Toledo Irish: Levi & Lilacs Coffee Pub
by Molly McHugh
Hello from the green fields of….Toledo! My name is Molly McHugh, a Toledo native, and I am more than honored to begin contributing to Ohio Irish American News. When John O’Brien, Jr. reached out to me a couple weeks ago about the opportunity to join the OhioIANews family, my Irish eyes glistened at the opportunity!
Although I am a Toledo native, I lived in New York for over ten years. I also spent a year in Ireland, attending the National University of Ireland, Galway, earning a Master’s degree in Business. So, while my feet took me East and abroad for a while, they brought me back home to Toledo a couple years ago. If OhioIANews allows me to stay around long enough, I may be able to share some fun stories!
It’s funny, when I used to talk about being from Ohio with some of my NYC colleagues, they assumed I grew up on a farm! That’s not me, but it was my dad, who was born in 1934 on a farm in rural Ireland; no electricity, no modern plumbing (no indoor toilets), and only a peat fire for heating and cooking. That still amazes me to this day!
Although my dad is now my guardian angel, I relish in the awe of all the changes he saw in his lifetime. As an adult, he came to call Toledo home, and I am now looking forward to shining a little light on all of the new, up and coming “Irish things” that are going on right here in the Glass City.
Levi and Lilacs
I had the pleasure of stopping into Levi and Lilacs, a local Coffee Pub here in Toledo. The idea of a ‘Coffee Pub’ caught my eye, and it probably comes as no surprise that they serve up an Authentic Irish Coffee.
I should have suggested renaming the place to ‘McLevi’ and Lilacs. That probably wouldn’t work, and rightfully so, as Megan McClellen, owner of the pub with her husband, conveyed on their website, “Levi Beebe purchased the land in 1828 and built the building where the Coffee Pub resides, in 1837. Originally, the building was a center of community activity, housing law offices, several stores, and even the post office. The main stagecoach route between Detroit and Fort Wayne ran by the front door of the inn, and only a few feet away were docks & warehouses where ships arrived & departed several times a day.”
It is rumored that future Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes were all guests when the building was used as an inn. In the years before the Civil War, the basement was apparently used as a stopping point for the Underground railroad, too. This building certainly has had an illustrious career, at least up until the 1930s, when it was converted into a brothel!
In true Irish fashion, it is rumored that Levi still haunts the place. I asked Megan if she had experienced any ghostly encounters, and she said there were times that the TV would randomly turn on and change channel throughout the day. Although that could possibly be explained by science, she and her husband still say “goodnight” to Levi every day when closing down the place.
Levi is in good hands. Lady Lilac is also meant to haunt the building, leaving scents of lilacs wherever she goes; hence the name Levi and Lilacs!
The Irish Coffee there was delicious. Inspired by the Irish coffee served at the Buena Vista in San Francisco (glass and all), the recipe follows sugar at the bottom, Irish Whisky, locally brewed coffee and, of course, the mainstay to any authentic Irish coffee, real whipped cream; you can’t have an Irish coffee without real whipped cream!
Not only was I happy to find out about this wonderful morning escape from Zoom fatigue, but I was also very happy to find a local establishment that provides local ingredients (except the whiskey!), along with a warm and welcoming environment with a true neighborhood feel. The coffee pub is open daily, and the Irish coffee is one of the most popular items on the menu. If day transitions into night, you can head over to their whiskey room next door for some live music.
To think that my dad would have ever imagined I would be writing about a ‘hip’ Coffee Pub in Toledo all these years later is hard to believe! To hear the full interview with Levi and Lilacs, head over to echosofireland.com.