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Tony Packo's

Tony Packo's History

Tony Packo was a factory worker. Then it all changed in 1932 with a man and his wife and a $100 loan from relatives, in the hardest of hard times, the first years of the Great Depression.

Tony Packo was a native East Toledoan, the son of Hungarian immigrants, born in 1908 a stone's throw from Consaul and Genesee streets, where he opened a sandwich and ice cream shop in 1932. There was no beer at Packo's that first year. Prohibition would not be lifted until 1933.

Buy pickles at Tony Packo's

Tony had learned the restaurant business working for his older brother, John, who owned a place across Consaul Street in what is now Tony Packo's parking lot.

Tony's famous sausage-and-sauce sandwich was a product of the money shortage of the Great Depression. Tony initially sold a homemade sausage sandwich, with the sausage split open and served on rye bread, for a dime. But the price was too high for the times. At the suggestion of a customer, Tony began selling half-sausages in buns for a nickel. To give the smaller and cheaper sandwich more appeal, he added a spicy meat sauce, the product of lengthy experimentation in the kitchen. Basically the sauce is chili, the Packos say, but Tony's original recipe remains a closely held secret.

Tony's creation was called the Hungarian hot dog because Tony was Hungarian-American and lived in a Hungarian neighborhood. Until Toledo-born Tony invented it, there was no such thing as a Hungarian hot dog, say those who know the Old Country's food.

Packo's food was an instant hit in the neighborhood. Within months of opening, Tony and Rose knocked out a wall and expanded their first shop, in what is now called the Consaul Tavern. By 1935 success had taken them to the point where they could buy a building of their own. They purchased the wedge-shaped storefront at Front and Consaul. The building houses part of today's Tony Packo's with a few more additions. The restaurant is still run by the Packo family - by Tony and Rose's children; Tony Jr. and Nancy, and Nancy's son, Robin.

The M*A*S*H Connection
Jamie FarrThe words that came out of Jamie Farr's mouth on Feb. 24, 1976, would put Tony Packo's in the spotlight. Farr, a native Toledoan appearing in the television show, "M*A*S*H," was playing Corporal Max Klinger, a crazy medical corpsman who was from Toledo. In the episode that made Packo's future, a man playing a television newsman talked to Klinger about his hometown. Farr wrote a little local color into his reply. The lines read, "If you're ever in Toledo, Ohio, on the Hungarian side of town, Tony Packo's got the greatest Hungarian hot dogs. Thirty-five cents..." Thus a new epoch began. The name appealed to the scriptwriters, who wrote Packo's into five subsequent episodes. In one show the mobile hospital unit sent to Packo's for sausage casings to be used in a blood-filtering machine. Packo's was also mentioned in the two-and-a-half-hour final episode in 1983.

The Most Popular Buns in the Midwest
Zsa ZsaThe Farr coup was actually, the second time good fortune in the form of a celebrity began a new era at Tony Packo's. In June, 1972, Burt Reynolds was playing "The Rainmaker" at a local auditorium, and Nancy (Tony Sr.'s daughter) got a notion to get him into her restaurant. "I thought, well, he's got to eat somewhere." Nancy wrote a letter and took it to Reynold's hotel.

About two nights later he showed up. Reynolds was the first big name to eat at Packo's and sign a hot dog bun, a precedent followed by scores of celebrities, including presidential candidates, whose autographed hot dog buns now are enshrined on Packo's walls. Nancy wanted him to write his name on something to commemorate his visit. It occurred to Reynolds to put his pen to Packo's breadstuff. Then the tradition of "bun signing" began and has continued to this day.

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See Pickles & Peppers and Condiments
Original Pickles & Peppers, Pickle & Peppers Relish, Hungarian Salsa, Spicy Spoonable Ketchup, Mustard Relish, Chili Recipe, Sweet Hots, Brittany Tomatoes, Really Chunky Dills, Sweet Hot Skinnies, Chunky Hot Peppers, Hot Dog Sauce and more. 2, 4 and 6 packs available.
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