Thanks to all the posters on this site for recommendations for restaurants in Dayton. Just got back, and I have to say, the area has some surprisingly good restaurants. For posters who are trying to understand the reviewer's frame of reference, I live in NYC and love eating out--in both high- and lower-end restaurants. Here are a few reviews of restaurants I visited in Dayton, in my order of preference:
The Winds - technically in Yellow Springs, OH, about 20 miles from Dayton, but an easy drive. This place was worth the drive! The restaurant seems to focus on organic, seasonal ingredients showcased in a New American menu. All of the menu items I sampled seemed a step above anything else I tried in Dayton, as far as complexity and restraint. Prices are from $15-23 for entrees, which include a salad or soup. Appetizers ranged from $5-12. I loved the complimentary house-cured olives (with a delightful hint of citrus), the "small plate" appetizer I tried paired a mild goat cheese, broiled with spicy tomato sauce, and a few large pieces of olive oil and garlic grilled bread. Not sure if the bread is house made (the full name of the restaurant is "The Winds Cafe and Bakery"), but I thought it was the perfect foil to the warm goat cheese and sauce. Not revolutionary stuff, I know, but it was actually very well executed, and, at $8, the portion was large enough to share between 2 people as an appetizer. The house salad that came with my dinner was large, and the greens were perfectly dressed and very fresh. The entree--I had the tea-cured wild salmon with soba noodles in beurre blanc. This was good, but I had a bit of buyers' remorse after ordering. I had been leaning toward the Catalonian-style wild striped bass, in which the roast, deboned bass is covered with an almond and garlic-based Catalan sauce, although I had also considered the porcini game hen entree. When I asked the waiter about the three, he said that the salmon was his favorite. I asked him if it was their most popular entree currently and he said actually, the bass was, but he preferred the salmon preparation. Not wanting something extremely heavy that night and wanting to go with his suggestion, I ordered the salmon, but in retrospect, with fish, I probably should have ordered what was flying out the door. The salmon was good, cooked just pink, but it was, in my opinion, just a little bit fishy, which had me wondering about its freshness. Dessert was a wonderful wine-roasted whole pear, served with a dollop of fresh mascarpone (which, again, I thought proved to be a thoughtful and yummy foil). The pear was very soft and creamy and served in a crock with a vanilla and cinnamon-scented wine sauce. Loved it.
The restaurant's menu changes monthly and it has a nice, casual atmosphere, with little spots of fresh flowers through out. The little strip of Xenia Ave. in Yellow Springs where the restaurant is located has lots of cute little bookstores and coffee shops and is worth a stroll if you can get there before they close. The town is home to Antioch college, and it has a lot of college-town charm. I would definitely go back there and would highly recommend it to friends. Here's the website: http://www.windscafe.com/about
The Pine Club - well-known and very good old school steakhouse, which retains its decor from the 1950s. Basically, a lot of rec room-esque wood panelling, dark lighting and a more casual, bar atmosphere. The waitress was a bit absent-minded, but our steaks were EXCELLENT. They serve Iowa prime beef, aged for a minimum of 28 days, and the quality of the meat really shows. If you go, get the prime rib, which is monstrous and well-marbled. Other steaks were good too. Prices are around $30 for steak, salad, potato and side. The shoe string onions they serve with the steaks are excellent, as is the house horseradish sauce that comes with the prime rib. Overall, if I were looking for a good steak dinner, and I was back in the area, I would not hesitate to go back. One note--this place doesn't take reservations so there could be a wait on busy nights. George H.W. Bush famously waited for a table himself when campaigning in '88. Also--this place is cash only.
Coco's Bistro - went there for lunch. Cute ambiance, and plenty of good food coming out of the kitchen. My favorite was the spinach salad that I ordered with lunch, actually which came with some thoughtful house-candied pecans, and a house-made wine vinaigrette. They are "famous" for their upscale grilled cheese and tomato-bisque combo which is served at lunch. I thought this was okay, but I wouldn't order it again. I found the soup to be too cloyingly sweet and the grilled cheese sandwich was just alright. Apparently the restaurant needs to dial down its sweetness a bit because the mushroom ravioli entree that some of my colleagues got was deemed "way too sweet" by some as well. Liked this place alright, but would either order something different or probably not go back if I were in Dayton.
Rue Dumaine - didn't actually get to go (called ahead and heard it was an hour wait for table for 2 on a Thursday), but this a newly opened restaurant where Anne Kearney, the chef from Peristyle in New Orleans, is cooking. The restaurant is French-American bistro and is getting a lot of buzz in Dayton and around. Loved Peristyle in Nola, so have a feeling the food here would be good. Here's the address and phone number:
1061 Miamisburg-Centerville Road (Ohio 725), (937) 610-1061