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. 

  • Meatloaf sandwich: I like it. 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.
  • Risotto: At Lily’s, it’s cooked like a delicacy. Rice with a light cheese and heavy on asparagus, garnished with some steamed carrots. 
  • 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.
  • Chorizo Tacos: These are a lighter dish but great. Light on the meat itself in order to be healthier, these have plenty of veggies. Fantastic.
  • Chicken Marsala: This version of Marsala is heavy on the pasta and a thick sauce. I like that little bit of spinach on top.
  • Uptown mac & cheese: It 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.
  • Cream of Mushroom Soup: Heavy on mushrooms and a thick chunky sauce. Get a meal on a cold day started with this dish.
  • Fried chicken: A specialty dish at Lily’s, available often on Sundays as a special meal that comes with comfort food sides like green beans and waffles. The crispy chicken features a savory mix of spices and a nice juicy chicken.
  • Ciabatta: A breakfast option, this features bacon and melted Havarti cheese sandwich on ciabatta. Great with a bit of salty meat and a nice, airy bun. A light breakfast.
  • Waffle sandwich: A newer breakfast option. Those waffles of Lily’s that people talk about so much. They’re fantastic. A nice savory breakfast sausage patty, the white cheddar cheese and sweet syrup on the side give this serious charm.
  • Beignets: Soft, Cafe du Monde style donuts with a crispy outside and oh so much delightful powdered sugar. Plus some jam, which adds a little dimension. A nice way to start brunch.
  • Chicken salad: Served in a croissant and topped with a perfect crunchy pecan, the salad is a bit on the sweeter side, but still feels very light.

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

2 thoughts on “Lily’s Bistro

  1. 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!!

    1. 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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