As the product of a lawyer-turned restaurateur, Designer Dogs offers gourmet hot dog options for the diners of the Mall at Fairfield Commons. A food court is a simple place to start something great, and this little stand definitely delivers something really fun on the front end. Gourmet hot dogs are a tricky thing to pull of and be worth the money, but this place does them in a very memorable way, I have to say I am impressed by what I have tried.
A drive-in chain popular in the Akron area in northeast Ohio, Swenson’s is a relic of an older era, a drive-in where you park your car, hit the lights, and a runner comes to your door with a menu full of classic American cuisine. Burgers, hot dogs, the kinds of convenient foods that evoke the golden days of the manufacturing roots of the city. Those days have passed, but the food has remained a mainstay here, with the popularity of the place bringing people back on weekends, no matter the weather.
A handy food truck that has sprung up downtown this summer, Lilia’s Outside Cafe is a simple trailer that has a number of creative items to try for lunch. The operation keeps things low-key with a menu of classic American cuisine. The vibrant local food truck scene has sprung up a lot of opportunities for people in the food business to innovate. And indeed some of the dishes I’ve seen here I’ve never seen anywhere else. But it’s the classic dishes here that keep my interest.
You hear a lot in Dayton about the little dive bars that the locals love. Always near the top of the list is Tank’s Bar and Grill, a spot along Wayne Avenue which isn’t big, isn’t conspicuous and isn’t very aggressive about marketing itself, but people love it still. Word of mouth tends to be the way that you first hear of Tank’s, and it’s often a surprise to people: a dive bar near downtown that makes good breakfast? It almost sounds like an oxymoron. But Tank’s delivers.
One of the bookends of Dayton’s hippest sector, the Oregon District, The Trolley Stop is not a city-wide destination as many of its sister businesses, instead content to be more of a local dive for the residents of the nearby streets. It’s got a large outside porch, a spot so isolated from the bustle of the nearby downtown that it might as well be a garden on an island at the end of the world. Inside is a spacious dive bar, a friendly staff, and the kind of place it’s almost better to experience on a Tuesday evening when the Friday night rush isn’t complicating things.
It’s just about impossible to tell since they have almost no online presence to speak of, but B-K Root Beer, also known as B&K Rootbeer, has been a large Midwestern chain for several decades, having apparently risen in the 1950s and 1960s with car culture as a drive-in diner. At its height, Wikipedia tells me, the Indiana-centered chain had close to 240 locations. Now? I have no idea. All I know is that there are a few surviving stands in some of the small towns around Ohio, mostly centered in rural areas and with only a few having a presence on Facebook, devoid of any higher branding effort.
The Oasis is a late night food option serving just about anything the college kids and locals around its four locations want to eat. No, really. The menu consists of something like 200 items from just about every corner of the food spectrum, from burgers and pizza to wings, Tex-mex and gyros. Basically, the whole model is whatever insane thing you might get a craving for late at night, after everywhere else is closed, Oasis will have it. Also, they’ll deliver it. There’s no matching the convenience. The flavors are another story.
Dozens of restaurants have come and gone from south Dayton, but few have endured as long as this humble food stand near downtown Moraine. The Dixie Dairy Dreem is an old-fashioned hamburger and ice cream stand, which this year celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in business. Many cars pass through this area on the way downtown and still many more local residents walk here from surrounding neighborhoods. This is the kind of place that friends and family gather on hot summer nights for an ice cream cone, and where generations of families have made memories.
People love the old-fashioned favorites, and the Root Beer Stande on Woodman drive in central Dayton is about as old-fashioned as it gets. The humble little dive offers service directly to your car with a mess of timeless fast food faves. I have to imagine countless memories have been made here; people who grew up stopping in summer nights. People who cam here for dates. This is the kind of gem that an outsider would find mundane but that a local resident would really and truly come to love after many years of memories.
Another major chain of Cincinnati-style chili, Gold Star Chili has about 90 locations, most of which are in or near the Queen City. There’s a definite rivalry with arch-competition Skyline Chili, and for awhile you either liked one or you liked the other. Nowadays, though, Gold Star seems to prefer corner strip malls and food courts, more a convenience as opposed to a full service restaurant like its competition. Love it or hate it, the chili here is definitely different from the stuff made by everyone else.