Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Great Lakes >
Dec 23, 2011 05:14 AM

Papi's by the Lake - Harveysburg, OH [SW Ohio]

Papi's by the Lake @ Harveysburg, OH. This is the kind of place
where "everybody knows your name."

You won't find it, unless you are told about it and search it out.
The closest they get to advertising and signage is their Facebook
page, a website and a few reviews.

Harveysburg is village SE of Dayton, on OH 73. The primary business
over the past 50 years has been their "speed trap." They take
the speed limit very seriously. Once upon a time, I was ticketed
for 46 in a 45. It is a zero-tolerance, no favors, no waivers
operation. The speed limit has since been raised to 50 MPH.
You've been warned.

This past July, a meat cutter of 40-years, with no restaurant
experience, decided to live his dream and open a restaurant on one
heck of a shoestring. Attaboy!

It's located in half the gymnasium of the olde, tired, closed
high school. The hoops and scoreboard are still there. The
furnishings, I kid you not, are a mix of early-attic and Olive
Garden cast-offs. The kitchen area is a wall'd and curtain'd
off corner of the half-gymnasium. Our waitress wore a Lowe's
apron. <g>

While the address is technically 74 West Main St, that will not get
you to the entrance ... it's around the back. Drive down the gravel
alley on the east side of the bulding. This should help:

The retired meat cutter certainly knows his proteins. The beef,
fish and fowl portions are top-notch, generous, prepared as
ordered and nicely seasoned.

Their standard dinner salad is the typical rural midwest salad:
Roughly chopped lettuce with a few diced tomatores and a sprinkle
of croutons from a bag. Unless you you ask for the salad dressing
on the side, it'll come swimming in salad dressing. This is the
"rural Ohio" way. But this salad is different - it is served on
a dinner platter. It is huge. The owner explained, "I don't
want you to run out of salad before your dinner arrives." Mission

Dinners include two or three sides - the usual assortment. My
choices were dressing and mac & cheese. Both underwhelmed. The
dressing was of the thick gooey type and had precious little
texture beyond gooey. The mac & cheese seemed to be a single
cheese, not a blend. Rather one-note. Not creamy; nor firm.

My dining companion's baked potato was properly cooked. In
keeping with the theme, it was huge. Half of it went home.
The green beans are typical rural-Ohio ... cooked to the point
of limpness.

Price? Dinner for four was $44 something, including the tax.
Only two beverages for the table. No desserts were ordered or
sampled. Both the owner and waitress made a valient effort to
sell their cakes and pies ... mentioning homemade by a friend.
I believe them. We were simply too stuffed and had Xmas sweet
galore at home.

I like Papi's. No pretentions. No apologies. Solid home
cooking. Stick with the basics and you'll have a good meal.

I really want to see this place succeed. Ignoring the Police Dept,
they are probably the largest employer in the village. Goodness
knows this areas need jobs ...

I'm thinking that maybe this would be a good place for FN to
film an episode of Dinner Impossible. Help with signage,
decor and the side dishes may indeed be welcome.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hours: 11AM - 8PM
    Closed: Sunday & Monday

    1. Thanks for the review. Papi's intrigued me when I first heard about them, but I have not had a chance to try it. Urbanspoon actually listed them as being in New Lebanon at first.

      There have been essentially zero dining options between Waynesville (Corwin Peddler is listed as Waynesville) and Wilmington on SR 73 for years. This gives people visiting Caesar's Creek or the Ren Fair when that's going on a solid option.

          1. re: rainsux

            This isn't surprising. I drove by there after reading this post last year. The setting where the place is located was really offputting, being an old brick school building next to a potholed gravel lot. I know the guy was probably trying to keep overhead low, but the setting was just really ugly and dismal. He would have been better off in a storefront, even a run down one. Also, Harveysburg is completely off the beaten trail.

            1. re: donw9876

              Old brick school building? Not the Free Black School?

              I would disagree it's really off the beaten trail. Waynesville is famous for their antiques, and Caesar's Creek State Park is among the most visited in the state. The Renassiance Festival, mere yeards away, is also very popular. It may not be big city/suburb, but Harveysburg is fairly easily accesible. Surely more so than, say, Hocking Hills. Done right, this place could have really made it.

              1. re: Fibber McGee

                > Free Black School?

                No. The pin in the map was the restaurant entrance. Unless you knew about it, you
                were not gonna find it. No signage/advertising whatsoever; aside from a small sign
                by the door.


                > Done right, this place could have really made it.

                I am skeptical. Everything you mention is very seasonal. Papi's was a very low overhead
                operation. I've heard various explanations for why it shuttered. Dunno which to believe,
                so I won't repeat any of them here.

                The owner did tell me that he wanted to put in a dock and run golf carts to:from the
                lake ... and DNR (? or Army Corp of Engineers) said, "No."

                Does the state park have any kind of food concession operation?

                1. re: rainsux

                  I would say seasonal and what is available in the area is open for debate, but no need to muddy up this site with that. But Harveysburg is only a few miles East of I-75 and a few miles West of I-71. The lack of advertising hurt it, probably, but can't be the only culprit. Corwin Peddler, which is open seasonally, has brochures in several rest stops not to mention is very tied in with the bike trails in the area. Same with Oregonia's Little River Cafe.

                  State Route 73 is a fairly busy route on the way to Wilmington. But anything suggested is neither here nor there at this point. It is too bad, as with any business failing.

                  They might have a concesssion stand by the beach, but that would be about it.

                2. re: Fibber McGee

                  It seemed to be in the old high school building.

                  Harveysburg is a weak location. A carryout in Harveysburg located close to 73 (visible from the road) shut down years ago. And it had no competition. Papi's was located about 1/2 mile off the highway in a residential neighborhood.

                  I drove by Papi's when I read these postings. I honestly didn't want to bother with it when I saw it. It looked like a place where a homeless shelter or a storage warehouse would be... extremely uninviting looking. I never considered going out to eat there. Even with the good reports. One thing I want when we eat out (yeah, maybe I'm being a snob) is some atmosphere.

                  And I am into offbeat, non conventional places. Most people would have not bothered to even look for it.

                  My attitude was, get some windows in the place and some actual signage and I'd consider it.

                  Corwin Peddler is entirely different and it is successful and location is the primary reason. It's relatively visible to the bike trail which is used by hundreds of people every day in the season, and it's a nice and pleasant looking old house that LOOKS like a restaurant and a place of business.

                  IMO, "Papi's" location was probably selected because the rent was extremely low. That's exactly the reason why - it is a location absolutely worthless for most retail where some kind of image and visibility matters.

                  1. re: donw9876

                    That's fair. From wbaf you and rainsux have said, they probably didn't seek out the best way to succeed. It is too bad because I think something could really succeed on that stretch with the right situation. This wasn't it, or it didn't allow itself to be. Papi's, to me, could have followed the Corwin Peddler model by playing up its location and making it look like a restaurant.
                    It could have made it.