Ventura’s is the Mexican version of Cheers, Boston’s iconic pub. “It’s a neighborhood place where everyone knows your name,” said restaurant president Valerie Scott of Holland, who works alongside her father Alfred Mundt, who has owned the restaurant for the past 34 years.
The building’s shell was erected in the early 1900s and the interior has been remodeled several times. A quaint, outdoor patio was added in 2001.
“When people come to Ventura’s they’ve sought us out – we are not on the beaten path. We are tucked away in the middle of a couple of neighborhoods,” Scott said. “For years, we were in the middle of nowhere. We joke that all the housing developments built up around us so they could be closer to Ventura’s!”
Scott’s daughter, Kristen, 28, has worked at Ventura’s since she was 16, beginning as a busser then as a cashier, waitress and now in training as a manager. “I do hope she can carry on the legacy,” Scott says of Kristen.
The restaurant is known for its margaritas – Toledo City Paper voted Ventura’s Toledo’s Best Margarita six years in a row. The recipe is a secret, Scott maintains.
When visiting the restaurant, it’s not uncommon to wait up to two hours for a table on a weekend night. “Ventura’s is always packed, even on weekday nights,” said Sylvania resident Jami Quillen. “It’s the first place our family goes for all special occasions, and it’s always where out-of-town guests want to go. It just has that lively atmosphere; the staff is friendly and the margaritas are to die for!”
Mexican food, with an American touch
The locally sourced cuisine is Mexican/American, according to Valerie. “It’s not authentic, but it’s great Mexican food, with an American touch,” she said. “People in Toledo have obviously loved it for years.”
On a recent visit, most of the guests in our party ordered traditional Mexican dishes like bean burritos, fajitas and tacos – all fare was served in generous portions, covered in cheese. Those that ordered American choices were pleased with the burgers, wraps and BBQ Baby Back Ribs, bathed in a spicy marinade, then charbroiled.
An unexpected new item, barbequed pork sliders, presented on lightly toasted Hawaiian buns filled with shredded pork and jalapeno-pineapple coleslaw, then drizzled with housemade tangy sauce, are delicious little gems.
And, every visit to this popular cantina should include a taste of the Cajun spices included in a number of menu items. On the appetizer menu, Queso Blanco is a white cheese mixture with added Cajun Chicken will have you thinking about your next visit. Try Cajun spices with main entrees, too. Shrimp, chicken, crab and seafood Cajun enchiladas all fold the named ingredients into an enticing, delicate white sauce.
For a lighter selection, the Chicken Fiesta Salad, a newer addition, is garnished with black beans, pinto beans, corn, Pico de Gallo, fresco cheese and fresh avocado slices. All of the soups are homemade and customer favorites include Black Bean and Chili Alfredo – rich and meaty, simmered with beans, mushrooms, onions and peppers. To kick it up a notch, add jalapenos.
If you are looking to tone the spice down a bit and leave on a sweet note, order the Super Fried Ice Cream to share. Crunchy cinnamon chips, drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauce, support a scoop of honey dipped vanilla ice cream, which is lightly fried, then topped with whipped cream.
Ventura’s is a welcoming and familiar spot where personal service comes first. “We pride ourselves on our friendly staff, great food and excellent margaritas,” Scott said.
Ventura’s | 7742 Bancroft St.
419-841-7523 | venturasmexicanrestaurant.com
11am-11pm | Monday-Thursday
11am-midnight | Saturday