BEST OF DAYTON: Meet Matt Ross, the man named Best Bartender in the area

Credit: Matt Ross

Credit: Matt Ross

Though Matt Ross has only been a bartender at The Barrel House for the past four years, he has attracted quite a loyal clan of regulars who have, yet again, shown up to vote for him in the Best of Dayton contest.

Ross earned a first place finish in Best Bartender, his second straight victory in the contest.

Why is Ross so beloved? He admits that his “gift of gab,” overall friendliness and eagerness to listen to the woes of his patrons without any air of pretension — especially during the tough times many faced during the past few years — have likely contributed.

“I just pour beer for people,” Ross said. “I like to learn the customers’ names. I like to be the Sam Malone of this place. When you come in, I shout your name.”

The “brains of the operation” at The Barrel House, as Ross likes to call them, are the owners, Gus Stathes, former general manager and beer curator of the now-closed Ollie’s Place in Washington Twp., and his wife, Sara Stathes. Since late 2017, the pair have owned The Barrel House, which serves a wide array of beer and wine and also operates as a carryout vendor.

The Barrel House also received quite a bit of attention in the Best of Dayton contest, finishing first in Best Bar Bathroom, Friendliest Restaurant/Bar Staff; second in Best Beer, Wine or Liquor Shop and Best Craft Beer Bar and third in Best Place to Take a Date.

Prior to landing his gig at The Barrel House, Ross, a Centerville High School graduate, bartended at and managed other restaurants for nearly 20 years until settling at Ollie’s Place, which is where he first worked with Gus. Ross then followed Gus to The Barrel House.

Credit: Matt Ross

Credit: Matt Ross

For a little over a year, The Barrel House operated as a carryout-only during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ross, who suffers from an autoimmune disease, said that his respectful clientele and coworkers made who have continued to wear masks and abide by the mandates and rules of the restaurant now that it has opened back up to the public have made him feel at ease during the pandemic.

“Honestly, I can’t say enough about our guests,” Ross said. “Our guests are top tier — a 12 on a 10 scale of any guests you could ever wish for. They’re the type of guests who bring your glasses back to you at the end of the night, and they’ve got five in their hand and two of them don’t even belong to them. They just brought them up to be nice. We have good energy at The Barrel House. We have a great group of people who work here, too. I love our staff.”

Ross is also complimentary of Barrel House owners Gus and Sara, who he says have helped him expand his knowledge of beer and wine. Personally, Ross tends to enjoy piney West Coast IPAs.

When he’s not at The Barrel House, Ross says that he is rather introverted, preferring to spend time at home with his plants, three cats, 100-pound English Mastiff and American Bulldog mix and, most importantly, his 13-year-old daughter.

Those who have yet to experience Ross as a bartender can simply stop by The Barrel House on any afternoon between Tuesday through Saturday or during the evening on Wednesdays, Fridays and every other Saturday.

The Barrel House

First Place: Best Bartender (Matt Ross)

First Place: Best Bar Bathroom

First Place: Friendliest Restaurant/Bar Staff

Second Place: Best Beer, Wine or Liquor Shop

Second Place: Best Craft Beer Bar

Third Place: Best Place to Take a Date

417 East Third St., Dayton


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