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 definite modern take on a very beloved Midwestern cooking style can be found in the middle of Cincinnati’s Over-The-Rhine neighborhood in Pointiac BBQ and Bourbon Bar. The street has brought forth many interesting concepts in the past few years with a contemporary flare, but one with a special focus on something as dear to the city as barbecue is rarer and more ambitious. This spot is great for its bevy of good drinks and the food deserves a definite tasting.
A tavern and a late night option in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, Henry’s Restaurant is a night spot that focuses on classic American bar food and a warm and cozy atmosphere. The menu here is predictable but the end result for the food is above average good. This place is best enjoyed as a spot to grab a table and spend time with a small group of friends. It’s got the charm that makes it a lower key place where you can really enjoy what’s around you.
Ollie’s Place has generated quite a bit of excitement in the months since it has opened in the south Dayton suburb of Centerville, Ohio. The spot brings the Dayton suburbs something they will surely love; a craft beer and whisky bottle shop with a connected tap room and restaurant. Take a step into the low-lit environment here and you’ll be immediately struck by the welcoming atmosphere. Not only is it a retail place to grab some craft brews, but it’s a place where you can relax and spend some time with a quality menu of bar foods perfectly matches to the extensive tap wall.
With something of a sports bar feel, Rivertowne attracts people to its four locations across Pittsburgh with an assortment of its own craft beers and apps that fill up the numerous Pittsburgh fans while rooting for their favorite Black and Yellow teams. The high-traffic locations where you find this spot often leave long lines, especially on game day, but I wasn’t attracted by the charm that brought others in the doors. The food is sloppy and the beers are forgettable.
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.
Dayton’s food truck scene has brought out some really interesting food combinations as new restauranteurs bring fresh ideas and experienced cooks give the public a chance to try their cuisine. Definitely one of the funnier sets would be Pa’s Pork — the name sounds a lot like a food truck devoted to barbecue, but it’s also got a menu of German and European dishes, like pierogi, sauerkraut, and schnitzel. The truck is a seasonal one and can be found at events, but wherever you see it, it’s definitely worth a try.
Just close to 90 locations of Bar Louie are spread out across the Midwest and the East Coast, slowly expanding west in the U.S. These restaurants tend to locate one or two to a city, generally in the very upscale bar districts where they can justify higher prices and clientele looking for a more upscale experience. The bars are trimmed, often filled with televisions and sports gear, and most importantly, they’re nearly always packed. Expect a safe experience at one of these bars food-wise. Drinks are a different story. But whichever you pick, don’t expect to be wowed.
A fun-loving, quirky concept out of Austin, Texas, the fast growing Chuy’s Tex Mex chain sort of explodes at you all at once as soon as you walk in. The mass of colors, hundreds of hand-painted fish on the ceilings, a shrine to Elvis, all of it greets you as you find your way to the bar or to a table. The flavors that greet you there are equally bold and loud. All told, I’m a huge fan of this concept and what it has to offer.