As someone who frequently needs an easy, budget-friendly way to shovel cheese, meat, and grease into my mouth late at night, I fall right into Toledo’s target demographic. In case you haven’t seen the shop with signs advertising a suspiciously global list of food options, Toledo is the new pizza-in-a-cone shop on Thayer. Middle Eastern, Mexican, Greek: they will put extra-greasy generic versions of an array of ethnic foods into a doughy cone, conveniently wrapped and ready to be smashed into whichever face has the three dollars to pay for it.
So, at 1:30 AM last Friday, I paused my Seinfeld marathon, got out of bed, and put on my robe and slippers. I was going to do this right. I expected the shop to be a shit show—pizza in a cone becomes that much more alluring on the night of Sex Power God. And if I couldn’t find any underwear-clad SPGers, I was sure I would encounter at least a few of the loud, muscled party boys who crowd the sidewalks in front of Thayer’s many Mediterranean restaurants/clubs/money-laundering operations. Assured of some interviews, which would at least keep me entertained if they failed to provide any useful material, I shuffled into the intensely white light of Toledo.
Then I realized that atmospherically speaking, Toledo sucks. It’s not just that the mostly bare, beige walls and vaguely cone-shaped light fixtures don’t come off as overly fun; Toledo looks like whoever was in charge of decoration quite plainly did not give a shit. Before I got in line, I had already scribbled “Probably a money laundry, too,” in my notes.
The other instant disappointment was the shop’s clientele. These were not the raging partygoers I had expected. I wanted people puking and falling off of stools. I wanted people singing. I wanted someone to start yelling at the guy behind the counter for a turkey-and-gravy pizza cone (not one of the featured options). I wanted to start yelling at the guy behind the counter for a turkey and gravy pizza cone (it really should be one of the featured options). Instead it seemed like I was stuck with the ten people who couldn’t find a hookup at SPG. Toledo was less like the Pizza Party Shack of my imagination and more like the Pit of Eating Away Your Disappointment.
I scrapped any plans of interviewing customers, in part because of how bored they all seemed, but mostly because of my overwhelming bitterness at being somewhere other than my bed. I stepped up to the counter and after being asked three times what I wanted and then completely ignored, I ordered the Mediterranean meat cone. All the standard pizza options were there, but I figured how often can I get any food I want, “All in a cone”? The ingredients were listed as beef, onions, peppers, and mushrooms, and, for $1.99, I felt like I was getting a bargain. Then, I waited. Toledo bakes the pizza cone to order, so the food is hot even if it isn’t fast.
My first bite was what I had expected: all dough, stiff on the outside and hardly flavor-packed. I soon realized, however, that the dough served a greater purpose. Structurally, the dough is the perfect consistency; the cone stays together, is easy to eat, and its flavor is entirely secondary to that of its contents. Not that the contents would win any awards; it was essentially a glorified Manwich. But I love Manwiches. As I moved through the cone, the dough became barely noticeable. I stopped thinking about it as pizza in a cone; it was more like a cup of hot meat and cheese—a hot pocket with less self-loathing. The only downside was that the cone built up a reservoir of hot grease at the bottom, which exploded on my face as soon as I broke through the last seal of cheese.
It’s true, I enjoyed my Toledo experience. I felt as though together, the restaurant and I forged a mutually beneficial, wholly reciprocal relationship built on self-awareness—the culinary equivalent of fuck buddies. When I want some food that causes every instinct I have to scream “horrible idea,” Toledo is there to provide it, and they know it. Neither of us expects anything more from it, and I don’t expect that I’ll be hanging out there any time before midnight, but when the dripping meat cone comes out, we have fun. Just watch out for the hot oil explosion at the end.