Anytime I know that I will be traveling a significant distance away from home, I try and prepare as early as possible to maximize my local food exposure. When I'm with a group of people, I'm happy to defer to a national chain restaurant if that is all that is available, but when I can, I try and encourage people to give the local eateries a chance as well. Just such an occasion happened over the weekend. I found myself journeying some three and a half hours west of Akron to Fort Wayne, IN for a two-day convention with a number of other members from a group representing my mother's church in Orrville, Ohio.
While I knew that there were some specific spots that I personally was going to cover, when a call went out to talk about where to eat for lunch and dinner, I decided to dig in, do the research, and make a few suggestions. Fort Wayne essentially being a straight shot west on US Route 30, I looked at the approximate halfway point and discovered a small town named Upper Sandusky. Digging even further, out of the forty or so restaurants currently listed on Yahoo Maps, only a handful qualified as locally owned. I was further aided by a website called AllMenus.com which listed the menus at the various eateries I was considering. This really helped to narrow down the handful to three possibilities that each had their own unique personality and offered a good lunch for a good value ($4-$7).
Since there were only two drivers leaving late on Friday morning (myself being one of them), we agreed ahead of time on which of the three choices sounded the best. Seeing that MJ Mugsy's offered lots of tempting sandwiches for not a lot of money made it the best sounding choice of the three and that's the one we decided to stop at for lunch. MJ Mugsy's was located at 123 West Wyandot Avenue, Upper Sandusky, OH 43351 and can be reached at 419-294-5355. I couldn't find a website owned by MJ Mugsy's, but here is a link to the AllMenus.com website where I found their menu.
As we drove down the main city street of Upper Sandusky, we noticed MJ Mugsy's sign on the left hand side of the street:
We did a quick U-turn and parked right in front of the restaurant. It was cold and rainy and we were all pretty hungry for some good sandwiches. Unfortunately, no one spotted this sign hanging in one of the storefront windows:
Apparently at the beginning of last year, there was no longer an available lunch menu. The only thing available was a "lunch buffet." We discovered this only after we were already inside and talking with what seemed to be the only other person in the restaurant. Okay, so the first strike was that they were only serving a lunch buffet. The second strike was that the place was entirely empty (at 12:45 pm on a Friday afternoon, mind you). The third strike should've been that since the buffet started at 11:00 am, and no one was apparently around to eat it, that it wouldn't have been the freshest choice.
Sadly, group dynamics being what they were, we collectively decided to stay and brave it out. After taking our drink orders and bringing us reasonably hot and fresh breadsticks, we retired to a second equally as enormous and empty room to find a sad looking buffet line with a meager number of choices.
Walking down the line there was a tossed salad with two kinds of dressing and something resembling chunky salsa, one rather dessicated looking pasta with clumpy sauce, a cheesy bacon potato casserole, a baked spaghetti that looked like it had seen better days and finally two kinds of soup, an onion soup and a chili that our server described as "funky."
Making the best of the situation, I decided to go with as many non-meat options as I could thinking it would be the safer way to proceed. My first trip through the line, I chose some tossed salad with what I thought was a creamy Italian dressing, some of the cheesy bacon potato casserole and a bit of the baked spaghetti:
As I had feared, the food was only slightly hotter than lukewarm. The salad dressing I had thought was creamy Italian turned out to be sweet instead of acidic. I might have thought it was a honey mustard instead, but I didn't taste any mustard. The greens were slightly wilted, but decent enough. The potato casserole hit all the flavor profiles: cheese-y, bacon-y, and potato-y. The baked spaghetti was probably the worst of the three, but still a better choice than some of the other dishes being offered.
Our server also indicated that the kitchen was baking off a fresh pizza. After finishing my plate of food, I decided to return to the buffet line to check it out figuring that at least I could have something that I knew hadn't been sitting there for hours. I came across a Buffalo chicken style pizza, cut into a number of varying sized slices:
Still hot, I decided to go for a single slice. To be honest, this was probably the best thing on the entire buffet. This was a thin crust pizza that had been topped with bits of cooked chicken tossed in a Buffalo wing sauce and then finished with mozzarella cheese before being baked. The result was just a modicum of heat that would've made chicken wing lovers happy. Unfortunately, the only person in our group to return for a second look was me, so no one else took advantage of the fresh pizza.
When I decided to write this particular blog entry, it was with the intention of not only telling you about my experience at MJ Mugsy's, but also to remind you that even with going through the due diligence of researching the restaurants you are thinking of visiting in a foreign city, it is still a good idea to get multiple points of information. Had I called the restaurant ahead of time and verified their menu, I could've ruled them out immediately. Fortunately, everyone seemed forgiving about the suggestion and no one got sick, so I suppose all's well that ends well.
I can't speak to MJ Mugsy's dinner menu, but if you happen to be in Upper Sandusky from 11 am until 2 pm, my recommendation is that you skip this restaurant and try one of the other food establishments. In case you were wondering, gentle reader, the other two I had suggested were Los Archos (menu here) and China Garden (menu here). If any of my myriad of Upper Sandusky readers out there can vouch for either of these restaurants in the comments section, I'm sure our other readers would greatly appreciate it.