Meadowlark, Fresco owners to join in downtown Dayton dining venture

The owner of Meadowlark and Wheat Penny restaurants is collaborating with the founder of Fresco Foods on a joint venture at 200 S. Jefferson St. at East Fifth Street across from the convention center in downtown Dayton, Elizabeth Wiley, Meadowlark and Wheat Penny’s founder, confirmed to us this morning.

The venture will begin as a catering and special events venue, and would also serve as a commissary for nearby Wheat Penny, Wiley said. But a subsequent phase of the project calls for opening a restaurant in the 5,700-square-foot space, likely focusing on high-end sandwiches. It also would likely include late-night service, the Meadowlark founder said.

Wiley cautioned that the project is in its early stages: the owners have not yet negotiated a lease with the building’s owner, the city of Dayton. And an application for a liquor license for the space was submitted just this week and has not yet been reviewed.

“But we’re very excited” about the plans, the Meadowlark owner said.

Most recently, the space housed Tasty Measures Cafe, which shut down earlier this summer after six months in operation. Before that, Sa-Bai Asian restaurant operated there until 2013, and Chin’s Oriental Cafe had a 17-year run in the space until 2003.

Wiley noted there is a lot of retail and entertainment development planned or underway in downtown Dayton, including plans for the Levitt Pavilion in the nearby Dave Hall Plaza that is in a fund-raising stage and could open as early as 2018. Her restaurant would be one of the closest to the pavilion.

>> RELATED: City may contribute $1M to downtown pavilion

Wiley said she started planning the collaboration prior to learning of the Levitt Pavilion project, but that development further confirmed her plans and helped prompt her to go ahead and apply for a liquor license.

The collaboration between Wiley and Jenn DiSanto, founder of Fresco Foods, will begin before the end of this year, operating out of DiSanto’s Fresco food-service operation on Far Hills Avenue in Kettering, Wiley said.

“We probably won’t move into the downtown space until at least spring of 2017,” Wiley said.

DiSanto and Liz Valenti, who oversees Wheat Penny, will oversee the catering end of the collaboration, and Wiley will take the lead in overseeing the restaurant project, Wiley said.

Wiley said her current vision for a restaurant at the site would focus on casual fare.

“I have a lot of ideas for sandwiches, and I’m dying to have a sandwich shop that would stay open late at night,” she said.

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