Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has long been one of the most proud homegrown delicacies of Columbus, Ohio. Thirteen years on, Jeni Britton Bauer has taken her special brand of ice cream out of its founding spot in Cbus in all directions, now with creameries open in Cleveland, Nashville, and Chicago. Columbus natives always point to this place as one of the first you need to visit to really understand the culture of the city, and it’s fitting that kind of accolade has come to an Ohio State University grad. One taste of the ice creams here and you’ll get the hype.
While northern Cincinnati’s suburbs have changed drastically over the past 25 years, Grand Oriental has remained a mainstay on Fields Ertel Road. Since 1988, this upscale Chinese restaurant has served not only popular traditional Americanized Chinese food, but a more traditional Cantonese tradition called “dim sum,” where small dishes of different traditional foods are served in steamer baskets, with servers bringing many different kinds of these dishes around the restaurant and diners pick out what they like. It’s not common to find this kind of dining around Ohio, and it’s definitely worth a visit.
Nicholson’s Tavern & Pub is an Irish pub concept in the midst of downtown Cincinnati. With a menu full of craft beers and cocktails, the spot is also packed with some really great pub-style cuisine. The spot is themed to be sure, but the concept is something of a hybrid between a pub and a traditional Americana bar; the close-in interior, tight booths and small tables in the front make it seem very much like an old English place, but there’s a spacious party room in the back and a patio in the alley nearby. Worth a visit.
It’s a chain of several dozen restaurants throughout the Midwest and central U.S., and Abeulos Mexican Food Embassy aims to be a higher-class restaurant with about one location in most major cities around the country. It focuses not only on the traditional Tex-Mex fare but also Spanish Tapas and plenty of other dishes. While the spot does offer an opportunity for nice surroundings and a pretty creative menu, the food here doesn’t always rise to the price points being asked for it. But still, I found the experience to be decent.
A new concept coming out of West Carrollton, Sushi Club has an interesting premise; a place where you can tackle sushi in quality–or, if you prefer, in quantity. It made a stir when it opened a few weeks ago with the idea of ‘all you can eat sushi,’ and while that’s not a unique concept to Dayton, it’s certainly refreshing to see the specialty kind of service the place offers being embraced so openly. People seem to like the elegant concept, and the food is a sound choice, as well.
Let me tell you about five burgers that I tried on that list, and let me tell you about five more up-and-coming restaurants with unbelievable burgers–that I think should be there.
A very interesting partnership of celebrity personalities Nick and Drew Lachey, this bar opened in Over The Rhine at the start of 2015; and Lachey’s Bar has driven forward since then on the star power of its very musical owners. The bar, built in a former Pabst Bedding Warehouse, is a modern and very sleek sports bar concept offering a tight menu of bar food favorites mixed with American and comfort food. The spot looks good there’s no doubt, and it’s got a decent quality of product. But the ultimate skill for the place really comes in style over substance.
Barbecue–a true Midwestern staple. You find more than a few barbecue joints around Dayton, but that’s because people here have a very refined palette for what makes good barbecue, and oftentimes, a lot of them end up having very different opinions on that. Amidst the very diverse local landscape, Dayton Urban BBQ has sprouted up as a food truck specializing in bringing the old-fashioned prep styles back to popularity. It shows up around breweries in town, it lands on Courthouse Square. This truck is well worth a taste.
A fun-loving, quirky concept out of Austin, Texas, the fast growing Chuy’s Tex Mex chain sort of explodes at you all at once as soon as you walk in. The mass of colors, hundreds of hand-painted fish on the ceilings, a shrine to Elvis, all of it greets you as you find your way to the bar or to a table. The flavors that greet you there are equally bold and loud. All told, I’m a huge fan of this concept and what it has to offer.
While it’s at the edge of both the South Park neighborhood near downtown Dayton and the fortress-like Miami Valley Hospital, Jimmie’s Ladder 11 is frequented most often, it would seem, but students from the nearby University of Dayton. This neighborhood watering hole brings a ton of drink options and a place for live music acts, but don’t discount its menu. In fact, Jimmie’s has a delicious menu of bar food and at pretty reasonable prices. I consider it something of a dark horse in town; not a ton of people outside UD frequent the place, and they’re missing out.