Culp’s Café reopens at Carillon Historical Park

Credit: Dayton History at Carillon Historical Park

Credit: Dayton History at Carillon Historical Park

A café giving guests a glimpse back into the early 1900s has reopened at Dayton’s Carillon Historical Park, located at 1000 Carillon Blvd.

Culp’s Café is a one-of-a-kind eatery paying homage to small soda fountains, lunch counters and the Culp family.

Charlotte Gilbert Culp, a widow who began selling baked goods in 1902 to support her six children, is the café's namesake. The family opened a stand at the South Main Street market and eventually expanded into the Arcade where they sold poultry, eggs, cheese and dill pickles at three lunch counters. In the 1930s, the family opened a full cafeteria in the Arcade, and nearly 10 years later, were serving as many as 5,000 customers a day during World War II. The cafeteria was sold in 1960.

Credit: Dayton History at Carillon Historical Park

Credit: Dayton History at Carillon Historical Park

Brady Kress, president and CEO of Dayton History, told the Culp family gave the museum an initial gift over 20 years ago to start a small café. Kress said it was originally located within the park and operated seasonally.

In 2019, the museum relocated the café to the Winsupply Center for Leadership at the entrance of the park and reflected a “classic time period in Dayton history” throughout the restaurant. Kress explained that the early 1900s was the “golden age of business, manufacturing and entrepreneurship” in which the Wright brothers began flying and Charles Kettering started working at NCR.

The restaurant was built around a restored 1903 Barney & Smith interurban car where guests can eat inside.

“At the end of the day, we’re in a museum environment so we’re telling a story,” Kress said. “People that have visited the museum, it’s a continuation of their visit here. Folks that come off the street, whether it’s here at Culp’s or over at the (Carillon Brewing Company), it’s unlike anything else around.”

Culp’s Café opened in its new space towards the end of 2019 shortly before the coronavirus pandemic began. The restaurant was forced to temporarily close from March to June due to state mandates. Kress said when they reopened, it was a success with guests eating outside on their patio, but as winter began people weren’t comfortable eating inside. Kress said they closed the restaurant and waited until museum traffic increased to reopen.

He noted the aforementioned brewery stayed opened because it was much easier to continue to operate because it is a working exhibit with daily demonstrations.

Culp’s Café began a soft opening to test the kitchen and service team a few weeks ago. Kress said the restaurant is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays for preview days as they prepare for a grand opening on Tuesday, April 4.

Kress said they hope to expand their hours and operate daily with the museum.

If you have visited the restaurant before, you might notice a few changes. The café is now operating under a counter-service model where guests can place an order at the counter where they are then given a number. Guests take the number to a table of their choice and then a server will bring out their meal, Kress explained.

He also said some adjustments have been made to the menu including the addition of a smash burger. The restaurant will continue to serve “Rike’s” traditional pecan chicken salad and phosphate sodas.

Credit: Dayton History at Carillon Historical Park

Credit: Dayton History at Carillon Historical Park

Kress described the café as a “gem” in the Dayton community.

“I’m looking forward to seeing people in here with smiles having a good time,” Kress said. “We want to be able to provide as much as we can to the whole community.”

Carillon Historical Park will welcome a nearly one-mile rail line and passenger train to the 65-acre park this spring for visitors to ride for entertainment and convenience while learning about history.

Culp’s Café is open to the public. For more information about the park or café, visit

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