “Gyro challenged” as I desperately tried to get my mouth around the sandwich.  Eventually I just took my knife and fork to it.   My husband went for the Cajun Shrimp Fettuccini for $15.99.  I’m not a fan of spice, but I tried it anyway. It had robust flavor with just enough kick.
Despite the restaurant being filled wall to wall, we received outstanding service.  When eating out with three children, it seems we are always in need of something. Our waitress was never far, and checked on us often without being bothersome.  I was actually a little stunned when I saw a manager notice a woman standing at the bar and brought her an extra chair that was against the wall. I haven’t witnessed service like that in a very long time.   With food and service so right on, I’m sure this encore of the Hungry I is here to stay.  Gus Nicolaidis and Moussa Salloukh are again pulling out all the stops.  My family can’t wait to return.
Bottom Line:  At The Hungry I, they aim for, and exceed at, ‘Incredible food, Implausible service, and an Inviting atmosphere.’   Bring the family and make it a casual affair, or a dressy one.  Either way, you’ll fit right in and enjoy some great food, too.

Karen Zickes is a mom of three active children and freelance writer who resides in Holland, OH.  She can be reached in c/o  editor@toledoparent.com.