Johnny J's Pub & Grille - Nachos
  • There are 320,193 independent restaurants in America. Another Food Critic is here to find which ones are the best.

  • Dayton dining — 222 Reviews

  • Cleveland Dining — 18 Reviews

Giovanni's Gorgonzola Stuffed Hamburger

Another Food Critic judges the 2014 Taste of Miami Valley

If you haven’t ever been to Urban Nights in Dayton, you would have been blown away to see what took place downtown this weekend. The energy that brought thousands of people to downtown for music, the arts, and of course food, is palpably growing. I’m a lover of the vibrant restaurant scene in this city, but the 2014 Taste of Miami Valley brought out an unusually high number of restaurants from the area. And they served the much larger crowd of Dayton folks who made it out this year.

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Little City Grill - Ribs

Little City Grill

As restaurants go, often the goal is to make something over-the-top delicious like you can’t find anywhere else. Little City Grill, nestled in Cleveland, Ohio, has seen success doing just the opposite; it’s the kind of place where you go to enjoy meals that remind you at home. A lot of red-blooded American classics make up the heart of the menu, including steaks, barbecue, and a huge array of breakfast foods and specials that keep people coming here early in the morning all the way into the evening.

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Ray's Place - Corned beef hash sandwich

Ray’s Place

Primarily aimed as a night spot for downtown Kent, Ohio, Ray’s Place is best known as a place with a variety of beers on tap, with a sizable selection of craft beer to appeal to the Kent State University student population and others in the community. Still, while it’s a nightspot for the beer lovers, it’s also a place where you can go to get some good bar food. A ton of wings, burgers, sandwiches and other options await you at this long-standing watering hole, which has been open for more than 75 years.

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Twisted Meltz - Patty melt

Twisted Meltz

Pretty college towns like Kent always seem to attract the most interesting concepts in the dining world; college kids like to try new things on a dime. So it was no surprise to me as I wandered the alleyway of downtown Kent, Ohio, that I would find something different. The Kent State University crowd has a lot of places it can go for a sandwich. More so if they wander out into the Akron-Canton-Cleveland area which has an emerging dining scene. But it’s hard to imagine missing out on a chance for one of these enormous sandwiches.

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Veggie Cheesesteak

Melt Eclectic Deli

Northside in Cincinnati has seen a dramatic turn in the past few years, like many neighborhoods of urban America, not without challenges but renewed amid an influx of people and businesses determined to see it around. Spots like Melt Eclectic Deli on the Hamilton Avenue Stretch. Melt has made quite a name for itself including CityBeat and Cincinnati Enquirer mentions, and now it’s landed itself right on the national stage with a visit from Guy Fieri and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Vegetarian foodies, this grilled cheese spot lives up to the hype.

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Edison's Pizza Kitchen - Pizza

Edison’s Pizza Kitchen

Edison’s Pub is mainly a bar above other things, serving the Tremont neighborhood near downtown Cleveland. It’s a popular beer bar with a host of microbrew options for the craft beer fanatics in the area. The other appeal of the spot, though, is that it serves a lot of foods, notably a selection of pizzas, sandwiches, salads and a few other bar specialties. Until late. In fact, the spot serves food up past 3 a.m. on weekends, and it was clear during my visit of the bar that night that there’s serious business to be made as the local late night option.

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Fresco Mexican Grill - Tacos

Fresco Mexican Grill & Salsa Bar

Although it’s a newer restaurant on the block in Kent, Ohio, Fresco Mexican Grill and Salsa Bar is making waves in a big way already. The Tex-mex cuisine it makes, tacos and salsas with a lot of flair, are definitely at home in the adventurous palettes of the Kent State University student crowd. And even though you might take a look at this assembly-line style restaurant and think it’s something you’ve tried before, you’ll be in for a surprise. “Fresco” of course means “Fresh” and there’s something to be said in that salsa.

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Donuts

Donut & More

It’s very nearly invisible without any kind of an online presence and really no advertising other than a simple sign out front, but downtown is served by a tiny sandwich shop called “Donut & More” with a pretty simple proposition, a lot of snacks and prepackaged things you can take to go, in addition to prepared sandwiches and donuts prepared in house. The spot primarily serves employees of the nearby government buildings as well as the people visit them. But beware: cash only.

Cash only!

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General Tso's Chicken and Spring Roll

Peking Garden (Kettering)

A Chinese takeout option serving south Kettering in Dayton, Peking Garden is an option for Chinese food for most of the suburbs of southeast Dayton. It’s not a fancy operation, in fact it’s sort of tucked away in a strip mall in the suburbs that is almost impossible to find unless you know where you’re looking. Still, the Chinese food this spot offers is hit and miss in terms of what I liked and didn’t like. As with many of the spots in town, this one has specialties.

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Horseless Buggy Eatery (Philly cheese steak w/fries)

Horseless Buggy Eatery

The emerging food truck business lets you meet all kinds of folks, really, as they break into the food business. That’s what I chuckled to myself when I first laid eyes on Horseless Buggy Eatery, a Dayton-based food truck that looks to have been build out of an old RV. This funny little spot is a rare sight, though I admit I wish it was more common to find in town. At catering events, food truck rallies and the like you can find this small but delicious menu of sandwiches and burgers on hand.

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