Doc Watson’s: Hole in the wall turned local treasure

Nestled in the back corner of Foundation Park Plaza at 1515 South Byrne Rd. lies one of Toledo’s best kept secrets. Rich with family history and neon signs, Doc Watson’s Flavorful Foods & Spirits has been welcoming visitors with friendly service, charming décor and a vast menu of food and drink for nearly three decades.

With an unassuming exterior, Doc’s could be easily missed. But the lively bar and restaurant is akin to the set of “Cheers.”

Doc’s History

Doc Watson’s first opened in 1995 with a name that pays homage to the father and grandfather of owners Nancy Watson and Charlie Young. The “real” Doc Watson, Dr. Charles W. Watson, was well known for his service to Toledo area families for nearly 45 years.  “For a while there were people that would come in and say, ‘He was my doctor’ or ‘He delivered me’”, explains Carey Willis, the bar’s general manager for the past ten years.

Dr. Watson’s spirit and legacy are kept alive throughout the restaurant, with his portrait and framed doctorate degree hanging on the wall—  alongside a Jack Daniels’ poster.

Amidst booths cushioned in red leather, the dark, wooden bar sits grandly in the middle of the restaurant with black-and-white checkered tile floors surrounding it.  Situated throughout the room, TV screens are viewable from just about every angle. A sign hangs on the back wall featuring a drawing of Young, a former hockey player, sporting a wide grin with his front tooth missing, and the phrase, “Service with a smile.”. 

Business During COVID

Like most restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, Doc Watson’s got creative with the unexpected downtime. “We took advantage of the time, doing a lot of work on the inside of the building,” Willis said.    

“Still, everything is kind of unpredictable,” she continues, “We’ve just had to be very fluid with the way— the new way— of how things are since quarantine. You never know what you’re not going to be able to get from a supplier and you never know if you’re going to be busy or slow.”

As far as business today, Willis says, “It’s definitely a new normal. Everything feels normal because we’re lucky to have a lot of regulars, but the business is still very unpredictable.” 

What’s On The Menu

With a full menu of burgers, wings, pizza, hot dogs and vegetarian fare, much of one’s visit might be spent on simply deciding what to order. A classic favorite is the Cold/Hot Dip, served chilly but with an amazing spicy kick. Meats are smoked in house, soups are housemade, and their gourmet burgers have intriguing names like Captain Jarhead, The Houdini and Pig in the Garden.  Ask about their great selection of both local and regional/Ohio beers. 

Don’t miss the breakfast and brunch menu, available Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., with specialty omelets, waffles, pancakes and skillets of all varieties.  For Bloody Mary fans, be sure to ask for the house infused bacon vodka. 

1515 S. Byrne Rd. 419-389-6003.