Manhattan’s Pub and Cheer on Adams Street in Uptown opened in December, 2002 and recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. Toledo native, Zach Lahey, the restaurant’s owner and general manager explains, “For almost ten years, it was a major struggle to keep the doors open, to really find our place in the micro-neighborhood (Uptown) that we’re in.”
“We realized that unless we dedicated a significant amount of energy to raising up the rest of the neighborhood around us, it was going to be much more difficult to succeed as a sole-destination restaurant,” Lahey said.
Now, though, after years of effort and creating partnerships— both with the City and nearby businesses along the Adams Street corridor— Manhattan’s has firmly established itself as a fixture of a revitalized area.
“We really succeeded in making Uptown Adams Street a real destination for different types of entertainment and dining options,” Lahey said.
Manhattan’s name, decor and theme came from Lahey’s own life experience. Training in musical theater, Zach moved to New York City in 2000 to make it on Broadway. While in New York, he worked at a variety of restaurants, soaking in the eclectic atmosphere and menus of big city dining.
When he moved back to Toledo, with his New York roommate, Mike Petrillo, they had the idea of opening their own restaurant—an idea which grew as the pair were introduced to the circa 1910 building at 1516 Adams.
“The first moment that we walked through it was like the building was opening its arms wide to us, saying, ‘Look. Look at all this great brick, look at all these wood floors, and the simple historic feel of interior of the building.’”
Manhattan’s took on the melting pot feel of its namesake city.
“We didn’t want to limit ourselves to one style,” Lahey said. “We wanted to be open. Sometimes I might want to bring in Cornish Hen and do something special with that. Or a local farmer will have some really nice lettuce offerings that he’s really proud of growing, so we’ll design a dish around that.”
As a result, Manhattan’s most popular fare these days includes eclectic choices such as Chicken Marsala, Poutine, hamburgers— made with fresh-sourced Ohio beef—and a full selection of spirits, as well as new offerings designed to entice visitors to take in the Adams Street neighborhood.
“We recently started putting out what we call ‘Slammies’—small, handheld sandwiches for five bucks, that you can grab a drink, grab a hand sandwich and take them with you while you explore the neighborhood.”
Manhattan’s decor isn’t forced, or artificial. Absent are kitschy wall decorations and mismatched pictures that adorn too many restaurants these days. Manhattan’s decor fits one of two themes—either honoring the restaurant’s spiritual inspiration New York City, or honoring the heritage of its building and neighborhood.
“As we go through the years, I want what we put up on the walls to be part of the experience, part of the history of the building,” Lahey said. “We wanted the actual history of the building to be what goes up on the wall.”
As a result, Manhattan’s feels more genuine—the wooden floors and brick walls are the real deal. The establishment’s diverse clientele also adds to its atmosphere. “The melting pot of New York is reflected here,” Lahey said.
The Bottom Line
For those looking for a springboard to a beautiful summer evening spent exploring the new things downtown—simply excellent dining experience—it’s hard to top Manhattan’s. Lahey concludes, “We’re a great launchpad to enjoy the rest of Adams Street, and the rest of downtown. And if you haven’t been downtown lately, you’re really missing out.”
Zach’s Simple Salad: Deconstructed Tuna Nicoise
“We start with an 8 oz steak of Ahi tuna—nice, beautiful red steak,” Lahey said. “And we don’t overseason, pretty basic salt and light pepper on both sides. Sear both sides, leaving that center nice and red. And we place that on top of a bed of artisan greens, accompanied by in-house roasted beets, locally-sourced sugar-snap peas, when in season, locally sourced cherry tomatoes… pitted kalamata olives. And we serve that with a side of house-made balsamic vinaigrette, and the whole dish is covered with a nice sprinkling of fried capers.”