When Lock 27 Brewery and restaurant opened its second location in downtown Dayton on Sept. 5, 2017, it was an exciting addition to the downtown dining landscape.
Its proximity to Fifth Third Field makes it a perfect stop before or after a Dragons game.
There was a fair sized menu of appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees to vie for diners’ attention in a setting imbued with hip, crisp energy. The cool downtown industrial space in the Delco Lofts is much larger and more impressive in scope than the Centerville location coming in at 12,000 square feet.
The space may feel different, but the house beers are familiar. The restaurant’s signature Mouth Breather IPA is on tap alongside other familiar favorites.
When it first opened, I couldn't get past the house smoked wings ($12.50). Dry-rubbed and house-smoked meaty wings are served with celery and Sriracha blue cheese with a hot habanero-peach sauce. These are among some of the best wings in town and the best dish on the Lock 27 Brewery menu. And I wasn't alone in thinking that. They are still one of the best-selling items on the restaurant’s menu.
In the last year, I began to notice at events that the food Lock 27 was rolling out was more impressive. At this year's AleFeast in February, I sampled every restaurant’s dish and by far the blackened shrimp served over creamy pecorino romano polenta, with a Creole cream sauce, bacon, scallion and tomato-onion relish served by Lock 27 Brewing was my favorite. It was the smaller portion of the regular menu item they have for $16 and it was absolutely delicious. I went back for seconds.
I introduced myself to Executive Chef Dane Shipp and told him as much and then I really started paying attention to what was happening at the restaurant.
I went more often after that and noticed the impressive and inventive lineup of specials they were doing. I had explored the menu previously, but under Shipp's watch the dishes were better than I thought they had been in the past.
Shipp, a proud Sinclair Community College culinary school graduate, has been cooking professionally for the last 10 years. He came to Lock 27 14 months ago and has been keeping the dishes the restaurant has become known for rolling out while also putting his stamp on some new menu items.
"Those experiences of trial and error, long days, and nights really prepared me for all the difficult task and pressures that come along with being a successful chef. I’ve become humble and realize the dedication and ambition it takes to run a successful kitchen." said Shipp. "My favorite dishes to make are my weekly specials. I do cuisines from all over the world, and the prices will vary depending on the ingredients in the dish."
Shipp and his staff serve 250 plates on an average day with around 500 plates on the weekends. They work to create experiences that mesh food and drink together for an elevated experience.
"People come out to dine not only for great food, but for plate presentation, great atmosphere and great service. Food is so much more than nourishment. It’s an unforgettable experience that sticks with people forever. I set very high standards for my staff to execute each dish the right way, so our guests get the experience they deserve," said Shipp. "This year I am revamping my brunch menu, creating a unique touch that represents what Lock 27 is all about. I’m also doing a seasonal menu every three months. You can expect my weekly specials to improve, and become more creative each time."
In March, Lock 27 featured a red trout entree special topped with a crawfish and prawn sauce, served with zucchini and squash, and dirty rice for $18. There was also a grilled salmon dish with a spring pea purée, and roasted potato medallions for $17. A vegan crab cake sandwich with tomato, onion, and vegan remoulade for $14 was also featured.
Specials like these may change, but the seasonal menu that just launched is more consistent. Right now it features a hot-truffle cauliflower appetizer ($12), a strawberry spring salad ($10), a Caprese panini ($10 or $12 with chicken), pulled pork sandwich ($12) and a BBQ Jackfruit sandwich ($12) for vegetarians.
A drunken noodle dish with crispy tofu ($15, $17 for chicken, $19 for shrimp) and a fried catfish ($16) with smoked collard greens, and southern cheese grits are the featured seasonal entrees.
WHAT’S FOR BRUNCH?
The restaurant's new brunch menu is called "The Hangover Brunch." for good reason ... carby, cheesy, caloric and filling, it could just be the cure for what ails you.
Get biscuits and gravy for $12 or go with a gravy flight — one biscuit and a sample of all four gravies for $8. Then there are the "Bonuts," biscuit donuts rolled in cinnamon and sugar then served with a lemon marscapone for $8.
There are also biscuit sandwiches that are so big you will need a fork to eat one. The "What Happened Last Night?" ($14) made with country ham, fried green tomato, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, and red eye gravy and the "Last Night Was Lit!" ($14) made with fried green tomato with bacon, cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs and chipotle aioli are the two best sellers served up with crispy seasoned potatoes.
Breakfast tacos ($11), a "Hangover Bowl" ($14) featuring chicken or chorizo, sunny side up eggs, cheddar, fried chicken gravy, and scallions topped over a bed of crispy potatoes and a Southern Croque Madame ($13) are some of the other dense, delicious breakfast creations Lock 27 is serving on the weekends from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
"I’m a freestyle chef. I don’t look up recipes, I just get in the kitchen and connect with the food. Cooking to taste, and understanding flavor balance," said Shipp. "I come up with new ideas by just letting my mind wander into the different cuisines of the world. I might start with an ingredient from Morocco, then everything else just starts falling into place ... There is no profile of food I do at Lock 27. There are many different cuisines. Anyone could come in and find something they will love or be familiar with."
The restaurant isn't perfect. It's filled with hard surfaces that make it extremely loud when it's full. All the glass surrounding the space can make it cold and it's so popular (the best problem a good restaurant can have) that sometimes it's hard to find a seat at the bar or get a table. All these are non-issues when you look at the food being served by Shipp and his team from the kitchen and the great beers on the menu. And don't get me started on those fantastic smoked wings ... they are still my favorite.
WANT TO GO?
What: Lock 27 Brewing
Where: 329 E. First St., Dayton
More info: 937-433-2739 or http://lock27brewing.com
Location: Lock 27's brewery and second location in downtown Dayton is adjacent to the Dayton Dragon's Fifth Third Field in the Delco Lofts building
Menu: Click here