Why is Dayton so crazy about stewed tomatoes?

“We are famous for airplanes and stewed tomatoes,” restaurant owner said. “You have to stick to the tried-and-true things.”

Credit: Lance Stewart

Credit: Lance Stewart

Lance Stewart remembers well that ONE time in the 1970s he took stewed tomatoes off his family restaurant's menu.

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“I never thought dad would consider firing me. He came close,” said Stewart, now the owner of that restaurant — the Oakwood Club.

Steamed whole tomatoes with basil couldn’t hold a candle to stewed tomatoes, a Dayton favorite.

Those stewed tomatoes were back on Oakwood Club’s menu two days later.

“We are famous for airplanes and stewed tomatoes,” Stewart said. “You have to stick to the tried-and-true things.”

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Like many, Stewart doesn't exactly know why Daytonians like stewed tomatoes so much. He just knows it's a thing here.

According to research from local historian Nancy Horlacher of the Dayton Metro Library, "The Tomato in America" author Andrew F. Smith says references to tomato pudding along with scalloped tomatoes or stewed tomatoes began around the early 1820s.

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Stewart said stewed tomatoes were on the menu when his dad, Ray Stewart, opened the Oakwood Club in 1962.

The stewed tomatoes could be found on the menu of most local steakhouses and still is served at a list of restaurants that include the Oakwood Club, The Pine Club, the Tavernette and the Paragon Supper Club. 

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Stewart’s restaurant uses about five case of canned tomatoes a week from Tip Top Canning Co.

Oakwood Club’s stewed tomatoes are a mix of tomatoes, tomato juices, salt, white pepper, corn starch and sugar.

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He may not know why Dayton is for stewed tomato lovers, but he knows what makes good stewed tomatoes.

The secret to great stewed tomatoes is simple,” he said. “You definitely have to have lots of tomato chunks in them.”

Stewart said he learned his lesson when it comes to stewed tomatoes.

“As we kind of advance our menu for today’s tastes, that’s one of the items we’ve kept on along with our steak cuts,” he said.

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Credit: Lance Stewart

Credit: Lance Stewart

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