Watermark owners plan new Tiki-themed bar and restaurant in Miamisburg

Couple also adding patio to existing restaurant

Credit: Photo by Amelia Robinson

Credit: Photo by Amelia Robinson

Once opened, restaurants tend to stay the cosmetic course. There may be nips and tucks here and there, but major facelifts don’t happen very often.

When they do, it’s typically an exciting game changer — both for the business and the customer experience.

Watermark is in the process of embarking on one of these major updates.

When Nibbles Restaurant took its final bow in late 2017 to move next door and rebrand as Watermark, it left behind a sweet little outdoor patio.

Since opening Watermark, one of the items at the top of the wish list for owners Maria and Eric Walusis was adding a patio. They are completing construction this month and plan to open it to guests once it is ready. The patio, which can seat up to 120, will not only be used for outdoor dining, but allow for special events and live music.

“This new patio will boost business for Watermark all through the warmer months. For years, guests have requested outdoor dining at Watermark, and now we will be able to meet that demand. We expect it to spur the next stage of growth for our business, and also for the Miamisburg downtown area,” said Eric Walusis. “Miamisburg just passed its DORA (Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area) ordinance, and we plan to leverage this opportunity as well, both to add to our business, but also to further support the community ... With DORA, they are continuing to create reasons for more Dayton-area people to explore Miamisburg.”

Walusis says he is hoping DORA will be made active in Miamisburg sometime in July dependent on the state processing final approval, with hours and details that will be announced with the rollout. He says the plan is to have a DORA menu at the restaurant that will include some drinks that are DORA-only. One example is a special margarita, that they plan to offer in partnership with neighboring Tacos Barra Jalisco, which currently does not have a liquor license.

A patio at this excellent Miamisburg restaurant would be reason enough to celebrate, but the updates and announcements don’t end there.

Chef Maria and her husband have had a back-burner project in the works for more than three years, which was put on hold during the effort to open a second restaurant, Paradox, in downtown Dayton’s Fire Blocks District. With Paradox now on “indefinite hold” after they withdrew from the Fire Blocks project, it was clear that the back-burner project that was simmering needed to be moved to a front burner on high heat.

Immediately next door to Watermark is a small building that once-upon-a-time housed the first schoolhouse in Miamisburg. In recent years, it has been the home to several other small businesses, but Eric has had his eye on it since they moved spaces in 2017.

This spring that space became available and was immediately secured for the couple’s next venture — a new restaurant and bar called Backwater Voodoo. The new business will feature decor and a food menu influenced by the couple’s love for New Orleans, and the city’s contribution to Tiki cocktail history and rebirth. Target date for the restaurant opening is Aug. 1. Once open, Backwater Voodoo will share the patio with Watermark.

The food menu at Backwater Voodoo will be specifically focused on New Orleans cuisine, with both Creole and Cajun favorites like shrimp and grits, as well as other flavorful bites like Chef Maria’s Spam sliders. The small plates will be tailored to complement the flavorful cocktail menu that will be a blend of classic Tiki cocktails such as the Zombie, Mai Tai, and Painkiller, as well as originals created by the bar team.

“I have a passion for Tiki because in my view they are the most creative and complex cocktails ever created. Often dismissed as ‘fruity and immature’ by the uninitiated, one taste of a well-made classic Tiki drink such as a Zombie or Mai Tai, and it becomes immediately obvious that these are extremely well-crafted drinks, with superior balance, flavor, and complexity. Many drinks with a lot of ingredients just become a mush where the separate flavors and balance are lost in the shuffle. But a proper Tiki drink such as a Zombie has all the endless subtle notes of a fine wine,” said Eric.

The Miamisburg schoolhouse is architecturally reminiscent of the well-known ‘Creole Cottage’ buildings that fill the famous French Quarter. Painted in bright colors, the home of Backwater Voodoo will be immediately reminiscent of the Crescent City according to Eric.

Most Dayton natives over a certain age may remember Georgie Rudin’s Tropics supper club. A true local Polynesian-themed landmark, it served diners and revelers for decades. A set of carved standing stones that formerly decorated the outdoor space at The Tropics has been resurrected as the gateway to the new patio.

The couple previously showcased their long-standing passion for Tiki culture at several Tiki dinners they hosted at Nibbles and Watermark over the years.

“Our Tiki dinners were hugely popular, and we are often asked when we will bring that event back. There seems to be an easily-sparked interest in these drinks and this style, which of course is well-evidenced by the decades of global success in the mid-20th century by Trader Vic’s, Don The Beachcombers, and even the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disney,” said Eric.

The last Tiki dinner took place on Aug. 8, 2018, with a first course featuring Chef Maria’s spammies topped with melted Swiss, scallions and spicy mustard on toasted Hawaiian rolls paired with a Saturn, a Tiki classic by ‘Popo’ Galsini featuring gin and passion fruit that was voted best by the International Bartenders Association in 1967. The second course was a Hawaiian Poké marinated in soy, sesame and citrus paired with a Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. The third course was braised belly tacos with grilled pineapple-mango-jicama slaw paired with Three Dots and a Dash created during WWII by Donn Beach. The name means ‘victory’ in Morse Code. The fourth course was crispy fish pacu ribs in a sweet Pacific glaze with fried plantain chips paired with the ultimate Tiki drink — a Zombie. It ended with a Coco Lopez Rum Cake.

I share this old menu with you not to taunt about something that already happened, but to dream about what Dayton’s new Tiki bar — Backwater Voodoo — may ultimately taste like once it opens its doors to customers.

“We wanted to select a name that reflected several different elements. First, we wanted to honor the relationship and connection to Watermark, and the reputation Chef Maria has built here in Miamisburg. Literally located in back of Watermark, the word Backwater also is being worn as a badge of honor. Some may consider our town a little out of the way, but those in-the-know realize how much we have to offer, and Backwater Voodoo plans to make sure everyone is aware,” said Eric.

If this new venture is anything close to as good as Watermark there is no doubt in my mind that word will spread quickly.


What: Watermark

Where: 20 S. First St., Miamisburg

More info: 937-802-0891 or www.eatdrinkwatermark.com

What: Backwater Voodoo

Where: 103 S. Second St., Miamisburg

When: Opening this summer

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Share info about your menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of exciting outdoor spaces, new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at alexis.e.larsen@hotmail.com with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.

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