McSorley’s Old Ale House

Proudly proclaiming that “we were here before you were born,” McSorley’s Old Ale House has been a neighborhood bar in Manhattan since 1854. This Irish bar is very much an experience in the past. Maybe it’s the sawdust floors, or the old newspapers covering the walls. Or maybe it’s the rough charm of the barman who greets you with a brisk “light or dark ale?” before wordlessly setting a load of beer-filled glass mugs on your table. It’s a lot of fun really, this place is about the atmosphere. And it’s a memorable one.

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Holy Grail Tavern & Grille

Just across the street from Great American Ballpark at Cincinnati’s The Banks development, Holy Grail Tavern & Grille is a mainstay in Cincinnati — a place to grab good food after the game is over, and a nightlife spot that gets packed during ball games and downtown events. This bar has lasted even as others have closed up shop at the Banks. A favorite of reds fans and downtown dwellers a like, odds are this will be one of the first destinations the locals will direct you to if you find your way to Cincinnati’s downtown or its thriving riverfront.

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Wright Wing

Set up just a bit of the beaten path in Fairborn (and briefly having a sister location in Ketteting), Wright Wing is a local watering hole in every sense of the word. Comfortable, full of TVs to watch any number of local ball games, and with a simple menu full of pub grub, this is the place you’ll want to bring a few buddies to enjoy a game or two. The food is a pretty safe bet, and overall it’s one of the better hole-in-the-wall places to love in suburban Dayton.

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Blue Note Bistro

Small-town Miamisburg harbors a real treat and a surprise in the Blue Note Bistro. Opened in a reclaimed space right along the main stretch of the southwest Ohio small town, it’s quickly lined up acts and local artists as a dive where you can go to enjoy some quality music downtown. Dayton doesn’t have a ton of places specifically for jazz and blues music these days. To see a spot such as this, and with its blue-themed decor and bit of dressing up, no less, is really pleasant.

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Gordon Ramsay BurGR

Chef Gordon Ramsay may have pioneered this namesake restaurant concept in the Planet Hollywood Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, and with a simple mission: a better burger. With a bold concept and a fantastic deputy in place in Chef Christina Wilson, BurGR sits on the hyped Las Vegas Strip, but there’s a real substance to the food that is served here. This isn’t just average food with a big name attached; it’s a genuinely different kind of burger. I’m liking it.

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Bagger Dave’s Burger Tavern

A chain of burger shops primarily focused in Michigan, Bagger Dave’s Burger Tavern does nothing small. The enormous restaurants, circled with train sets and a grand array of decorations to a huge menu of burgers, sandwiches and sides by the heaping helping. The end result is a friendly, almost over-the-top kind of charm. In fact, I would say big is the word for everything you see here, but keep in mind you’re certain to walk away super full.

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A Tavoola

Inspired by the classic Italian trattoria, or casual restaurant, A Tavoola brought this concept to Cincinnati as an eatery that offers shareable bites in a less formal setting. Now with locations both in downtown’s Over-the-Rhine and in Maderia on the East Side. Pizzas, pastas and other shareables dominate this menu and there are more than a few good drinks to try. A Tavoola brings a concept to areas that really benefit from having something like it, and I like the concept for its welcoming interior.

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Table 33

A new restaurant which has set itself up in downtown Dayton, Table 33 is an interesting concept; focusing on locally-produced ingredients which are constructed into more creative recipes for lighter cuisine, while a friendly bar in the center of the establishment offers an inviting place to grab a drink in the evening. While the concept remains new and its ideas refined, Table 33 has begun to differentiate itself in a way its predecessors did not, as a place for greater experimentation and a push to grow, make, and eat local.

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Bar 145

An Ohio-centered concept with half a dozen locations, Bar 145 tends to find its way into larger new developments, where its entertaining take on the traditional pub makes it a place that supports a few different activities. The location in Kent, for example, has space for a dance floor and hosts regular DJ nights to support that. The location in Dayton, on the other hand, has taken the form mainly as a ‘barcade,’ where classic arcade games can be played for free. But don’t forget the food. Where the bar has focused its energy on building a good menu in recent years, it has brought some great ideas to the table.

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Packy’s Sports Bar & Grill at the Hope Hotel

While it’s materially located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Hope Hotel is actually open to the public. It enjoys a great deal of history connection in the city: here is where the Dayton accords were signed, the peace agreement that ended the Bosnian War. In spite of that place in history, though, the restaurant here is relatively unknown. A bit part, I think, is that you have to drive toward the gate of the base (where MPs stare you down) so it can be intimidating. But Packy’s is a laid-back spot and it’s not one to miss out on.

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