Downtown, just over the Washington Street Swan Creek Bridge, turn right onto Broadway Street and there looms the Oliver House.
This massive four-story building houses some fascinating local legends along with some of Toledo's finest local establishments, and since it is the only place in Ohio where one can get history, mystery, and locally-brewed beers all in one sitting, this place stands on its own with or without the legendary presidential visit.
One of Toledo's most impressive historical landmarks, the Oliver House was built in 1859 as Toledo's premier hotel. Walking toward the entrance, the impressive Greek revival style would be an imposing fašade, but the time- worn brickwork, bright, neon-lit entrances and vistas of the lit bridge and cityscape in the background are anything but.
A helpful historical marker in the front yard says the building originally overlooked the Middlegrounds, an early railroad, immigration and commercial activity site. According to the Forgotten Ohio Web site of legends, The Oliver House was built on (what else?) an Indian burial ground. Ghost stories about the site are plentiful, one of the most famous being "The Captain": A ghost of a soldier who died in one of the upper rooms there supposedly haunts the Pool Room dressed in full uniform - medals and all.
Mutz, the brew pub located in the lower level of the multi-venued Oliver House (there is also a martini lounge, a restaurant, and catering), has a wide stone-spiral staircase. The floor plan is divided to provide a choice of 2 separate bar/dining areas, a game room and an outdoor patio that occupies the central courtyard in the middle of the building.
The bars are long and made of dark wood, and there's a shuffleboard, a pool table, a jukebox and a big-screen TV with hook-ups for a video game system.
The indoor seating is dimly lit. There are always bowls of free peanuts or popcorn. The patio has colored tea lights strung up between the walls of the courtyard, a bunch of tables with patio umbrellas and always has a full and lively crowd when the weather is right.
However, whether you're looking for dining indoors or al fresco, don't make a trip just for the food: this brewery is known more for the brews (rightfully so), and the pub grub is standard at best. To be fair, the portions are generous and a favorite strategy is to head down early on Thursday (5 to 9 p.m.) for Happy Hour and half-off appetizers.
We had a $5 pitcher and could barely make a dent in the nachos and the wings.
There's an impressive and rotating selection of crafted brews that come from the Maumee Bay Brewing Company, whose restaurant is located upstairs. There have been more than 20 different styles - everything from Java Stouts to Czech Pilsners to the ever-popular Buckeye Beer.
We tried the Fallen Timbers Red Ale and the Hefe Weizen, an interesting brew that had an aftertaste scarily reminiscent of banana and cloves. Domestic drinkers beware: crafted brews are sometimes bizarre and always much more flavorful.
In a city with too many cookie-cutter franchises and too few local establishments, the Oliver House proudly remains one of the historical, architectural and social sites with plenty of local legend and flavor.
Located at 27 Broadway St., the easiest route from campus is to head downtown on Dorr Street, which curves into Washington Street. Take Washington all the way to the river, turn right on Ottawa Street and then branch off to the right to Broadway.
Mutz is open Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., and parking is always easy to find either on or across the street.
For more information on the Oliver House and its other venues, call 419-243-1302.