Quality meats, a stiff drink, robust side dishes and an elegant atmosphere— setting the table as a United States staple in the mid-19th century, the traditional American steakhouse is well-defined.
Tradition can stifle creativity, but Chef Jeff Dinnebeil thrives on it. Owner and head chef of the newly opened Perrysburg steakhouse, The Benchmark Restaurant, Dinnebeil uses tradition as a point of embarkation.
A solid foundation
“If you use tradition as a starting point, you can introduce your take on it and show guests concepts that you’re really passionate about,” says Dinnebeil. “I think people can feel, and taste, passion.”
Passion is embedded into the 30-year-old Toledoan’s work ethic. After beginning as a 13-year-old dishwasher at Saba’s Chophouse in Sylvania, his career has included the opening of a handful of restaurants, then working at Chicago’s Spiaggia Restaurant, and locally at Biaggi’s, The Toledo Zoo, Social Gastropub and other Northwest Ohio staples.
“This is all I’ve ever done,” reflects Dinnebeil. “I love the fact that restaurants are one of the last few true crafts out there. You survive off the sweat of your brow, working hard, and learning from people who know more than you. It’s all about dedication and what you put into it.”
At Benchmark, every detail and each employee are carefully selected to enhance the chef’s vision. Dinnebeil and his wife, Megan Lingsweiler, who serves as the operations manager, have worked in the area for years, fostering strong hospitality industry connections. Servers, cooks and local restaurant superstars reached out to the couple in hopes of getting placed on an all-star lineup.
“We’ve been lucky. We were able to hire people that are professionals— who aren’t working in restaurants to put themselves through college, but do it as a living— and we assembled a team of people that we know, that are some of the best people I’ve ever worked with. Everyone cares about the restaurant. It has elevated our service to something special.”
“I’m a firm believer in putting love into restaurants. It sounds cliché, but I guarantee that you can taste the difference when a dish has been cooked with love, regardless of the ingredients that went into it,” explains Dinnebeil. “When you’re cooking and delivering service with love, you’re really caring about the people that you’re providing for. When you really care about your guests, the little things become big things— and you live and die by the little things.”
For Dinnebeil, the love comes from his commitment to his guests: “I think it’s really important for chefs to not let their egos get in the way. At Benchmark, our customers are people from the greater-Toledo area, honest, hardworking people. They recognize quality and they want something new and special, but they also want something they can relate to and not feel intimidated by.”
The menu speaks to the tradition inherent in the steakhouse concept in a fun, modern way. The chef takes steakhouse staples— lamb chops, pork chops, and steak— and pairs them with curious ingredients. The lamb chops are marinated with coffee and aleppo pepper; the pork chop is dusted with fennel pollen; and the steaks are plated with a bold and elegant Béarnaise sauce. Hearty and high-quality steaks are options for traditional tastes, while, for more adventurous palates, the Thai Steak noodle salad is far from ordinary.
Benchmark’s sophisticated 4,800 square-foot restaurant in Levis Commons, in the works for exactly a year before opening, has Dinnebeil living for the challenge: “It can be hard. The industry is a grind. But there’s nothing really quite like looking out at a table and knowing that for the three hours they were in your restaurant they didn’t have a care in the world. To put love, heart, and soul into service and the preparation of the food really provides an escape for people.”
11am-11pm, Friday-Saturday. 3-9pm, Sunday.
6130 Levis Commons Blvd
419-873-6590 | benchmark-restaurant.com