The history of Tank’s: An all-hours bar and dining favorite for decades now up for auction

Credit: Ty Greenlees

Credit: Ty Greenlees

There is no arguing that Tank’s Bar & Grill in Dayton was a dining gem.

Tank’s could fulfill any craving, practically any time. Whether you needed a 10-egg omelet at 7 a.m., 7 p.m. or 1 a.m., a thick, juicy burger for lunch, a roast beef or turkey hot shot for dinner or a tall glass of your favorite beer morning, noon or night, Tank’s had you covered.

With recent news that Tank’s and nearby properties are set for an auction Thursday, we thought we would take a look back at some of the history of Tank’s, which became an iconic Dayton institution.

Dan ‘Tank’ Tankersley

Dan Tankersley had been involved with local restaurants in one way or another since 1967 when he worked as a bus boy at the Colony Club on South Dixie.

In 1982 he decided to go into business for himself, opening the Press Box in downtown Dayton until 1987 when he found that he needed to move from his location. Searching for a new home, Tankersley discovered a building for sale on the corner of Wayne Avenue and Anderson Street and a Dayton dining staple was born.

When Tank’s opened its doors over 35 years ago, the concept was simple — good food made from scratch and a large selection of craft and imported beers before it was a popular restaurant trend.

The community was saddened when Dan died after suffering a heart attack March 20, 2016.

After his death, his widow, Debra Tankersley, took over and kept the place running.

There were other changes over the years — most notably a 2011 expansion that included the addition of a new kitchen and restrooms.

The menu(s)

Tank’s became known for generous portions, home cooking and a kitchen open throughout the day and late into the evening,

The restaurant had two menus. The breakfast menu (served anytime) included delicious, affordable supersized breakfast staples such as eggs, omelets, biscuits and gravy, Belgian waffles, pancakes and thick French toast. The lunch and dinner menu offered a variety of burgers, specialty sandwiches, wings, soups, salads, hearty appetizers and nightly dinner specials.

One crowd favorite was Tank’s award-winning “Road Kill” Chili.

A Dayton Daily News reporter wrote in 2014: “Even if you don’t really like chili, Tank’s version will give you a reason to give chili a second chance. I really wish I had this recipe. This chili is thick and jam-packed with meat and beans. The first bite is sweet, and then comes the spicy kick. This chili is the perfect consistency with a curious blend of spices from cumin, to white pepper to paprika. Try the chili topped with mounds of shredded cheddar. Some people opt to add onions (though I’m not one of them). The name ‘road kill’ is a bit perplexing, but at least it’s a catchy name. Tank’s knows it has something special with its signature chili and recommends it as a topping for omelets and hash browns.”

The restaurant had been open 7 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. daily for many years before reducing hours in 2018 due to slow late-night business.

An unexpected ending

Tank’s closed in June 2023 with the hope that its new owners would preserve the long history of the bar and grill. After six weeks of negotiations, the buyer for Tank’s backed out of the deal.

It was decided Tank’s would be put up for auction.

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