New Culinary Adventures in Dayton, Ohio!

Welcome Sign

We’ve moved! My apologies for not updating the blog over the past few months. Once we got back from Tokyo, things got crazy. Our original plan had actually been to move to Napa, California. In March, we flew out to Northern California to look at housing rentals. Have you ever tried to rent anything in California? It is like a competitive sport. Dozens of people show up to rental viewings. Have pets? Good luck. Even if an ad says they accept animals, chances are, they will pass you over for a non-pet owner. Long story short, we came home without secured housing in March, which gave us a chance to think.

Yes, California is beautiful, and has access to some of the best food in the world. But it is also insanely expensive. We began to think about how much more traveling we could do if we cut our expenses down, instead of doubling them. We also began to think about the benefits of owning a home, versus continuing to rent in a place where the dream of home ownership is akin to winning the lottery. We turned out attention to the mid-west and I am so glad that we did.

Four months later, after a marathon day of house hunting, a cross country move that included 3 dogs, drama with our closing, and one leaky basement for good measure – we are home. And I love it. We are the new owners of a charming brick Cape Cod that was built in 1948. It has gorgeous, hardwood floors, a big porch for watching the rain on, and a sun room perfect for hanging out in the morning with a cup of coffee and watching the squirrels run along the fence line. It also has a narrow galley kitchen that I thought I would absolutely loathe. Who can seriously cook in a tiny kitchen? As it turns out, my tiny little kitchen is far more efficient than bigger kitchens I have had in the past. Having the stove and the sink back to back is incredibly useful, and I have far more counter space and storage than I expected. Luke and I have both been in the kitchen, whipping up home cooked meals and trying out new recipes.

Husband cooking dinner
Luke making dinner in our little galley kitchen

But the best surprise has been the Dayton, Ohio food scene. And I am totally serious. When we tell people that we moved from Las Vegas to Dayton, Ohio, most people give us this look, like “ooooh, downgrade,” and ask why we would do that. The truth is, that the vast majority of Las Vegas feels very corporate and is full of restaurant chains. Sure, you can find quality local places if you look for them, but you really have to look hard. Sure, you can go to the Strip for a meal at a Celebrity Restaurant, but that also means you have to deal with crowds, traffic, and a 30% increase in the price of your check.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that over the past 10 years that I have been gone from the state of Ohio, Dayton has been having something of a revitalization. Breweries have been popping up all over town over the past 5 years. The 2nd Street Market, which is the oldest running farmer’s market in the city, boasts not only local produce, but eggs, milk, homemade cheeses, pastas, milk, yogurt, and bread. Not to mention the dozens of vendors who show up three days a week, serving everything from crepes to authentic Greek food.

Savory Crepe
Crepe from the 2nd Street Farmer’s Market

On the restaurant scene, a large number of restaurants are chef owned, and highly committed to using local food. I admit, one of my biggest concerns with moving to the Mid-west, was I thought I was going to have to search and and low to eat someplace that wasn’t TGI Fridays. That turned out to be a ridiculous concern, as I have probably seen more creative and inspired restaurant menus in this town than I have anywhere else in a long time.

For example, we found the Hawthorne Grill after I heard it mentioned on the radio. It’s a chef driven restaurant that changes the small and focused menu seasonally. While it has only been open a few years, and none of my friends seem to have ever heard of it, Luke and I had one of the best meals there I have ever eaten. As in anywhere. The food definitely stands up to some of the best restaurants we have come across in our travels, and it is right here in little ole’ Dayton. I was beyond excited to see fried green tomatoes on the menu, and the macaroni and cheese was amazing. I don’t often order chicken when I go out, but I couldn’t resist the chicken breast stuffed with ham.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Stuffed Chicken breast
Fried Green Tomatoes, Stuffed Chicken Breast and Macaroni from the Hawthorne Grill

Last week was restaurant week, and since I love a good three course menu for a discounted price, Luke and I got dressed up, made our reservations, and hit the scene. The Oregon District is a stretch of bars, restaurants and breweries in Dayton on the edge of Downtown that is also adjacent to two historical neighborhoods with gorgeous Victorian homes. The area has evolved since I was in college, and gone from an area that provided cheap dance clubs for the university kids and local young adults, to a destination for serious foodies. For Restaurant Week we decided to go to Salar Restaurant and Lounge, which serves fusion food with French, Peruvian, and Mediterranean influences. The specialty cocktails are serious business, and a must try. In addition to your usual gin, vodka, tequila, and whiskey drinks, they also have Pisco cocktails, which is a Peruvian wine-based spirit. I tried the house cocktail, which is made from Macchu Pisco, lime juice, egg whites, ginger syrup, purple Peruvian corn juice, and bitters. I admit, I don’t have a clue what corn juice is, or why it would be in a drink, but it was all worth it. Not only was my drink tasty, but it was beautiful just to look at.

House Cocktail at Salar Restaurant and Lounge

It’s not all about the cocktails though. The food is flawless. They have a great selection of artisanal pizzas, vegetarian options, seafood dishes, and straightforward meat options. All done with a little bit of a European twist. I ended up getting scallops with sauteed spinach, roasted mushrooms, and mashed potatoes.

Scallops with spinach, mushrooms, and mashed potatoes
Scallops with spinach, mushrooms, and mashed potatoes

Overall, I really cannot overstate how excited I am to be in Dayton. Now that we are settled, I am ready to get back to my blog and start sharing some of the recipes I have been working on. I have some great ideas for dishes I want to make, I am looking forward to having more friends over to share my culinary adventures with, and of course I am looking forward to getting out and exploring the city more. Luke and I also have some great travel plans coming up, which means even more food adventures!


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