The Most Popular Buns in the Midwest
In 1972, Burt Reynolds was starring in a production of “The Rainmaker” at a Toledo auditorium. At the suggestion of Tony’s daughter, Nancy, Reynolds stopped by the restaurant to enjoy a meal after one of his shows. When asked for his autograph, Reynolds picked up a hot dog bun and signed it! Thus began the tradition of “bun signing”. Since that time, celebrities from all walks of life have been asked to sign a Packo “bun”, which is now a foam replica of the real thing. Buns signed by presidents, actors, musicians, astronauts and more can be seen in all Packo restaurant locations.
History of Tony Packo’s
The Real Story
The son of Hungarian immigrants, Tony Packo was a native of Toledo’s East Side. He was born in 1908, just a stone’s throw from Consaul and Genesee Streets. Tony learned the restaurant business while working for his older brother, John, who owned the Consaul Tavern located on what is now the Original Tony Packo’s parking lot. In 1932, Tony and his wife, Rose, received a $100 loan from relatives to open a sandwich and ice cream shop. Mind you this was during the hardest of hard times, the first years of the Great Depression.
Tony’s signature sandwich, sausage with sauce on rye, was created when he decided to add a spicy chili sauce to enhance the flavor of the sandwich. He used a Hungarian sausage called Kolbasz but because it was so large, decided to cut it in half. Not only did it resemble the size of an American hot dog, he could sell it for 5 cents, a deal during those tough times. Because Tony was Hungarian-American and lived in a Hungarian neighborhood, Tony’s creation was called the Hungarian hot dog. Those who knew the Old Country’s food say there was no such thing as a Hungarian hot dog, until Tony invented it.
Packo’s food was an instant hit in the neighborhood and word quickly spread around town about the delicious new hot dog at Tony Packo’s restaurant. By 1935, due to the success of the sandwich and ice cream shop, Tony and Rose were able to buy a building of their own. They purchased a wedge-shaped establishment at Front and Consaul Streets, which, over the years grew in size and fame as it became home to what is today’s Original Tony Packo’s Restaurant.
The M*A*S*H Connection
Tony Packo’s gained world-wide fame when M*A*S*H character Corporal Maxwell Klinger, who was played by Jamie Farr, another Toledo native, made mention of the Packo restaurant in six episodes of the show. In a 1976 episode, Klinger says, “If you are ever in Toledo, Ohio, on the Hungarian side of town, Tony Packo’s got the greatest Hungarian hot dogs.” With those words, Klinger put Packo’s on the map. In another episode, the M*A*S*H hospital ordered a batch of sausage casings from Packo’s to use in a blood-filtering machine. In yet another episode, Klinger spends time talking with a wounded soldier from Toledo. They share stories about their favorite places, including Tony Packo’s. When the soldier returns home he sends Klinger a shipment of Packo’s hot dogs as a thank you gift. Packo’s was also mentioned in the two-and-a-half hour final episode of M*A*S*H. Photos of the M*A*S*H cast, their signed buns, and other M*A*S*H paraphernalia can be seen hanging in the Original Tony Packo’s restaurant.