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What's Good in Dayton, Ohio?

  • t

I have to travel to Dayton, Ohio on business next month. I'll be there for two weeks. I've heard from others in my office that Dayton is laden with chain restaurants, and the waits around town are really awful Fridays and Saturdays. Any suggestions???

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  1. If you like Vietnamese, check out Little Saigon on Woodman Drive off of Dorothy Lane. Some of the best phos this side of the Pacific. If you can get out of town, head slightly north-east of Dayton to the village of Yellow Springs and try the Winds Cafe, an eclectic restaurant with different menus for lunch and dinner. It's always sublime.

    1. n
      Niki from Dayton

      Both things you've heard are true (lots of chains, long waits on Fri/Sat eve). That said, there are still good places to eat in Dayton. Best steaks are at the Pine Club, just south of downtown, near UD. They make great lamb chops and hamburgers, too. I like Little Saigon, too, and you won't usually have much of a wait there, as many Daytonians are very white bread and actually PREFER the chains. For good margaritas and nachos grande, try Elsa's on Linden Ave. Order a Bad Juan and an order of nachos grande. For seafood, Jay's in the Oregon district (near downtown) is probably the best (my fave, anyway), and has a good wine list. Another favorite of ours is El Meson, in West Carrolton (south of downtown Dayton). They feature Mexican/Carribean/South American fare, with monthly themes. The whole fried tilapia is usually yummy. For sushi, Izu in north Dayton is good. For pizza, try Marion's, a local chain that does not deliver (eat it there; it's better). It's thin crust and consistently wins the best pizza in Dayton kudos in local polls.

      I've lived here more than 20 years, and can give you more detailed information if you tell me what you're looking for specifically. Also, Cincinnati is only an hour away, Columbus is an an hour and change, so that expands your options...


      7 Replies
      1. re: Niki from Dayton
        Mike Gallagher

        Nikki, have you heard of a place in Dayton famous for "Royal Ribs"? I ate there at least 20 years ago and I believe it was near downtown and not far from the river. The specialty was a boneless pork connected diamond shaped entree that I think had bamboo skewers threaded through end to end.

        1. re: Mike Gallagher
          Niki from Dayton

          Nope, doesn't sound familiar. The best rib place is Old Hickory, but I've never heard of royal ribs there. They have a place on Brown St, near University of Dayton, which is near downtown and the river, though. Sorry.....

          1. re: Niki from Dayton

            The place with the Royal Ribs,near the river was ,probably The Grub Steak,on N.Main.I've never had a bad meal there in 30 yrs.

            1. re: Popa Joe

              Yeah, it's definetly Grub Steak, I've eaten there a few times and have always loved it, have never heard a bad thing about the place. Also give Benham's a whirl, its on Warren St. downtown.

          2. re: Mike Gallagher

            Your talking about the Grub Steak on N. Main Street. They also have a second location on U.S. 35 in Beavercreek, though I've heard the N. Main St. location is better (it is the original).

          3. re: Niki from Dayton

            I am trying to get a menu from Marion's Pizza so that I can order some frozen pizzas and have them overnighted to me? Can you be of any help?

            1. re: Jill


              Good Luck, Mr. Marion is pretty strict, it's pretty much his way or the highway.

          4. Young's Dairy Farm near yellow springs, the Shuckin Shack raw bar north Dayton, Whimpie's deco Diner downtown, the Century tavern, Milano's subs by UD, Elsa's mexican, Cassano's or Marion's pizzas, Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers tavern near WSU, etc. etc. --- what sheltered coward told you you need to eat in stupid chain restaurants there? It's a mini-chowhound heaven if you have a car.

            1. s
              scott frederick

              Got to do El Meson..check out there web site..you will love it!!

              1. I can *heartily* echo the recco for The Winds Cafe in Yellow Springs. Their emphasis is on FRESH, seasonal foods. This is the best dining in the Dayton area, IMO. (It's great dining in any area.)

                Amar India off 725 (Miamisburg Centerville Rd.) near the Dayton Mall has terrific Indian food and good, freindly service.

                Amber Rose on Valley St. has good east European food.

                At the risk of sounding snotty, I'd give a lukewarm recommendation to Jay's. The one meal we had there was nothing more than fair. The menu wasn't all that inspiring, the food didn't seem all that fresh and it wasn't particularly well-prepared. The wine list was indeed good, but it took 30 minutes for us to get a replacement for a bad bottle of mid-priced Chablis. Again, I've only eaten there once, but I most likely won't eat there again.

                Thai West on Chambersburg road has fair, not great Thai food. Their cooking's good, but they suffer from less-than-fresh ingredients.

                Scotese's on North Fairfield in Beavercreek is seriously hit-or-miss for us. We've had one great meal and two mediocre meals there.

                If you like great ice cream or frozen custard, I happily recommend Ritter's Frozen Custard stands. There are a couple in the area and their products are great. Young's Dairy Farm also has great ice cream (not custard).

                1. I read this thread while on a two week trip to Dayton as well and tried the Pine Club because I wanted a really good burger. I consider myself picky about burgers I don't cook myself and this was hands down the best restaurant burger I've ever had! Service was excellent too. A great break from the chain-restaurant scene. There is also another sandwich place, a Buffalo Wild Wings and a great coffee shop on the same street.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Geaux Tigers

                    That's Brown Street, the heartbeat of the U-D area. Pine Club is regarded as the best place for steaks in the area.
                    Looking back at the restaurants listed here, Scotese's and the Shuckin' Shack are now gone, as are the WSU Cold Beer location and the Beavercreek Grub Steak. Grub Steak has a new second location in West Carrolton on Alex. And Thai West is now Thai Smile. It's improved with the name change.

                    1. re: Geaux Tigers

                      Interesting to read this old thread and to see how my opinions have changed ;-) Still love the PIne Club, and once upon a time, Anne Heller (who used to write the food column in the Dayton Daily News) said the secret to those burgers was that they grind lamb scraps in with the beef.

                      Jays has gone up and down, and the last time I was there, was good again. It still beats any other seafood place in Dayton, IMO. El Meson is still OK, but not as good as they used to be before they expanded.

                      I no longer like the nachos or Bad Juans at Elsas (they haven't changed, though; I have--now I'm only turned on by margs made with fresh lime juice, and although the nachos might still be tasty, I don't want that much cheese).

                      In the UD area, there's now Dewey's pizza, which although a small chain, has imaginative, tasty pizza, good salads, and a well-chosen although small beer and wine list.


                      1. re: Niki in Dayton

                        For the last night of restaurant week, we chose to go to Benham's. I had really been looking forward to the meal, because of so many good things I had heard from friends who had previously been employed by Benham's.

                        There were five of us in our party. We were seated right away, but it was quite some time before our server greeted us. She had a party of ten next to us, so we remained patient while she tended to them. We ordered drinks, and they along with the restaurant week appetizer were brought in a timely manner. We all ordered from the restaurant week menu.

                        Three of us ordered salads, and we had one soup. The salad was supposed to be a warm apple and bacon salad. What came was a bed of mixed field greens, with a sickeningly sweet vinegar based dressing. There was plenty of bacon, but only two chunks of apple on each salad hardly qualifies using the word apple in the title. Also with the salads was a bread basket with exactly one small piece of bread for each person at the table. We had a baby in our party, and she was not given utensils, a plate to eat on or even offered a drink.

                        It was quite some time before we saw our server again. I would have ordered another split of wine, but I was never offered another drink. My son ordered a Coke, and when he finished it, it was never refilled again. When our server returned, it was with our entrees, and our salad plates hadn't even been cleared! She thrust my dinner plate towards me and said, "trade ya". Is this fine dining? I think not! Everyone at the table had to pick up their salad plates before she could serve their dinner, and we paid 20.09 a head for this!

                        Our entree was pretty good. We all had a New York strip steak with a whiskey peppercorn sauce. The sauce needed to be beefier and more peppery. The mashed potatoes and winter vegetable medley were great. After our entrees were finished we sat unattended for a good twenty minutes. When she finally returned to clear our plates, she was told what desserts we wanted, but it was another fifteen minutes before they came out, and when she brought them out, she brought the wrong ones! We didn't bother correcting her, because we were beyond ready to leave at that point.

                        Three of us got a Strawberry Brulee, and one person got chocolate cake. All of the desserts were sprinkled with chopped mint. I can see the mint with the strawberries, but chocolate cake? yuck! And why chopped? A sprig is much more attractive and more easily picked off by those who don't like it. When the server brought our desserts, she stated that she would be right back with our bill, but instead of doing that, we watched her begin two new parties.

                        After we finished dessert, we sat yet another twenty minutes for our checks. I finally had to get up and speak to the owner. I told her we needed our checks and that we had been waiting a really long time. She never responded, so I went back to the table. She must have said something to the server, because about five minutes later the server returned with the check. She set it on the table and walked away. We paid and left a 17% percent tip, which is way less than I usually tip.

                        On the way out, I stopped and told the owner that I would like to comment on the service. I began to tell her everything that went wrong, when the server approached and interrupted our conversation. She began to argue with my assessment of our dining experience! She actually asked me if I never made mistakes, and then she blamed her poor service on the fact that they were just busy. The owner never spoke to me, and instead just stood there while her server argued with me. It's no small wonder that this restaurant is failing.

                        There is a lesson here for restauranteurs, and that is that poor service can ruin a perfectly good meal. Although I think the food at Benham's is dated and needs a fresh approach, it was pretty good. With the proper service, I probably would have thought it was fantastic. At this point however, all I really remember about our meal was the abyssmal service. If I had wanted to eat at a restaurant that doesn't pre-bus, and where the server is embittered with bad attitude, I could have gone to Frisch's and saved myself a lot of money. The owner never apologized for our bad experience, and barely made eye contact with me. We will certainly never darken their door again.

                        The link that follows is to Benham's mission statement. Needless to say, it is highly ironic.


                        1. re: shellyvankirk

                          Sorry you had a bad experience. I don't think Benham's is open regularly; just for catering, special events, and restaurant week, if I recall correctly. We did El Meson and Meadowlark for RR; El Meson was good but Meadowlark was GREAT!

                          1. re: shellyvankirk

                            Although this is a response to a post from over a year ago, I had to weigh in. My husband and I "dined" at Benham's shortly after moving to Dayton. At the time, Benham's was open for dinner Thurs - Sat. We didn't go during restaurant week. Our experience was very similiar - unprofessional, inept service (although I don't recall the food being all that great either) made worse by an owner who couldn't have cared less. The only good thing about our experience it made great fodder for bad restaruant experince stories. We haven't been back.

                      2. I've only been there once, but I'd suggest Hoggy's, a barbecue joint :) It was very homey, DELICIOUS food, and great service.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: cowgirlthunder

                          While prevalent around Columbus, there aren't any Hoggy's around Dayton. There's Hooks, Huffies, Bar BQ Hut and a few other barbecue places, though.