Stella's in downtown Perrysburg has a wealth of positive attributes.
The location in a historic building on Louisiana Avenue is ideal, with both an outside dining area and a sumptuous two-story inside that is richly appointed and relaxing. The walls are lined with art, the wait staff is knowledgeable and efficient, and the overall vibe is frankly not typical of most Toledo-area restaurants.
Translation: Stella's feels more like a big city (or Ann Arbor) establishment than the kind of meat-and-potatoes or ethnic restaurant you generally find locally.
All that said, I walked out of the place on a recent weekend night sorely disappointed in my meal. As a caveat, my other dining companions were satisfied with theirs, which ranged from excellent to middling.
Address: 104 Louisiana Ave., Perrysburg
Menu: American, nouveau cuisine
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday. The kitchen closes at these times each night, but the bar stays open about an hour later.
Reservations are accepted.
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average Price: $$$
Credit Cards: AE, Dis, MC, V
Web site: stellasrestaurantandbar.com
First, the good things: The 12-ounce New York strip steak ($24) was tremendous. Ordered medium, Stella's chef let the meat speak for itself and didn't try to tart it up with seasonings or anything that would get in the way of the flavor of the fine cut of beef.
The grilled chicken fettucine ($19) was slathered in a vodka sauce, with pancetta, onion, garlic, herbs, pecorino, and sun-dried tomato. Stella's bills itself as a purveyor of "comfort food" and this is an example of where the restaurant gets it right, with the grilled meat complementing the tomato-based sauce.
The hazelnut chicken ($19) was saved by the sauce, which contained dijon mustard and Frangelico cream. On its own, I found the lightly breaded boneless chicken dry and bland, but dipped in the accompanying sauce, a rich and tangy combination of flavors came to the forefront and saved the bird.
The disappointment was the cedar plank-roasted walleye ($23), which was remarkable in its utter dullness. The menu says it was seasoned with herbed butter -- and the first bite of each piece delivered just a bit of flavor -- but after that it was akin to store-bought tilapia baked in the oven on a busy night when you're just trying to get a healthy meal on the table quickly.
I found myself dumping salt on the dry, chewy slab of fish to try to provide some degree of flavor, which should not happen at a restaurant of Stella's caliber. One of my table-mates tried a bite and was equally unimpressed, digging back into his chicken fettucine with even more gusto. Suffice to say, something went seriously wrong with this meal because the mashed potatoes were stiff and equally dull and the broccoli on the side was over-cooked and soggy.
My dinner was saved somewhat by a sublime clam chowder that came with the meal. It was piping hot and loaded with fat clams. Stella's serves fresh home-made bread, which worked well in sopping up the soup.
The appetizer -- grilled ribeye cap steak with peas, sun-dried tomato, pecorino, and greens ($10) -- was most excellent for four people. Small chunks of steak paired up with the peas, tomato, and greens to whet our appetites.
The dessert sampler ($8) featured an array of goodies that included chocolate mouse in phylo dough, macaroons, and strawberries and was a nice topper to the meal.
Lunch was good, but at ($37, counting the tip) over-priced for what essentially was soup and a salad. The walleye sandwich ($9) was breaded nicely and nothing like my cedar-plank roasted version, which means it was good. The gazpacho ($4.50) was fresh and especially welcome on a hot day, but a bit too much oil in the soup left a sheen on top that was a bit disconcerting.
The Maui chicken sandwich ($9) featured grilled chicken with grilled pineapple, garlic sauce, and tomato on a fresh bun. The soup of the day ($4.50) was cream of mushroom and it was exceptional, combining the usual earthy creaminess you would expect with just a bit of zing from chilies used in the recipe.
New waiters were being trained on each of our visits, but that was not a problem. They were polite and worked hard to get things right. Stella's has a full bar and deep wine list and the atmosphere is classy without being pretentious. Live music is featured on many nights.
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org.