Our Daytonian of the Week is at the helm of beloved Troy restaurant

Steve Smith, the co-owner of The Caroline restaurant, located in downtown Troy.
Steve Smith, the co-owner of The Caroline restaurant, located in downtown Troy.

Credit: The Caroline Facebook

Credit: The Caroline Facebook

More than a decade ago, Steve Smith, along with his wife, Melanie Elsass-Smith, and daughter, Caroline, decided to bring fine dining to downtown Troy.

Since 2008, fans have flocked to The Caroline from all over the Miami Valley to indulge in the restaurant’s crab cakes, steaks and decadent desserts. Over the years, the restaurant’s menu has balanced fine-dining dishes with approachable favorites.

Despite challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, The Caroline innovated, making its gourmet menu items shine as takeout meals and demonstrating a sprinkle of ingenuity and a dash of grit.

The embodiment of this grit is Steve Smith, co-owner of The Caroline. In his own words, Smith recounts his humble beginnings and how he helped to create one of the most popular restaurants in the Miami Valley.

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Steve Smith and Melanie Elsass-Smith celebrate the purchase of the Dye Building in downtown Troy.
Steve Smith and Melanie Elsass-Smith celebrate the October 2017 purchase of the Dye Building in downtown Troy, which houses their restaurant, The Caroline, on the first floor. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: The Caroline Facebook

Credit: The Caroline Facebook

Tell us about your background. What has led you to this point in your career?

My first job was busing tables at a local country club. From there, I worked my way up to management and worked at the Dayton Country Club as the banquet manager, and then spent nine years as the manager of the Piqua Country Club before I left to open The Caroline in 2008.

How long have you owned The Caroline?

13 years on Jan. 29.

What led you to open the restaurant? What was the inspiration behind the restaurant’s mission and menu?

I’ve always wanted to own my own restaurant. My family and wife’s family have owned their own businesses, so you could say I have entrepreneurship in my blood.

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Dye Building, 5 S. Market Street in downtown Troy. STEVE BAKER / STAFF
Dye Building, 5 S. Market Street in downtown Troy. STEVE BAKER / STAFF

What do you love about your job?

The different people you meet every day and the staff that I work with.

What role does the restaurant play in the community? How has the restaurant given back to the community, and vice versa?

We are a cornerstone of downtown Troy’s square, so we need to deliver an excellent experience. We try to support all events and fundraisers. This past year has been a challenge with COVID-19, because we have had to scale back on that some. Our community supports locally-owned businesses and the downtown.

What entrees, drinks, etc. should a brand new guest indulge in on their first visit to The Caroline?

You can’t go wrong with our crab cakes or ahi tuna to start. All of our steaks are certified angus beef, and we have used this brand since we started 13 years ago. People also love our burgers, and we have ice cream made by DeeZertz in Berne, Indiana — the Dutch apple and coffee flavors are a must-have. We also have a great selection of craft beers, wine and specialty martinis available.

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Steve and Melanie Elsass-Smith, co-owners of The Caroline in downtown Troy.
Steve and Melanie Elsass-Smith, co-owners of The Caroline in downtown Troy.

Credit: Steve Smith Facebook

Credit: Steve Smith Facebook

What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge?

Three years ago, we purchased the Dye Building in which we are located. The deal had a lot of moving parts, but we were able to get it done.

How have you had to pivot professionally to cope with challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic?

We have had to downsize the operation a little bit and adapt to the situations. We have learned to present our food for takeout as well.

What are your favorite places to grab a bite to eat in the Troy area?

I enjoy cooking at home or on the grill, but I also like to grab Mexican from La Fiesta on occasion.

What inspires you about Dayton?

The revitalization of the river and other areas may be behind a few years compared to other cities, but they are catching up.