You won’t be in Dayton for very long before you hear the name “El Meson.”
Indeed, the expansive West Carrollton restaurant south of the city along the Interstate 75 corridor is one that’s hard to forget even after one visit. Not just for its colorful and vibrant interior decoration, but for the equally large menu of tapas and other dishes that can’t be found on any other menu in the city. In short, El Meson has long been considered a unique option in the city — one of the few places you can really go for something different. Even with the influx of new restaurant concepts, this spot continues to deliver.
I’ve sampled a lot of the things on this restaurant’s menu, but I can go through a few of my favorites:
- Arepas: These crisp flatbread cakes are a good appetizer, these are a Colombian creation and usually eaten as breakfast or a snack. Here, though, top them with a bit of cheese or even honey.
- Churrasco: This cut of steak is barbecued and served on a searing hot pan with a delicious sauce and guacamole on top.
- Chicken Sudado: This stew with chicken and curry is a heavier dish but it’s great as an appetizer. I like the slight heat to it.
- Classic Cuban: It’s a simple sandwich, but it’s filling and it’s one of the relatively inexpensive lunch specials, and it’s served with fried yuca root; which is a lot like a potato chip with a little more character.
- Cuban pork loin: The restaurant does pork loin Cuban style, which is delicious by itself, and then they put it over a nice white rice. Served with lime, which I really recommend trying.
- Empenada: El Meson’s Empenada is stuffed with beef or salmon and served alongside a spicy sauce. If you’re a spice lover, I definitely recommend beef over salmon.
- Grouper romesco: This delicate seafood dish is served with a little but of rice which adds a very strong herbaceous flavor to the delicate fish. An interesting pairing.
- Halibut fish tacos: These tacos are a good lighter lunch option. Going great with a light, fruity salsa and some veggies to keep them on the refined side.
- Palella: The simple and classic Spanish dish is brought to life at El Meson, with a combination of peppers and a spicy sausage that combines with the rice in a very unique flavor. Palella isn’t easy to find around Dayton.
- Salsas: A triad of salsas, a sweet mango salsa, a hearty corn salsa and a spicy tomato salsa, with tortilla chips, plantain chips and yuca. What a cool dish!
- Carne asada: A delicious steak seared perfectly and served with a salad, rice and beans. The beef speaks for itself, perfect.
- Mai tai: A classic summer-themed cocktail with rum, Curaçao liqueur, orgeat syrup and lime juice. Nice for warm months.
- Piña colada: Rum, coconut milk, and pineapple juice top this creamy drink, which is just a little strong at El Meson. Very well rounded.
- Salmon sandwich: An option if you like lighter lunch. Salmon with avocado, alfalfa and an aioli. Fresh, simple, to-the-point.
El Meson attracts a lot of locals for its expansive offering of tapas and dinner items, at both lunch and dinner. It’s an especially popular restaurant in south Dayton, and the first time I visited was actually as a schoolkid because this spot is a popular place to show off traditional Spanish and Latin American cuisine. The staff are community leaders in the culinary world of Dayton, and in case you’re interested but can’t find a time to try them, El Meson also recently launched a food truck.
The Dayton food world has a distinct but ever-growing base of restaurants and food genres, which El Meson has always bucked. This restaurant is an absolute must if you’re in Dayton — it’s got food too good to pass up.
- There are lunch specials if you’re meeting someone here for quick food. Some offer a chance for a small variety of samplings of El Meson food.
- The restaurant benefits from an ambiguous decor which makes it a good fine dining, business, family or friends destination.
- Large groups can be hosted in the private party room, and that spot can house a very large number of people.