Take a Swig: Perrysburg gastropub pushing beverage boundaries

A restaurant synonymous with Perrysburg, Swig’s very name conjures images of community, taking a swig and passing the bottle. Swig started as a simple concept, aspiring to be a neighborhood bar serving hot dogs, hamburgers and beer. When they settled into their space on Louisiana Ave in downtown Perrysburg over a decade ago, they realized they wanted to be all that and more — and today they continue to evolve.

“‘Simple’ just went against our nature,” owner Tony Bilancini said. “We started making our own ketchup, twisting our own hot dogs, making our salami’s and ham by hand. We still wanted to keep that neighborhood feel, but saw that we could do something different. We wanted to do those things at a fair price, so no one was excluded.”

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Bilancini always has an emphasis on atmosphere. His vision was to be a welcoming neighborhood bar; a place where people felt comfortable. “I hate to say it, but I feel like it’s almost like a ‘Cheers’ situation,” Bilancini said. “There is no such thing as a stranger, just friends you haven’t met yet. That feeling of trying to make people feel welcome has never changed.”

And Swig has evolved. When Swig first opened they had craft beer taps, but it wasn’t a focus. Similarly, their food had handcrafted elements, but it wasn’t yet exploratory. Over time, however, Bilancini noted a significant shift. “When we first opened, we did some cool stuff,” Bilancini explains. “Now, we’ve taken that creativity to a whole different level. We’ve pushed the boundaries on our food, while still making it accessible. And we’ve adapted to stay relevant without giving up on our core purpose.”

A Culinary Inspiration

Bilancini won’t say it, but Swig truly was a trendsetter for gastropubs in the greater Toledo area, both in terms of drinks and food. It has remained a cornerstone, however, due to Bilancini’s consistent approach. “You have to make it your own,” Bilancini said. “I don’t care if it is something as simplistic as a burger. If you don’t make it your own, what’s the point? You have to add that little tweak, but on the same note, you have to stay humble about it.”

Even after being in business since 2008, Bilancini still tries to draw on the original inspiration of being people-forward. From the staff he refers to as family to the patrons he remembers by names and faces, there’s still a basic approach.

“Don’t forget names and don’t forget faces,” Bilancini said. “The bottom line is to stay welcoming. If you have a successful place or even if your place doesn’t succeed, you give it your best because everyone counts on you. Restaurants, especially during this pandemic, can instill hope. And I don’t want to sound like Star Wars here, but restaurants are gathering places. At this point, if you walk into my place, I want you to feel like you’re home. In order to do that, you have to have humility. Serve good food, pour good drinks, make friends, and stay humble.”

Swig, located at 219 Louisiana in downtown Perrysburg, opens daily at 11 am and is open until 11pm Sunday through Wednesday and until 12 am Thursday through Saturday. To learn more, visit their website at swigrestaurant.com and/or follow them on Facebook.

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