Thanksgiving embodies my favorite kind of dining — the magical kind that no restaurant, diner, cafe or chef can replicate. The dishes that will either create or bring back memories. The kind of dishes that only that one special family member can make just right. The kind of dishes that are part of our family history, tradition and fabric.
Just as there are many things to be grateful for at home, there are many things to be thankful for when dining out. Here are 10 things I’m thankful for when it comes to the local dining scene:
1. HIDDEN GEMS
There are really wonderful hidden spots all over town. I haven’t uncovered all of them yet, but I will make it my life’s mission to try. From the smoky tender brisket and hysterical pig art in the unassuming Fatback’s Barbecue (1334 Linden Ave., Dayton) to the hot, fresh baked pretzels at Smales Pretzel Bakery (210 Xenia Ave, Dayton), to the pizza and tacos and red shag carpet walls at El Greco’s Pizza Villa (3976 Salem Ave., Dayton), there are many wonderful unsung restaurants that can be discovered with a sense of adventure, interest and a GPS. I also recently enjoyed comfort food at George’s Family Restaurant (5216 N. Dixie Drive, Dayton) and some Colombian dishes at Arepas & Co (1122 E Dorothy Lane, Kettering).
2. INTERESTING MENUS
A menu is only as creative and impressive as the culinary mind(s) behind it. I love dishes that are compelling and captivating, and one spot that has been fun to watch open and evolve has been the Oregon District’s Corner Kitchen (613 E. Fifth St., Dayton) — a “finer diner” opened by husband and wife team Natalie and Jack Skilliter. He was most recently the executive chef at the Dayton Racquet Club, and both of them have a history of work in the restaurant industry during their time living in Washington, D.C. Their time working out East in a larger market has informed their vision and menu. If you are feeling up to it, the five-course tasting menu ($34 or $58 with wine pairings) is a great way to have multiple dishes and see what the restaurant is about.
3. GREAT VARIETY
We have no lack of flavorful restaurants to choose from in Dayton. We have global cuisine from around the world to choose from — Greek, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Thai, Mediterranean, French, Korean, Lebanese, German, Irish, British, Tex-Mex and more. If you haven’t taken time to explore, this region has a lot of delicious flavors and culinary creations to entice.
4. HOLIDAY SPECIALS AND DEALS
This is the time of year to start keeping your eyes open for special deals at your favorite local restaurants. Events, meal deals and special gift card bargains will begin to roll-out if they haven’t already. Last year I purchased gift cards from a half dozen restaurants as gifts that offered me a gift card of my own in to use in return. Keep your eyes peeled — just as stores are competing for your dollars and time, so are local restaurants and there are great deals that can be had! One of my favorite parts of the holiday is when Jay’s Seafood (225 E 6th St, Dayton) opens for lunch in December … It’s the little things in life.
5. SERIOUS STEAKS
There’s the Oakwood Club (2414 Far Hills Ave., Oakwood) and Pine Club (1926 Brown St., Dayton) sure, but there’s also Buckhorn Tavern (8800 Meeker Road, Dayton), Carvers Steak & Chops (1535 Miamisburg Centerville Road, Dayton), Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (The Greene, 4432 Walnut St, Dayton), Hickory Bar-B-Q (1082 Brown St., Dayton), The Paragon Supper Club (797 Miamisburg Centerville Road, Washington Township) and more. Sometimes a holiday celebration demands a great steak, and we are lucky to have plenty of great spots to find one.
6. NEW RESTAURANTS
There are some exciting things happening in the world of Dayton restaurants. From the previously mentioned Corner Kitchen, which is relatively new to the Dayton dining scene, to Roost Chef Dana Downs’ new restaurant Park, which should be opening relatively soon at 580 Lincoln Park Blvd. in Kettering — the former site of The Tropics near Fraze Pavilion. I can’t wait to see what the new year brings.
7. HEALTHY FAST FOOD
What a relief to have quick made-to-order meals available around town. The sushi at FUSIAN, the Italian street food at Piada, the salad bowls at Chipotle and some of the new quinoa salads at Panera are all wonderful ways to eat healthy when you’re in a time crunch. It’s nice to know that if you’re in a hurry, you don’t have to sacrifice quality like you did back in the day and for those who eat a vegetable-heavy diet, that there are speedy options available.
8. MOBILE DINING
Ramen Rickshaw, Zombie Dogz, Harvest Mobile Cuisine, Cheeky Meat Pies, C’est Cheese, Bad Dog Nice Taco, PA’s Pork, The Wicked ‘Wich of Dayton, The Drunken Waffle, McNasty’s, Hunger Paynes … I love a food truck and we have some of the best around. If you haven’t tried the food these trucks are serving, this is worth adding to your dining list. Very thankful that this is a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The dining scene is far more robust when more cooks are able to showcase their creations.
9. THE OREGON DISTRICT
The best place to do a progressive dinner by far in Dayton is the Oregon District. Wheat Penny, Roost, Salar, Thai 9, Dublin Pub, Franco’s Ristorante, Lily’s Bistro, Corner Kitchen and Jay’s Seafood are just a few. It’s an incredible spread of independent, innovative kitchens and one that we are lucky to have.
10. SWEET TREATS
With celebration and thanks comes dessert. I give great thanks for Graeter’s, which has been packed up for happy customers since 1870. With seasonal favorites pumpkin and cinnamon now on the menu, it’s the perfect time for a fall treat. Also glad to see Elé Cake Co. opening a new location at Austin Landing joining locations in West Carrollton and Beavercreek. In addition to sweet treats, the Austin Landing location offers a menu featuring small plates like short rib ravioli and other mouth-watering dishes.