1000 Carillon Blvd.
Dayton, OH 45409
While this unassuming hut in Dayton’s Carillon Park looks like a basic concession stand, it’s actually one of the most interesting recollections of Dayton’s history. Culp’s Cafe assumes the heritage and name of a lunch counter opened downtown in 1902, and which later became a tenant in one of downtown’s most vibrant one-time centerpieces: the Dayton Arcade. As the reincarnation of that much-loved Dayton eatery, which closed in 1960, Culp’s Cafe at Carillon Park offers the kind of food you would get at a 40s-era lunch counter: Sandwiches, soups and ice creams among them. This quiet spot is a perfect lunch destination.
Sandwiches, salads and wraps, all of which are hand-made, dominate the menu. My favorite dishes:
- Pecan chicken salad sandwich: A crowd favorite, this chicken salad sandwich on toast has just a slight crunch from those nice pecans, and they add a noticeable sweet flavor. A good first thing to try.
- Culp’s Cheeseburger: The quarter-pound burger cooked well-done and comes juicy, but not greasy, with just a hint of smoke to it. The burger is perfect with any of the sides you can pick from, but it’s best by far with another Dayton original, Mikesell’s Chips.
- Chicken noodle soup: A great soup year-round that is heavy on the noodles and veggies. It doesn’t really even need any seasoning, and it’s natural with a wrap or half-sandwich, as is one of the great deals for the spot.
- Ice cream: Culp’s carries a few flavors of its own ice cream, and serves them in waffle cones. Too good to pass up on that grand summer patio, the ice cream flavors are old-fashioned and simple, but not to be ignored. They’re very easy to love.
The atmosphere of Carillon Park is inherently very peaceful, and Culp’s Cafe is no exception. While it’s open for lunch only but in operation seven days a week, the cafe attracts a regular crowd from the park’s attendees, but it’s really the peace and quiet that can be found here that is the charm. So close to the bustle of downtown Dayton, and the busy suburban restaurants, it’s nice to find a reprieve in a place like this.
Food here is simple, but it has a feeling of being genuine; like the atmosphere of the cafe, it’s just easy to like that. I think of this spot as a hidden gem so close to Dayton’s core for what it offers at a very inexpensive price. Well worth a try.
- The cafe is open from 11 to 3 each day, and you can pay it a visit without going into the park itself, which is a plus.
- Dayton History members get a 10 percent discount on all food here and neighboring Carillon Brewing Co.
- Parking is best just behind the restaurant itself, it’s not necessary to use the further general park parking.