Lily’s Bistro

329 East 5th St.
Dayton, OH 45402
websiteIMG_10884 stars

It’s a very recent addition to downtown Dayton, but seems to have been highly anticipated nonetheless. Restaurateur Emily Mendenhall opened Lily’s Bistro in the former Boulevard Haus building just about a year ago. Another of the popular restaurants in Dayton’s Oregon District, Lily’s Bistro has been a late dining destination that recently expanded into the realm of lunch. It’s a light bistro concept to compete with the higher-end dining and bars that surround it. The concept does experimental American cuisine with unusual sandwiches and plenty of quality food among the options.

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Soups, sandwiches and salads dominate Lily’s menu, among them a lot of items you wouldn’t really expect to see in a soup, sandwich or salad. I liked the meatloaf sandwich; it sounds heavy but it’s actually something of a light sandwich, just a few slices of meatloaf topped with a little aioli and a little lettuce, between two pieces of bread. The meatloaf is a good mix of meat, something like stuffing and a few vegetables, which really makes it shine. And it’s great as a sandwich. Simply presented, yet so elegant.

Take the Lily’s Cheeseburger: it’s a burger marinated in red wine and herbs, served between a brioche bun with with lettuce, tomato, onion, havarti, and sriracha aioli. Even in this fan favorite dish is an example of the elegant touch Lily’s puts on its food; the burger has a hint of the wine forward and other than that it’s got a light flavor of herbs. The interesting thing about the dish is that it’s a common food made in an uncommonly refined way. And it’s great. Similar things can be said of the Uptown mac & cheese, which has cavatappi pasta with cheddar sauce and blue cheese. It’s a simple take on a much loved dish, and the flavors are extra fancy to boot.

The one thing I will note about service is that it takes a bit longer here than other places might. Not a huge amount of time; you shouldn’t find it too inconvenient. But there is a noticable lag on the front end of the restaurant, in three visits I always found it took five or ten minutes longer than average for food to get to me. Just something to know.

The price is good at Lily’s, and the food has always been good during my visits. I’m a fan of this spot for its unusual take on common American cuisine dishes, they’re the kinds of interesting takes on food that you just can’t find many other places. Lily’s is a good spot in Dayton to make a lunch.


  • The menu changes periodically; check back on their website for updates.
  • The wait times are a little higher than normal, but I still find them not to be significant.
  • Lunch items are less expensive, and a lot of great sandwiches and wraps are on the menu then.

Lily's Bistro on Urbanspoon

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2 Responses to “Lily’s Bistro”
  1. discodust says:

    I don’t know why you gave this place 4 stars. This restaurant is HORRENDOUS!! The patio and the drinks are great, however the food is another story. I came here and ordered the special thinking it would be good. It was the most expensive thing on the menu – monk fish, squash, kale, quinoa. the monk fish was stale, and it was gray in color. completely gray and unappetizing. Plus it smelled stale. I told the waiter and he just made a face like this :( and apologized. Did not offer to compensate me or anything. I hear that some restaurants want to get rid of certain foods and label them as the “special”. This is fine as long as this doesn’t become the most expensive item on the menu. I want my money back -seriously!!

    • I can definitely see that. They try some really experimental dishes and some of those foods can be delicate. I have been back six or so times at this point, never had a problem like this. No one is perfect, of course.

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