DAYTON EATS: Romantic dining ideas to use throughout the year

Valentine’s Day may have taken a bow for 2022 but showing love over a romantic meal doesn’t need to be reserved for Hallmark holidays or anniversaries.

In fact, a well-planned surprise romantic meal can mean more when it arrives unexpectedly out of the blue.

Here’s a list of dining ideas that can show your honey how sweet you are on them every day of the year, not just the days that are deemed “worth” celebrating.

Stick with the classics

Whether your love is new school or old school, an old school establishment will bring the warmth in spades. Some of my favorite old school options are The Paragon Supper Club, Jay’s Seafood, Oakwood Club, The Pine Club or, the kitchiest of them all, Treasure Island. All have great wine, beer and cocktail lists to toast with over generous cuts of flavorful meat and seafood. The settings are dark, rich and warm — perfect for staring endlessly into each other’s eyes.

Plan a road trip

Hop in the car and get some sightseeing in as you head somewhere 30-45 minutes away. Try out Coldwater Café in Tipp City, The Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, The Winds in Yellow Springs or The Caroline in Troy. There are plenty of restaurants that are worth the drive — less than a road trip and more than a quick jaunt — that are serving up heaps of charm and atmosphere in addition to terrific food.

Dinner and a show

I recently took in Hamilton at the Schuster Center, and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner beforehand at 1Eleven Flavor House that opened just a few blocks away at 111 W. First St. in June 2021. It has a great bar program and offers a menu with a Caribbean twist. It’s also a terrific spot to snag an early reservation and close enough that you can enjoy a leisurely stroll to the theater without worrying about running late.

Dinner and a concert

Concerts are starting to be announced at a rapid-fire pace. Locally check out listings for Fraze Pavilion and the Rose Music Center at The Heights. Score some good seats and jump on a reservation and you’ll be a hero.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Head to an oyster bar

For hundreds and hundreds of years, oysters have been considered an aphrodisiac and there’s a new place in town that is putting a major focus on them. Bonus that it’s super cute. Walking into the charming Silver Slipper that just opened on Wayne Avenue near the Oregon District is like walking into a small, cozy New York bar tucked into a tiny corner of Brooklyn. Oysters and bubbles are simultaneously on flow as you and your special someone will be as you absorb the sweet vibe. It’s wonderful to be able to nosh over nibbles and canoodle over some bubbly. It’s a nice stop before or after dinner if you happen to find yourself in the Oregon District.

Recreate Lady and the Tramp

So, while I don’t actually recommend reenacting a “Lady and the Tramp” spaghetti kiss at a restaurant (that’s what leftovers are for), I think a good bottle of red and some great Italian food can be very romantic. I highly recommend Franco’s Ristorante Italiano, Mamma DiSalvo’s Italian Ristorante, Figlio, Palermo’s Italian, Troni’s Italian Restaurant, Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen and Roma’s Pizza and Pasta. We are blessed with a lot of great Italian in town. Buon appetito!

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Head to my new favorite spot

I absolutely love the new restaurant Jollity that opened on Third Street in downtown Dayton. It’s a gem with an ever-changing menu full of flavors that won’t quit and are well executed. If you are feeling brave you can try out axe throwing next door before dinner at Two Social or play a video game and have a drink. It’s a twist that your special someone probably won’t see coming.

Learn your history

Carillon Park for a date day is a winning choice. It’s on the bike path, so you can start the day with breakfast and ride there if it’s within distance. Regardless of your method of transport, plan on grabbing a leisurely lunch at Culp’s Cafe, stroll through the park and tour the museum and end with a drink and some apps at Carillon Brewing Co., a 1850s-era brewery that has been lovingly recreated on the grounds.

Kick back and stay in

A special meal served in the comfort of your own home could be the love potion you are looking for. Find a great recipe, head to the 2nd Street Market with your special someone to have a leisurely lunch and shop for fresh ingredients and then get to cooking. A delicious meal made either by you or for you is certain to have both of you feeling the love.

Choose your own adventure

Ask yourself where haven’t you been lately or where have you never been? Take the time to try something new and shake things up a little — a restaurant adventure could be the spark you’ve been looking for. You know you and yours best, so when in doubt, do your own thing. And whatever you are thinking about doing, let us know your favorite spots to celebrate your special occasions. We want to hear from you and include it in future coverage. E-mail Alexis Larsen at with your ideas.

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Share info about your menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.

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