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.
A bit off the beaten path in Beavercreek east of Dayton, The Wellington Grille caters to a bit of an older crowd but it’s still filled up pretty easily even on weekend nights. This Americana-style grill and steakhouse isn’t too formal a place to visit, but it’s kept a good reputation as an approachable meal. Perhaps the interior could use a refresh, but the food you have here will be a familiar and comforting thing. This spot has been around for a few years and doesn’t turn a lot of heads, but it’s a good date night spot.
A much beloved chain started in 2002 in New York City, Shake Shack is all the rage in town which has prompted a fast expansion out of the East Coast and into more cities all over the country. With that fast growth, Shake Shack has become a trendy stop for many a curious eater. Probably the most prominent of the “better burger” concepts that has blossomed around the U.S. in recent years, the ‘Shack has an easy demeanor and a simple menu of burgers and shakes that have worked the name up into a national darling. Is the food worth the hype? I thought so.
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.
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.
An American gastropub that serves the northern Chicago neighborhoods around Lincoln Square, Fork Chicago specializes in farm to table cuisine. A combination bar, kitchen and tasting room the spot offers a seasonal menu of cheeses, small plates and charcuterie and is wonderful as a place to bring a friend or a small group for a pleasant evening out. I like this spot for its small plates and for its place in town, an experimental kitchen that has a few different modern interpretations on long-time favorites.
Setting up shop in the nice Bucktown neighborhood in northern Chicago, AMK is a nice, more modern bar with a focus on good American cuisine, cocktails and whiskeys. The memorable interior of the bar gives way to a solid menu of good sandwiches, small plates and pizza. Make a point to grab a cocktail before you get your meal, it’s a bit of a pricier place, but the experience is worth it. This kitchen is a perfect one to try on a date or out with a few friends.
A dive bar serving Cincinnati’s West side, Tavern on the Bend can be found just off Interstate 74 near Monfort Heights. This local sports bar features a menu of burgers and other sandwiches as well as 20 craft beers on tap. The sandwiches are named for different celebrities, famous characters and big personalities. And indeed, the food here has a lot of personality. This spot is a safe local place to grab a bite to eat and some company.
A local watering hole in Xenia, near Dayton, Nick’s Restaurant is a colorful little bar with a low-lit interior, a massive patio and equally massive food portions to match. While the stage brings music to the spot and drinks bring the locals out at all hours, its the food that really drives people in from out of town. Crowd-pleasing pub grub has been the staple here for years, and the restaurant’s wings have won award after award at local contests and wing festivals. Odds are, that’s one of the first things that will bring the place to your attention, and I will say that these wings are worth a try.