New management has done away with the burger as part of a sweeping menu overhaul at the longstanding Adams Morgan watering hole.
“Every place has a burger,” says co-owner Amy Bowman, also the proprietor of neighboring gastropub The Black Squirrel. Bowman, alongside partners Tom Knott and Scott Auslander, purchased the 17-year-old business from prior owners Mary and Stephanie Abbajay this past February. Its familiar red neon sign relighted two weeks ago after some minor renovations and major rethinking of the venue’s prior pub fare. “At the Black Squirrel, we’ve sort of carved out a niche as being a gourmet burger spot. [Chef] Gene [Sohn] makes a tremendous burger with all hand-ground ingredients and duck fat….I wanted to do something different here.”
Having tried the Toledo burger in the past, Bowman suggests she lost little sleep over the decision to chuck it. “It’s no Squirrel burger,” she says.
Toledo no longer serves heaping plates of cheesy nachos, either, which had been another barroom staple.
The new menu, under the direction of chef Martin Rodas, leans more heavily on Spanish-style tapas. “Obviously, the original Toledo is in Spain,” notes Bowman. The prior owners had named the place after the gritty industrial town in Northwest Ohio. “So we wanted to do a sort of hybrid. That’s why we have a little Spanish tapas, a little American tapas, along with some larger plates.”
Longtime patrons returning for the first time since the management shakeup may be surprised to find tuna tartare, brussels sprouts, and peppers stuffed with goat cheese in place of the typical bar food.
But at least one old standby remains. “We kept the grilled cheese,” notes Bowman.
Of course the new kitchen boss couldn’t help but tinker with that, too. The new version incorporates gruyère, cheddar and “a little bit of parmesan,” she says, and comes served with a side of plantains.
Toledo Lounge, 2435 18th St. NW, (202) 986-5416
Photos by Chris Shott