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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Welcome to BG!

The NCAA Division I Great Lakes Regional Championships will be held on the campus of The Bowling Green State University this Saturday, November 11. For all athletes, coaches, supporters, fans, press, and other hangers-on, I'd like to welcome you to my little town. I came here in 1989 and loved it so much I never left. The city has a population of about 30,000 with roughly half of it being college students, so it's your basic self-contained college town. The University is located at the far east end of town, while the "Downtown" area is about two miles west of I-75 (which makes it maybe 1/2 a mile away from the edge of campus).

In the coming days I'll post information on the race site itself. Right now I'll give you the rundown on the basic travel info from a local's perspective. (I assume you already have your lodging taken care of.)

If you're looking for Italian food for a pre-race dinner, pickings in this town are slim. (I'm a bit snooty when it comes to Italian, as I married into an Apulian family.) Your best bet is DeBenedetto's. While mostly a delivery/carry-out operation, there is dine-in space available. You may also want to consider the Spaghetti Warehouse in Toledo (about 30 minutes away) or Biaggi's in suburban Perrysburg (15 minutes).

Toledo is my hometown, and it's one of America's most ethnically diverse mid-sized cities and packed with interesting eateries. The most famous is Tony Packo's Cafe (Hungarian), while my personal favorite is The Beirut (Lebanese). For other options, browse through The City Paper, Toledo's alt-weekly. Bowling Green is pretty much completely devoid of ethnic food; two notable exceptions are Naslada (Bulgarian), located in the food court of the Woodland Mall, and the Lebanese carry-out only convenience store called the South Side Six (I suggest the South Side Super Falafel sandwich).

Being a college town, pizza is BG's specialty. I think the most important part of a pizza is its crust, and Pisanello's (map) is far and away the leader in that category. Campus Pollyeye's (map) has superior sauce, but in my eyes the best thing they offer is their breadsticks (available stuffed or plain, with various dipping sauce options). Myles' Pizza (map) is good, but you better have a cast-iron stomach. You have never seen a pizza with toppings as thick as theirs.

The other best eateries in town:
Sushi - Uraku is good.
"Mexican" - El Zarape is your standard family-run Mexican-American restaurant and a very nice place.
Chinese - The China is neither bad (it's clean and reliable) nor good (unexciting). Don't go for Chinese in BG!
Soul Food - Ebony's. You wouldn't expect a town as white as this to have soul food, but the times they are a-changin'. Runs on CPT, so call ahead (419-353-3131). Definitely worth the wait.
Pub grub / steaks - Trotter's Tavern. Food service is slow but it's very good. The brown jug sirloin is the best steak in a 25-mile radius. Also the only bar in town that caters to true adults.
Diner - The Corner Grill (map). The epitome of an all-night greasy spoon. If a politician was going to stop in BG and try to convince us he's "ordinary folk", he'd eat here.
Coffee House - Grounds For Thought. There are other good coffee spots in town, but none better. Open 6 AM to midnight, it's THE BG hangout for everyone (old people & bigwigs in the morning, middle class in the afternoon, freaks and hairies at night).

I'm not much of a bar peson, so I haven't been in most of these places in a decade or more--I'm just going on reputation and memory. All the good bars are downtown. There are others, the "townie bars", but I wouldn't walk in to one of them without the protection of at least a tire iron.
Sports Bars - Ziggy Zoomba's, Downtown, BW-3, Jed's Barbeque and Brew (The last two have good food.)
Dance Bars - Sky Bar, Uptown
Places to catch some live music - Howard's Club H, Kamikaze's
General hangouts - Brewster's Pour House, Junction, Brathaus Nate & Wally's Fishbowl

Attractions / Things to Do
If you're like me and a bit of a homebody, there's not a lot for out-of-towners to do. The beautiful old downtown theater went out of business a few years back, but the mall does have a five-screen multiplex.

If your hotel room has a VCR or DVD player, you definitely want to check out the Video Spectrum. Home to the broadest selection of movies on America's north coast, from hundreds of snooty foreign films to cult classics like "Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter". A vestige of a bygone era, it is one of the few "Mom and Pop" independent stores still in business, and their film-student staff will help you find movies that you didn't even know you wanted to watch. A college-town classic! (Get "Running Brave" if you have VCR access, and even the most hopeless runners can dream big!)

Unfortunately, the BGSU Theater Department has no productions scheduled for the weekend, but the College of Musical Arts will have a performance by the Men's Chorus on Saturday night.

If you want to make a weekend out of this (and I have no idea why you would), there really are no tourist attractions in BG. Toledo has one of the nation's best art museums (free admission!) and a pretty good zoo; beyond that you should peruse the City Paper.

Next up: The race course!

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