Critic’s Special: Raising Cane’s

Oilman-turned-fisherman-turned-restaurant owner Todd Graves did more that open a restaurant when he created Raising Cane’s. This chain has attracted a cult following and wherever it goes, people get crazy. This week its first location opens in Dayton, Ohio, and opening day was met with lines out the door and a drive through that has a constant security detail, with traffic headed around the block.

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ele Cake Co.

While the name may suggest that Ele Cake Co. is a simple bakery operation, the several Dayton-area locations of this restaurant feel much more like a bistro. With a menu of sandwiches, small plates and other kinds of cuisine with specialties around the world, there’s definitely more to the place than its name. Come hungry and be ready to be filled, but don’t think about skipping dessert; that would be a mistake. About as bad a mistake as missing out on this spot.

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Abigail Street

Opened in Over-The-Rhine in downtown Cincinnati as another of its much-loved experimental restaurant concepts, Abigail Street is a Tapas bar with a flair for making great small-plate Mediterranean specialties. Served up easy to divide and meant to be shared with friends, this spot has a long wait for its food on the weekends, but the quality of the food is immediately apparent, from when the first dish lands on your table to when the very friendly service sees you off at the end of the night. The concept is definitely unique on this street for the experience that it offers.

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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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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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Meadowlark

A highly experimental concept that brings an ever-changing face to contemporary cuisine, Meadowlark is the kind of place you go if you’re looking for a culinary adventure. This American cuisine restaurant offers up a ton of vegetarian dishes, sandwiches, soups, and dishes with inspiration all over the globe. It’s hard to find a restaurant that truly goes out on a limb to really try and make something new. In Dayton, it can seem almost impossible. But step into this little restaurant nestled behind a strip mall in south Dayton, and you won’t regret a thing you order.

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Sleepy Bee Cafe

The Cincinnati suburb of Oakley has a vibrant night life and a large population of active young people, so it’s no surprise that a healthy breakfast place opening in the middle of the main stretch generated a lot of hype. And bee puns, which you will find none of here. Indeed, Sleepy Bee Cafe has an innovative menu that is sourced as locally as possible, and since it opened last month it’s been pretty typical to see a crowd waiting outside. Unfortunately, the early reputation of the place has been tarnished online by what in my experience has been well-founded criticism of the service.

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Deluca’s Restaurant

A much-beloved staple of the Pittsburgh dining scene, Deluca’s Restaurant prides itself simply as “the best breakfast in town.” You’ve probably seen this place on television, its popular Strip District location regularly sees a line out the door serving up fantastic breakfast foods like pancakes with sweet cream, eggs, spicy sausage and coffee. They recently opened a new location in Robinson Township, as well, to serve the city’s west suburbs. There is always, always a line out the door and for good reason; Deluca’s blows away the competition with its creativity and its simply delightful cuisine.

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Garden Brunch Cafe

A very quaint little house feet from Nashville’s famous farmers market downtown, Garden Brunch Cafe is a popular place for people to go for breakfast. You can enjoy a light meal by a fireplace or listen to some live music by a local artist on the modest stage, but one thing is clear: this place is popular enough that you’ll likely have to wait for a table. People seem to love the place for its cute interior and artisan take on everyday breakfast fare.

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