Our favorite Dayton dishes

"City of Gold," a documentary about famed Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold, played at The Neon in May.

If you've yet to see it, Jonathan McNeal, the Neon’s manager, makes it sound yummy.

“Foodies will savor the food prep that gets much attention in the film, and journalists will love the spirit of Jonathan Gold and his approach to writing,” Jonathan McNeal, the Neon’s manager told us. “Pulitzer Prize-winning Jonathan Gold is not as much the subject of this film as he is a host to Los Angeles's rich cultural identity through the lens of good food and the people who make it.”

We at Dayton.com definitely like yummy. We also know how important food is to a city’s culture and identity.

So, in Gold's spirit, here are some -- we could write a book -- of our favorite dishes in Dayton.


The movie "City of Gold" inspired us to think about our favorite Dayton dishes. Photos by Vivienne Machi , Jim Witmer and Amelia Robinson.

Pho from Linh’s Bistro in the Page Manor shopping center (5532 Airway Road in Riverside): Diners build their own layers and levels of flavor in the large, steaming bowls of soup, adding Thai basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, fresh lime juice, and sliced jalapenos, and letting those ingredients steep in the rich broth with noodles, sliced onions and a bit of lemongrass. Linh’s Pho has restorative, and quite possibly curative, qualities.

The Pine Club (1926 Brown Street near the University of Dayton): Sure, the steaks are good on their own. And the crispy little fried onion rings are good on their own. But it’s what happens when the two of those forces meet in the middle of the dinner plate, where the meat juices intermingle with the onion rings, which lose their crunch but gain an otherworldly salty umami goodness that elevates every bite of beef. Magic.

The fish tacos at Sea Jax Tavern (5900 Bigger Road, Kettering): put others to shame. The soft tortillas are piled high with strips of lightly battered fish and a mound of pristinely fresh cabbage and other shredded veggies, topped with a creamy red-pepper-spiked sauce. So overstuffed they’re virtually impossible to eat with your hands, but however you eat them, you’re going to like them.


The movie "City of Gold" inspired us to think about our favorite Dayton dishes. Photos by Amelia Robinson.

I can’t get enough of  El Meson's savory, comforting paella and tapas --  beef and salmon empanadas, beer battered calamari, queso fundido, etc., etc., etc. I’ve taken countless out-of-town guests to El Meson (903 E. Dixie Drive, West Carrollton) and they are always blown away by the grub, the Castro family’s hospitality, the patios and the restarant's decor.

A big ol’ steak at The Paragon Supper Club (Miamisburg Centerville Rd., Washington Twp.) or The Pine Club is mighty nice as well. The Pine Club’s bone-in ribeye and onion rings are really as good as the hype.

Did someone say pork? The ultra-moist pork chop at Roost Modern Italian (524 E. Fifth St. in Dayton’s Oregon Historic District), the luscious pork belly with sweet potato, sunny-side-up egg and kale at Salar and the spaghetti carbonara with its smoked bacon from Nueske's at Meadowlark (5531 Far Hills Ave.) do the pig justice.

And don’t get me started with the bacon, cheddar, apple grilled cheese sandwich on the Lily's Bistro (329 E. Fifth St. in Dayton’s Oregon District) lunch menu or the wontons at Ginger and Spice  (1105 Brown St., Dayton).

On a Sunday afternoon, there are few things better than a Pao Pao Combination, the Dayton Daily News and a few Zombies at China Cottage (various locations, but the one at 6290 Far Hills Ave. in  Washington Twp. is my favorite).  


The movie "City of Gold" inspired us to think about our favorite Dayton dishes. Photo Lisa Powell.

It’s so hard to choose, but I’m going with my comfort food standby: the cheese fries at Dublin Pub (300 Wayne Ave.) in Dayton's Oregon District. The fries are $9.99; upgrade as a side dish to your favorite burger or sandwich for $2.50.

These are not your average fries. And there’s a reason they are repeatedly voted as Best Fries in Dayton. Pub Fries are crispy, thick potato wedge fries topped with ooey, gooey, oozing cheese, bacon and sinful sauce. “Thick cut wedge fries smothered with white wine sauce, crispy bacon, topped with a blend of cheeses and baked to perfection.” We agree. These fries are worth adding on as a side dish to the Pub’s famous burgers or sandwiches or as an appetizer to share (or not share). It’s the perfect companion to a tall, cold glass of beer.


The movie "City of Gold" inspired us to think about our favorite Dayton dishes. Photos by Amelia Robinson, Corner Kitchen, Lily's Bistro. .

Beignets at Lily’s Bistro: Light, fluffy, airy and perfectly powdered. Lily’s is the restaurant that introduced me to the wonder that is the beignet, and I’ve been dreaming about them ever since. Do not let anyone fool you by comparing them to a doughnut, because this is a WHOLE. NEW. LEVEL. Served warm with a side of jam, it’s perfect for brunch – but let’s be honest, I’d eat them any time.

Poutine at Corner Kitchen (613 E 5th St. in Dayton’s Oregon District). This is decadent and hearty, with perfect French fries (I swear) that are crispy on the outside and delicate on the inside. Topped with homemade cheese curds, a savory gravy, and delicious chunks of brisket, I love mine with a really runny egg on top – there’s something about the yolk that ties it all together. I crave it all the time. It’s a wonder I’m not there weekly.

The Calling in Dead Hot Dog from  Zombie Dogz food truck. If you ever see this on the ZD menu, run to their food truck and order it. This hot dog is topped with white truffle mac and cheese (yes, you read that right) and toasted Parmesan garlic cracker crumbs. Crunchy, chewy, creamy – it’s a texture (and flavor!) explosion.


The movie "City of Gold" inspired us to think about our favorite Dayton dishes. Photo Connie Post.

One of my favorite dishes in Dayton is Vegetarian Nachos at the Trolley Stop (530 E 5th St. in Dayton's Oregon District). Last week two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Michael S. Williamson from the Washington Post was in town and I took him here. It's one of my favorite dives in the Oregon District. We sat out on the patio and enjoyed the mild weather. The nachos came, and they were tasty and piled high.

The tortilla chips are crisp and while the vegetables change with the seasons, you can always count on black beans and plenty of homemade sauce. One of the black beans jumped off a tortilla chip while traveling from the plate to my mouth and made a soft landing on my brand-new pastel pink blouse, leaving a saucy trail all the way down. Fortunately, the stains came out.

The Trolley Stop is one of my very favorite haunts in downtown Dayton. When I'm not in a nacho mood, I go for the Spicy Peanut Chicken Tacos featuring Keener Farm chicken with apple slaw. There's just enough Sriracha in the peanut sauce to make it interesting, but not authoritative.

Have a favorite Dayton dish you'd like to share? Tell us about it! Leave a comment, post on Facebook, or drop us a line at contact@dayton.com.