Liu Garden

For a very long time, Downtown Dayton was served by one dive Chinese place: China Royal, in the corner of the Biltmore Tower along North Main Street. After that spot closed, the place was vacant for awhile before a new spot, Liu Garden, replaced it earlier this year. Under the ownership of a new family, this spot is in practice very similar to its predecessor — a Chinese buffet with a robust takeout operation. But this one has longer hours and a bigger variety of foods. Still, the food is pretty unremarkable.

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Burntwood Tavern

In a remarkable sign of growth, the Burntwood Tavern opened its doors just in 2010 and has since expanded to about 10 locations throughout suburban Cleveland. “Chef driven, guest focused,” each location has a self-described “rustic” interior made principally of reclaimed wood with a menu focused heavily on wood-smoked and wood-fired dishes. Grilled meats of many types, sandwiches and more, all served up on friendly portions. There’s something to be said for this kind of modern kitchen and finding a great niche. It’s nice to see this spot grow so fast.

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Mansfield Family Restaurant

Mansfield, in north-central Ohio, is home to a lot of local restaurant chains, most of them pretty low-key places where the locals like to congregate. Mansfield Family Restaurants, a local chain, is one of those operations. Just big enough that it’s always pretty packed often, including on weekends and Sundays. What does this little local diner serve up? Comfort food. And inexpensive, at that. Breakfasts and sandwiches and fried goodies and so forth. You’ll find that really to be a comfortable thing.

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Amar India

Now with two locations in Dayton, Amar India is an Indian food restaurant with a focus on a more upscale Indian food experience. Owned by Surjit Singh Mattu, the two restaurants complement the group’s Beavercreek restaurant and buffet Jeet India, which is more of a casual kind of location. Here, you’re served by a waiter and choose from a smaller but robust menu of dishes that have a deeper character and flavor profiles. While at first intimidating to sit down and choose from so many kinds of food that might not be familiar, the end result is still a great dining experience.

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Remember When Tea Room

A charming pink house in Southwest Ohio’s quaint Waynesville, Remember When is a gateway to a bygone era, evoking the very friendly and all too uncommon art of the afternoon tea. Literally run out of the house of its owners, you will find every dish made by hand and every item a but of a personal touch. Once you understand how the place works you wilk find it a very pleasant place to try.

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Green Symphony

While Manhattan is packed to the gills with greasy pizza, fatty junk food and sugary desserts, Green Symphony is a shrine to healthy foods. Featuring a convenience store of Protein bars, organic popcorn, teas and juices, kale chips and nutritional baked goods, this spot is visited by body builders, runners and altogether a fit clientele. You wouldn’t immediately notice it but the place has a menu of food beyond smoothies and chopped fruit.

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Cedarland Bakery

The east Dayton suburbs hold many surprises, especially in the world of little local restaurant operations. Cedarland Bakery is a great example; offering a specific flavor in Lebanese food amid a larger backdrop of Mediterranean dishes that might be a bit more familiar. Very popular with the immigrant community in the city, the grill enjoys relatively little fanfare from the suburbs because of its low-key presence. Very much a hole in the wall, this place has lots of sweets to take home with you, but you’ll want to try that lunch menu.

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Blue Note Bistro

Small-town Miamisburg harbors a real treat and a surprise in the Blue Note Bistro. Opened in a reclaimed space right along the main stretch of the southwest Ohio small town, it’s quickly lined up acts and local artists as a dive where you can go to enjoy some quality music downtown. Dayton doesn’t have a ton of places specifically for jazz and blues music these days. To see a spot such as this, and with its blue-themed decor and bit of dressing up, no less, is really pleasant.

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The Wellington Grille

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.

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Kaya Grill & Sushi

It’s pretty hard to find a place in the midwestern United States that does Korean barbecue — the distinctive style of cooking raw meats on a hot element is something that is easy to embrace…once you’re already familiar with the process. So around here, it doesn’t have much of a following. But if you want an introduction on the idea, a good place to go would be Kaya Grill & Sushi, a Columbus spot that specializes in Korean and Japanese cooking. But the best thing to try in the restaurant has to be this unique way of eating, both for its rarity in this area and for the potential to really walk away satisfied you’ve had a great meal.

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