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POP Grille        Star article from Toledo City Paper, published May 2015

You may recognize the building on Holland-Sylvania Road, which once housed El Matador . Traces of the once popular Mexican restaurant are still visible in the architecture and sponge-painted walls, but everything else has changed. Instead, POP Grille, a flavorful, American with Asian Flair restaurant sparkles.
The atmosphere is brightly lit, yet intimate and comfortable. Settle in at the bar, or sink back into a cozy booth along the front windows. There is also a back room, which comes with its own enormous screen for showing movies or slideshows. Tom Parent, Owner and General Manager of POP Grille, suggested that it’s a perfect place to host a baby shower, luncheon, or to watch a big game.
Adventurous with food
Entrees such as Grilled Chilean Sea Bass and Tower of Chicken, featuring pickled kale and POP’s signature tropical BBQ sauce, show off imaginative choices. Pork sliders, their much-loved lobster rolls and other sandwiches, including the bulgogi burger, which is steak cooked to your specifications topped with a generous slice of grilled pineapple. For those who prefer lighter fare, try the vegan salad, which includes lightly fried tofu, mango salsa and citrus dressing over crisp greens.
POP Grille features many barbecue and seafood items, including shrimp and fresh fish. The chef also tries to use local ingredients and use fruits instead of fats to create condiments wherever possible. Vegan and gluten-free options are prevalent. With a menu full of Asian-fusion options, POP Grille’s many choices ensure all diners will find something to enjoy.

Ratings:

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Outstanding; ★ ★ ★ ★ Very Good;

★ ★ ★ Good; ★ ★ Fair; ★ Poor

                                                                                  POP Grille
★ ★ ★ ★

            Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants. The Blade pays for critics’ meals.

 See what the Toledo Blade said about us:

The Former Old El Matador’s ( 3309 N. Holland Sylvania Rd.) is home to POP GRILLE..

POP Grille in its shortened form, specializes in American dishes that do, indeed, pack plenty of POP, perfectly blending sweetness with a touch of heat.
For example, the soup of the day on a recent visit was a gazpacho that paired the fruity flavor of honeydew with the kick of wasabi. The surprisingly delicious chilled creation set the tone for what was to come.
Seafood is not the first finger food that comes to mind for appetizers, but POP has a pair of winners with its Pagoda Smoked Salmon and its scallops . The tower of salmon is smoked in house — to cut the sodium content, the chef said — and topped with pickled vegetables and a flavorful pesto sauce, was flaky and teased the tongue with a slightly salty taste.
The salmon was also a hit in the sweet and savory Smoke Salmon Wrap . In this case, the salmon was served with a tasty plum red onion jam, roasted garlic avocado cream cheese, mixed greens, cucumber kimche, and drizzled with a seafood sauce.
Whether deliberate or not, POP’s food is presented as art on stark white, rectangular plates that enhance the dishes’ appeal.
The pork wontons  were served in a way that was almost too pretty to eat — almost. The crispy, deep-fried
wontons were filled with a tasty sweet and spicy barbecue pork and a crispy slaw.
The Tower of Chicken also was beautifully presented. Thinly sliced chicken is layered with pickled kale and fresh veggies and doused with a tangy tropical barbecue sauce. The dish is served with a hearty serving of flavorful grilled vegetables — broccoli, red peppers, mushrooms, and onions — and large scoop of brown rice. It also is accompanied by a side salad that in itself is nothing special, but is topped with a sesame dressing that’s good enough that it should be sold by the bottle.
Though we were pleased with much of our experience, there’s always room for improvement. The Lobster Roll , knuckle and claw lobster meat topped with a cucumber wasabi slaw, left a friend, who described it as “too bready” (been fixed) underwhelmed. Two large white rolls seemed to overtake the flavors of the filling. Serving one roll with the meat of two might have provided a better balance. The golden calamari  also missed its mark and was far too chewy for our taste.
Still, we marveled at the empty tables on separate visits. The fresh ingredients and inventive menu puts POP Grille ahead of many frequented Toledo restaurants. Perhaps the off-the-beaten-path location (formerly El Matador) and POP Grille’s dead-of-winter opening is keeping word of its offerings under wrap.

RELATED CONTENT: Recently reviewed restaurants

by Don Radebaugh     Mature Living     April issue

Toledo has long been renowned for its options in restaurants. Quite possibly you’ve already discovered Pop Grille in Sylvania Township but, if by chance, you haven’t, it’s time you did.

My lasting impression was that I wanted to go back and do it again. The rustic, cool-vibe you get when you walk through the front door provides the perfect backdrop for a gathering with friends. If you favor a quieter setting with something closer to fine dining, then the Pop Grille has you covered there too.

You get the same delicious food no matter which mood you’re in. For the red meat lovers, the rib-eye steak I had was tender and reasonably priced. It was Retro Days during March when I checked in, which meant turning back the price tags to reflect 1980’s prices.<

“Everything’s fresh…never frozen,” said owner/general manager Tom Parent. “Where else can you get one of the best steak dinners in town for under 15 bucks?”

Fresh, never frozen

Parent admits there were some growing pains since he first opened the doors in January of 2015. “As you’d expect with any start-up, we had to sort through some bumps, but we’ve got a great staff of people that make all the difference, and we’re always seeking to improve everything we do.”

He doesn’t need to improve his margaritas… they are the best I’ve tasted, anywhere. Parent mixes his own. “Come on out for Margarita Monday…$2.50 for a seven ounce margarita. They’re the best.”

You can often count on some of the best local live entertainment. Renowned local artists Johnny Rodriguez is often featured on Monday and Tuesday nights, with Don Coats and company Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as many Fridays and Saturdays

A range of dining options

For those in desire of a more elegant setting, the back dining room, beautifully restored, accommodates as many as 50 people for the finer dining, more intimate experience. With a flair for American food, the menu stretches from the very best New York Strip Steak to a Lamb Rack with their “signature glaze”. Or, choose a Tower of Chicken or the Grilled Chilean Sea Bass.

The combo menu is equally attractive with a variety of steak, chicken, shrimp, scallop and salmon choices or you can go with finger food including Pork Sliders, Lobster Roll or the Bulgogi Burger, thin-sliced marinated beef served with cheddar cheese, pineapple, arugula and onion topped with their signature tropical BBQ sauce.

Or choose from fish, kimchi or lobster tacos, smoked salmon wrap or one of the best gourmet burgers in town. (If a burger suits your style, try Tuesday nights when they’re just five dollars… no extra charge for live entertainment.)

Or choose from fish, kimchi or lobster tacos, smoked salmon wrap or one of the best gourmet burgers in town. (If a burger suits your style, try Tuesday nights when they’re just five dollars… no extra charge for live entertainment.)

For that sweet tooth, the Pop Grille’s got you covered with chocolate lava cake or different cheesecakes.

And yes, there’s a full bar with a bartender that is adept at inventive cocktail creation. There’s also an impressive wine selection. In fact, I’ve not found a better deal in town for wine lovers, offering entire bottles of wine for $12 bucks, with an impressive variety. Two and three dollar beers are common prices all the time.

The Pop Grille is located on Holland Sylvania Road, just north of Central Avenue.

For more, visit popgrille.com or call 419-517-5310.