An Esquire article published at the end of the year looked at “100 Restaurants America Can’t Afford to Lose,” saying, “If we lose them, we lose who we are.”
The threat to each city’s local dining scene is very real, as restaurants try to weather the ongoing COVID-19 storm. Not surprisingly, the article focused on the East and West coasts with only two Ohio destinations — both in Cleveland — garnering a mention.
The first is Larder, which opened in 2018. This is the one that I wasn’t familiar with.
Jeff Gordinier writes, “America can’t afford to lose the old but it also can’t afford to lose the new. Larder is both. Jeremy Umansky and his fermentation-mad merry pranksters make pickles and pastrami good enough to rival your favorite ancient Jewish deli, but they do so while amping up the kind of panoramic innovation you find at spots like Noma in Copenhagen. Everything tastes familiar, yet better than what you remember. That’s progress.”
I can tell you my next trip to Cleveland will have this as a stop so I can see for myself.
The other Ohio mention was the absolutely fantastic Slyman’s Deli, which is a Cleveland staple. Slyman’s sandwiches are piled high and deep with the best, dreamiest, melt-in-your-mouth corned beef I have ever had in my entire life. It is so good that we bring a cooler with us to take home additional meals.
The farm-to-table Bouquet in Covington, Ky., made the list and isn’t far from us. It’s quite good, and while I’ve eaten there and enjoyed it very much, I was surprised it garnered a mention on the best 100 in America.
Another within driving distance of us is one of the best steakhouses in the country — St. Elmo’s in Indianapolis (www.stelmos.com). It’ll be a must stop when we get back to traveling and doing things like we used to. The shrimp cocktail is epic, the steaks are perfectly seared, and if you do it up properly, the bill will be as big as your tummy.
Public Greens in Indianapolis and the wonderful Seviche Restaurant in Louisville, Ky. are the other two within reasonable driving distance.
Part of community and place are the unique flavors that surround it — the things that stimulate your senses that you can’t find when you leave town.
There are so many Dayton dishes that add to the flavor of my city, and they are different for each of us. These are the dishes that we revisit with great affection when the time is right. They are the dishes that make Dayton feel like home and fill our memories. There’s a comfort knowing they will be there for you when the time comes, and they will bring immense satisfaction when you are reunited.
Off the top of my head, I love the Peasant Stock salad at Figlio, El Meson’s salmon stack and chicken tortilla soup, Blind Bob’s pickle soup, Franco’s Famous Spaghetti, Dublin Pub’s incredible cheese fries, Amber Rose cabbage rolls, Oakwood Club’s hamburger (one of the best, if not the best, in Dayton), breakfast (all day long and all night long) at Tank’s Bar and Grill, slow-roasted beets and garlic frites at Meadowlark, the smoked wings at Lock 27 or the wings at Company 7 BBQ, the pho soup and shrimp spring rolls at Linh’s Bistro, the Dan Dan Noodles at Kung Fu Noodle, any of the sandwiches from The Chicken Spot, gas-station chicken from the Shell Station, Bad Juans from Elsa’s and whatever you want to soak them up with, Reuben pizza from Oregon Express, Singapore noodles from Thai 9, Greek swordfish from Jay’s, eggplant fries from Wheat Penny, black pepper and fig latte from Ghostlight, doughnuts from Bill’s Donut Shop, ice cream from Young’s Dairy, Coco’s Bistro’s grilled cheese and tomato soup ... .
I could go on and on, but there isn’t enough space.
If there are dishes and places that you love, don’t lose sight of the need to show your support and do your part to help make sure they stick around. I may not agree with Esquire’s list when it comes to the state of Ohio (hello, no Dayton, Cincinnati or Columbus mention?), but I heartily agree with the sentiment that you lose just a little bit of who you are when you lose a restaurant that is putting dishes out into the universe that are done so well they become the measuring stick that may be drawn upon for other dining moments. No one wants to lose an old friend that’s been a constant source of enjoyment for years.
That’s why, in between heading out to investigate new places and new dishes, I am going to make a plan to revisit some of my old loves and do my small part to try and keep them going until we can return to more normalcy.
Because whatever restaurant is on your list, we probably can’t afford to lose it.
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Credit: Submitted: Anthony Head
Credit: Submitted: Anthony Head