Carl’s Townhouse

A community gathering spot that has survived decades in Chillicothe in some creative ways, Carl’s Townhouse has been a sandwich shop and diner that brings people of all kinds for lunch. Family friendly and serving up comfort foods like burgers, soups and breakfast foods, Carl’s revels in a simpler kind of restaurant concept; one that thrives in small towns as a familiar place where everyone has made happy memories and the food has that charm that transcends the ages. When this place almost closed, they literally moved the building to a new site to save it. There’s a reason it’s got a place like that in the community.

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Zoup!

A fast-growing chain of soup restaurants which began in 1997 and now has over 90 locations and a quickly-growing presence around the country, Zoup! is a colorful concept. Meshing the fast-casual soup restaurant with a sandwich and salad restaurant in a sleek and modern concept, it tends to spring up in trendier and newer developments where there are active and more health conscious diners. And as it has expanded into the Midwest, Zoup has taken on some local flavors and given them a little bit of its own character.

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Hickory River Smokehouse

What originally started as a pretty simple barbecue chain in Illinois has evolved into a unique Midwestern experience known as Hickory River Smokehouse. This barbecue chain, which has eight locations across the country, including Ohio and Florida, draws in major crowds with its unique brand of smoked barbecue. The Midwestern palette has a very specific taste for barbecue, and even as many more chains look to dominate the market, Hickory River finds its way to the popular forefront. Among its accolades, the 2012 Ohio State Fair Pork Rib Off — which I had the great pleasure of judging.

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Hangar 18 Drinking Joint

What was formerly one of the locations of the “Cadillac Jack’s” sports bar chain in Dayton morphed last year to be a spot that caters more to the Fairborn neighborhood. Now, that spot is Hangar 18 on Kauffman Ave., and it offers the same basic premise of pub grub but at a more economical rate, and with plenty of other reasons to visit this little bar and game room concept. Sandwiched between Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Wright State University, this bar has a ton of sports fans from a lot of different places to draw through its doors. Hence the full name: “Hangar 18 Drinking Joint & Hangout.”

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Tanks Bar & Grill

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.

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Lucky’s Taproom & Eatery

Oregon District has a lot of bars with a lot of good bar food, and when you first walk through downtown Dayton’s main nightlife spot, you might not at first set your sights on the small operation that is Lucky’s. But make no mistake, this spot is much beloved by Dayton city-dwellers. Whether they’re making use of the spot’s extensive tap list or just looking to sample one of the burgers or sandwiches that fill its menu, people come to this spot in droves. The hype leaves you wondering, is it worth a try? The answer is yes.

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Johnny J’s Pub & Grille

As a small chain primarily active in the Great Lakes region, Johhny J’s Pub & Grill is an Irish bar themed concept which has a number of options for food on that vein and a decent group of bar food items to go along with that. Across its locations, though, the spot seems to be a night scene in small towns which attracts a decent crowd for drinks and pool or other activities. It’s a good place to grab a drink to be sure. The food though, remained average.

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Melt Eclectic Deli

Northside in Cincinnati has seen a dramatic turn in the past few years, like many neighborhoods of urban America, not without challenges but renewed amid an influx of people and businesses determined to see it around. Spots like Melt Eclectic Deli on the Hamilton Avenue Stretch. Melt has made quite a name for itself including CityBeat and Cincinnati Enquirer mentions, and now it’s landed itself right on the national stage with a visit from Guy Fieri and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Vegetarian foodies, this grilled cheese spot lives up to the hype.

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Blind Bob’s

One of the bars in the middle of Dayton’s Oregon District, Blind Bob’s is sort of a dive bar concept which tends to be popular with younger people and the Oregon District neighborhood. It’s a nightspot with a kitchen that is open late, but more importantly it’s a music venue. On top of that, Blind Bob’s is a family business run by an actually visually-impaired Bob Mendenhall, who just might be the friendliest person you’ll meet. The bar is easy to like, and the food is a pretty good plus.

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The Trolley Stop

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.

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