Music City Diner

Stuffed into the corner of a strip mall north of Nashville, this Greek-inspired diner is a small, but very homey place to eat. Staged like an old-fashioned eatery of southern America, you’ll walk in to classic songs on the jukebox and a “how y’all doin?” from the very friendly waitresses. In spite of these, this restaurant is anything but dated. It’s in fact a place where creative kinds of dishes are made and Greek cuisine is the norm.

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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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Taft’s Ale House

Served up with a healthy dose of history for its namesake, Taft’s Ale House honors a Cincinnatian who just happens to have been President of the United States once. So it’s nice that this eccentric church-turned-brewery has an aura of history to it, and a heck of a lot of character. While the libations are what bring the crowds to this spot on the weekends, it has a huge menu of food to keep people returning, including a brunch menu that isn’t often advertised. The food here is really worth a special visit.

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Buckhorn Tavern

Far from the excitement in south Dayton, Buckhorn Tavern feels a lot like a rustic lodge, nestled a bit off the beaten path in Clayton. The low lit, slightly smoky interior is filled with regulars and locals and the chandelier is made of deer antlers, but make no mistake, the food here is some of the most down-home good stuff to be tried here in town. This steakhouse should not be passed up.

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Moerlein Lager House

As The Banks in downtown Cincinnati has developed, the Queen City’s riverfront has become a hotspot for Reds fans, Bengals fans, and all-around, a place to get some of the best experiences the city has to offer. Of course, the riverfront isn’t just about the nightlife, though. Among the many appeals of downtown, Moerlein Lager House aims to be one of the most visible and iconinc breweries in the storied history of Cincinnati’s German brewing roots. If you’re from the area, it’s hard not to have heard the name.

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Jimmie’s Ladder 11

While it’s at the edge of both the South Park neighborhood near downtown Dayton and the fortress-like Miami Valley Hospital, Jimmie’s Ladder 11 is frequented most often, it would seem, but students from the nearby University of Dayton. This neighborhood watering hole brings a ton of drink options and a place for live music acts, but don’t discount its menu. In fact, Jimmie’s has a delicious menu of bar food and at pretty reasonable prices. I consider it something of a dark horse in town; not a ton of people outside UD frequent the place, and they’re missing out.

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CoCo’s Bistro

Coco’s Bistro. Daytonians love that name. The much-adored spot along Warren Street near downtown exudes class throughout its lowlit interior, from its late-night wine bar where jazz can sometimes be heard, to the private dining areas in the back of the shop where families can enjoy a meal together. And while its eclectic menu evades immediate description, one thing is clear: a lot of thought went into every unique dish that is offered here. Coco’s prides itself as a Dayton original, and I’d contend this spot is easily one of the best in the city.

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Dark Horse Tavern

Dark Horse Tavern is a bar and barbecue joint just off the highway in Miamisburg, south of Dayton, one that can still be easy to miss unless you know where to look for it. While the exterior is simple and the interior a dark, close-in and very classic feeling bar, the food shows the extra effort that really kicks the Dark Horse up a notch with its food. It’s a great option for Midwest-style barbecue and some good music for the Gem City.

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Dayton Racquet Club

Perched high atop Kettering Tower, Dayton’s tallest skyscraper, the elite Dayton Racquet Club is a members-only social establishment with a number of amenities, the most remarkable of which is a restaurant and lounge on the building’s 29th floor. It’s at this exclusive club that Dayton’s elite rub shoulders whether it’s for a gathering of business leaders over breakfast, a light lunch with a source, or cocktails after hours. The Racquet Club is good to its members, and the food here, matching the view, is top-notch.

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Sam and Ethel’s

Serving Main Street Tipp City and not a bit more fuss than is necessary, Sam and Ethel’s is a little local diner that seems to be something of a county favorite. Just north of Dayton are a number of little highway towns with a lot of charm but not a lot of notoriety to the averave traveler outside of Dayton. Because of that, a lot of little hidden gems lie in wait up there, waiting to be discovered. Sam & Ethel’s is one of those gems.

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