When I think of eating local in Toledo, I think of Fowl and Fodder. It’s that straightforward. I know this is the place I can go for a good meal, but the “local” part does not start with a quality sandwich spot on Central Avenue. At Fowl and Fodder, “local” doesn’t even start with the fresh lettuce and the cheese in your salad, the duck in your tacos, the coffee you drink, the carrots in your soup, the fruits and vegetables in the juices, or the bread served with your meal. Local: it starts with the relationships you’ve built.
Scott Bowman, the founder and owner of Fowl and Fodder, knows this first hand. With a past college student mindset that there is not much Toledo has to offer, Scott has become one of the key go-to people when it comes to food in the 419.
Scott is no stranger to handcrafted food, never having had mass produced sandwich bread until the age of seven. His grandparents owned a 72 acre farm and his mom cooked homemade meals for her family. To this day, both Scott and his sister enjoy the adventurous side of their home-cooked background. Creating his early career in the chain restaurant business, Scott has worked in the food industry since the age of 16. But it was his passion to create things by hand and his appreciation of quality cooking, that Scott realized he could craft better dishes than many of those he tried elsewhere.
He and his wife created a plan to make the move: owning a restaurant despite the opportunities available through the restaurant industry he was already working in. Scott decided to construct something different than anything else Toledo had to offer. He designed three different concepts of restaurants, landing on the idea of a sandwich shop centered around making local food accessible, using the best ingredients possible so anyone can walk in and be able to afford a meal.
Two years ago the Bowman’s realized the time was right, and entered into what would be the most stressful time in his life, thus far. Finally, a $20k Kickstarter was developed and Scott hit the pavement, engaging the community in which Fowl and Fodder currently resides. Facebook campaigns, health and wellness food events, support from the Sylvania and Toledo community, hours upon hours of talking with local business owners brought Fowl and Fodder close to fruition, but with days left in the Kickstarter push, they were still short. Just 24 hours before the campaign was to close, a big donor came through and they hit their goal with just 12 hours to spare. With help from family and friends, a good portion of the labor invested in the atmosphere was DIY. The barnwood, barn tin, and chalkboards were found locally, tieing in with the overall theme of the location. Scott’s dad assisted in handcrafting the bucharboard table tops, creating a handsome eating surface for guests. Even a special, drop in guest with strong ties to the original Chipotle locations in Denver, lent an instrumental hand in creating the atmosphere of the dining room by strongly encouraging contemporary drop lights instead of the pre-installed forurescents.
Scott spent the first three-plus months trying food from all across the region, looking for collaborators to create the modest but unique menu that the restaurant would offer when they opened. Now, a year and a half later and six menu changes, Scott is proud to say this fall is the best menu offerings they have had thus far.
It takes the relationship with the vendors, collaboration, and loyalty to succeed. With approximately 90% of the food supplies coming from Riehm Farms and Shared Legacy Farms, there is a lot of communication that occurs throughout the seasons in order to procure adequate supply for a restaurant and to plan ahead for future menus. Working together, sharing opinions, and recognizing the passion behind each business creates a network of buy local, grown local focused individuals giving Toledo an identity of community partnership that has tons of potential for growth.
Scott also invests a lot of time into food shows and events around the area. If he can give Fowl and Fodder a presence, he does. From trade shows to University Basketball events, the investment is in time and face-to-face contact with people. A new adventure for the business has been working with Churchills, a locally owned grocery store, to create cooking videos to show viewers ways to use local, better quality products. The goal is about working together as a community.
This style of restaurant also means that change is inevitable. Change with what can be sourced locally each season, and adaptability to change from the customers too. It pushes Scott, his team, and the patrons to try something new, create something better, and to even just roll with it sometimes. This could be why the clientele is dynamic. Fowl and Fodder sees a lot of regular patrons. “It seems that people either come in three times a week, or have never been here before”, say Scott. Many people come from out of town to eat here, especially those who are supporters of the eat-local, buy-local movement. With a staff of employees that are just as passionate about the business and what they do, guests are in for a great experience.
I love how this is a place where you can not only feel confident in the quality of the food you are eating, but you are supporting your local community at the same time. The vegetables, the poultry, beef, and fowl are all sourced from farms in our area. This, and the family friendly menu is valuable to many such as frequent flyer, Breena Holt: “Typically I feel very guilty, as a mom, when it comes time to have dinner and I haven’t had enough time, or I simply didn’t plan well. My kids are very hungry and I am at a point where I have to admit that we have to go out. Once Fowl and Fodder opened up, they were my go to! Not only because every meal is full of so many amazing flavors but because they care about the ingredients they cook with. It is such a blessing to take my kids out and truly feel good about what they are eating! Mommy guilt gone and that’s a wonderful feeling!” The passion and pride behind this business is something to stand behind.
Fowl and Fodder has so much room for growth. They have expanded their menu and hours several times already, and although Scott is very satisfied and pleased with the direction things are going, he continues to imagine the possibilities for the future.
I truly hope you find Fowl and Fodder as wonderful and truly local as I do.