DAYTON EATS: DORA districts invite dining adventures



The first day of summer and the longest day of the year will happen this month with the summer solstice on June 21. Climatologists and meteorologists consider June 1 the official start of summer with the warmest temperatures of the year happening during the months of June, July and August.

Regardless of which date you choose, June is the start of the best times to enjoy food and drink outside. Coinciding with this timeframe, the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) in the Oregon District will likely be expanded to most of downtown Dayton in mid-June making it nine times the size that it is now and encompassing 80 food and beverage businesses. This means you will be able walk with a drink from the Oregon District to the see a Dragons Game at Day Air Ballpark or head from dinner to the Schuster Center and not have to rush to finish a beverage.

For me several of the dozen regional DORA districts that are exempt from open container laws are as much about the food as they are the drink. I love being able to walk and enjoy an appetizer at one spot and an entree at another and being able to take my drink with me when I am ready to go to the next spot and enjoy the stroll for a relaxing vacation vibe.

Not all DORA districts offer as much as others. Some have been put in place to help spur economic development and don’t have as many businesses to hop to and from. With that said, here’s a look at my favorite DORA areas and some of the spots to eat and drink when you go.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Austin Landing

This mixed use development has several restaurants to hop to and from with a beverage in hand and a park in the middle to sit at and watch the sun go down. elé Cake Co. is the restaurant that is at the top of my personal list of favorites. This is a spot that can provide you with whatever experience you are looking for. Want appetizers before heading for something meatier at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill? Split the honey fried chicken tacos ($14) or an order of white cheddar cheese curds tossed in cinnamon brown sugar and served with house jalapeno raspberry jam ($12). They can go casual with a handheld sandwich like their Cuban ($15) layered with slow roasted pork, black forest ham, housemade pickles, swiss cheese, Dijon mayo and pineapple jalapeno cream cheese or you can go with an elevated entree like the Moroccan lamb meatballs ($25) served on a crispy potato pancake with rataouille and a spicy tomato chutney or their Southern style shrimp and cheesy grits ($26). With a great cocktail list and a solid list of wines and a housemade sangria, this is a perfect spot to start or finish any night.

Other nearby restaurants include Chuy’s, BJ’s Brewhouse, Dewey’s Pizza and the aforementioned Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, which is a great place to start the night with some bar bites like crispy fried green tomatoes with bacon jam, charred corn salsa, goat cheese, pickled onion and cilantro or the crispy cauliflower tossed in Thai chili sauce with green onion and pumpkin seeds or a summery burrata bruschetta or end it with dessert or a drink at the bar. Hours for the DORA are 4-11 p.m. daily.


Holy DORA Batman! The Oregon District’s DORA is about to get a whole lot bigger, expanding to the entire downtown with a footprint that is nine times larger. That means hopping from place to place, especially in the summer, will become much more of an experience with no need for everyone to “finish up” before going to the next destination.

This district runs seven days a week from noon to midnight. Until the new boundaries go into effect it’s just in the Oregon District.

Why not start at the Trolley Stop with a cocktail on their wonderful courtyard patio and work your way down to Lily’s equally excellent patio for a nightcap and dessert? In between stop at Roost, Jay’s, Salar or Thai 9 for dinner. That’s just one of endless adventures you can plan for yourself zig zagging around 5th Street. Figuring out a way to make it even more of an experience makes it so much more savory. Throw in a Levitt concert or a First Friday shopping experience and you’ve got yourself a happening night.

When the larger map goes into the effect the world of downtown Dayton is now your oyster. Grab a patio drink and appetizer at Table 33, head to Moeller Brew Barn for dinner and finish up at any one of the downtown Dayton or Oregon District restaurants for dessert.


If I were you I would plan a trip to Lebanon to coincide with the Lebanon Farmers Market held every Thursday from 3-7 p.m. now through October in Bicentennial Park, located at the corner of Mulberry and Cherry streets. And now, you can grab a beer or wine from a nearby establishment and sip while you shop.

The month of May saw Goodlife Farms selling pasture raised beef, pork and GMO-free chicken, along with more than 30 varieties of tomato plants, and a large selection of herbs and pollinator plants. Little Miami Farms has had petunia baskets, tomatoes, veggie and herb seedlings, patio plants and perennial flowers Glory Farms has sold fresh spinach, lettuce, jams, maple syrup, honey, shortbread, cookies and sweetbreads, mini desserts and pies and that’s just a few of the many vendors that come to sell the wonderful bounty they are harvesting this season.

Personally I’d stop by Greenhouse Cafe ( and grab a hibiscus mojito to go ($9). They have a wonderful list of summery cocktails to choose from as well as a hibiscus lemonade ($2.99) for those looking for a treat sans alcohol. They are open until 8 p.m. Thursdays so a drink works before going to the market.

No trip to Lebanon for me is complete without a stop at the Golden Lamb ( Make it casual at the Black Horse Tavern or head to the dining room. Opt for a fried chicken dinner ($24.95), braised lamb shank ($36.95), hickory roasted prime rib ($37.95), maple glazed salmon ($28.95) or a vegetarian couscous, mushroom and vegetable “cobbler” which sees a bed of pearl couscous topped with mushrooms, roasted garlic, green beans, dried tomato, spinach and goat cheese cream topped with a buttery biscuit crumple ($22.95).

Lebanon’s DORA hours are Monday through Thursday, 6 p.m. to midnight; Friday, 5 p.m. to midnight; Saturday and Sunday, noon to midnight.


Miamisburg updated their hours for their DORA at the beginning of May this year to 11 a.m.-11 p.m. seven days a week. DORA beverages can be purchased at the following businesses: Bennett’s Publical, Good Time Charlie’s, Bullwinkle’s, Legion, Eagles, Ron’s Pizza & Ribs, Plaza Theater, A Taste of Wine, Watermark, Curious Styles, Star City Brewing, Lucky Star Brewing and TJ Chumps.

DORA beverages are welcome at businesses throughout Miamisburg if you want to do a little walk about including Baum Opera House, Bear Creek Donuts, Classic Stitch, Dreamy Café, Estates 2 Go, Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop, Hedy Riegle Studio, Liberty Tax, M & Company, Miamisburg Art Gallery, Modern Bliss, Planogol, Rustic Rental, Silver Neon, St. Michael’s Rosaries & Religious Articles, Urban Loft Salon, Whitman’s Bike Shop and Willow Rust.

I think any purchase of a DORA beverage begs a walk to the Riverfront Park to enjoy the Great Miami River. From there go casual with beers and pizza at Ron’s or carve out a space at the TJ Chumps patio. For a date night worthy dinner there is Watermark restaurant which features a Chef’s Whim three-course menu for $45 a person. Next door, grab a cocktail at Backwater Voodoo to cap off the evening.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam


When you are thinking of hopping around between food experiences besides downtown Dayton my second go to spot is Troy. There’s Agave & Rye, The Caroline, Crafted and Cured, Sunaway’s Beef and Ale, Harren’s Market, Leaf & Vine, Miso, Moeller Brew Barn and Mojo’s Bar & Grill to hop to and from. Hours for the DORA are daily from 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Miso, the latest concept from the team at Speakeasy Ramen in Springfield, is the latest score for Troy’s booming restaurant scene. Like its sister restaurant, the menu at Speakeasy Miso in Troy draws on the best flavors and preparations from Japan, Vietnam, China, Korea and more with rotating features.

A recent menu had a gulten free vegan gyoza (a type of dumpling, $7.95), vegan gyoza ($6.95) and beef gyoza ($9.95) as well as a hakata ramen ($16.95) made with pork shoulder in a tonkostsu broth, a Sapporo Ramen ($17.95) with a pork and red miso broth and noodles topped with chashu pork, ginger-miso ground chicken, bok choy, scallion, bamboo, bean sprouts a brined egg and corn. The bar features a menu of sake, beer, wine and cocktails to compliment dinner. Future plans will expand the menu to a full list of ramen, udon, shushi and snacks. The new space is significantly larger with a much larger kitchen to accommodate the demand that its sister restaurant has seen over time garnering a following from ramen connoisseurs across the state and beyond. A patio on Cherry Street will be a hot spot this summer. Speakeasy Miso is located at 101 Main St.

The list of places to stop for food and drink in Troy begs for multiple visits over the summer. Good thing it’s a short road trip away.

Other cities with DORA districts include Centerville, Fairborn, Piqua, Tipp City, Springboro, Mason and Deerfield Township.

The state of Ohio has an interactive map to find existing DORA locations across the state. It provides detailed information including boundaries. Visit to learn more.

DAYTON EATS runs Sundays in the Life & Arts section of the Dayton Daily News and features the latest on menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes, and food adventures. Contact Contributing Writer Alexis Larsen at

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