The Dark Horse Restaurant: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

. December 1, 2016.
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The Dark Horse Restaurant

4136 N. Main St. | Findlay
419-424-9201
Hours: 7am-10pm Monday-Thursday
7am-11pm Friday-Saturday | 8am-3pm Sunday
Darkhorsefindlay.com | “The Dark Horse Restaurant” on Facebook
Takeout, delivery, and catering
Christmas gift card special– Purchase $50 gift card get $10 bonus card free

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Most restaurants have their draw, their flagship reason why people first give them a try or, if they’re lucky, come back. It’s hard to choose that outstanding reason why The Dark Horse left me so content.

There was the pleasant feeling of time slowing down as I enjoyed the company of my family, and the sense of community in the restaurant. There was the simple, cozy decor. And what about how I can still taste those homemade croutons in my salad, and the delicious marinara sauce and breading of my chicken parmesan?

“We do have a lot of repeat customers,” said Neeli Oler, Dark Horse owner. “Some people are here four and five times a week. That’s what we want– people to feel at home, that they can come to a friendly place where they know people and want to come back.  I can’t say enough about our longtime customers. They keep me going. ”

Along with the sense of community, Oler said The Dark Horse is known for its meals made from scratch, many of which are generations-old family recipes. Oler strives for reasonable prices and portions, and she said their lunch specials, prime rib, and the “Best Breakfast in Town,” are also big draws. The restaurant has been open for about 10 years; for five years, Oler has been the sole owner.

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A look around

There’s nothing fancy about the decor of The Dark Horse. There are tables with ads on them, cushioned brown chairs, a tile floor, a wooden bar, cream-colored walls with wooden trim. There are a few flat-screen TVs, but in a world of fast-paced over-stimulation, the environment is refreshing, freeing your attention to your company and the food. Plans for new restrooms and an expanded waiting area are currently in the works.

As my kids happily colored their placemat sheets and tried to “help the Momma fish find her 10 babies” on their cups, our family of four all had a nice chat and shared a lot of laughs. Looking around, I saw a little bit of everyone there– a young family with an estimated 1-year-old and 3-year-old, some senior citizens, a group of ladies dining, a few men chatting at the bar.

The Dark Horse menu is extensive, including 11 appetizers; several sandwiches; soups; delicious salads; a tasty variety of burgers; a wide variety of sides; several Italian specialties such as veal parmesan and lasagna; and a number of tantalizing entrees– tortilla-crusted tilapia, steak, and mahi mahi, to name a few. The kids’ menu offers your standards but several choices off the beaten path too, such as fish sticks, spaghetti and meatball, and mac and cheese. For $4.99 you get an entree, side, drink and, one of the top ways to win the favor of kids: ice cream.

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More pillow references

As we perused the menu making our selections, our waitress brought a basket of homemade, warm bread spread with a little butter and seasoning. Delightful.

My 11-year-old son ordered a side salad, chicken strips and fries. Looking over his salad he was ready to proclaim we were in for a great meal. “I think this is going to be awesome,” he said, basically drooling, with wide eyes. “It has a hard-boiled egg, so, you know…”

My husband ordered the chef salad with French dressing and selected banana bread to come with it. He had sampled the salad before and knew it was just what he wanted and said the rest of us should try the homemade banana bread. Lately, my son has been coming up with descriptions for food he loves that involve pillows– this time he decided the bread was “like a new pillow.”

I would describe the bread as outstanding, fluffy, sweet and delicious. I promptly ordered a loaf to take home for breakfast and continued to swoon over each piece. My 7-year-old daughter was a fan of the bread, along with her chicken and fries.

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My meal, the Parmesan chicken, was exceptional. The spaghetti was cooked to that perfect place where it’s soft, but not gooey. The tomato sauce was wonderful, with tiny pieces of beef, and very flavorful. The seasoned breading on my chicken reminded me of the homemade croutons atop my salad– crispy, light and delicious. Last but not least, my chicken was juicy, topped with tomato sauce and heavenly melted cheese. I simply could not have enjoyed my meal more– and I ate my leftovers at my first opportunity, lunch the very next day.

If I might be straightforward, The Dark Horse has quickly catapulted to one of my favorite restaurants. For the Christmas season, it will even be decorated with lights and a tree, making it all that more cozy. Save my seat, please– I crave another chicken Parmesan and precious quality time with the family!

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The Short Course

Kid-friendly: To the max
Noise level: Quiet
Bathroom amenities: Clean and adequate
High chairs: Yes and booster seats
Got milk? White and chocolate
Kids’ menu? Yes, nice variety
Food allergy concerns: No peanut oil used. Oler said let your server know, and accommodations can be made.