The Bullpen Diner in Dot’s Market


The Bullpen’s country fried steak, silver dollar potato pancakes, and eggs over easy.

By Paula Johnson

The Silence of The Mans

This one’s for the men out there. Well kind of, anyway. Forgive generalizations according to sex, but women are more highly socialized generally—they hang out with friends more, have more social contacts, and place a premium value on interpersonal relationships. Men often, even when they get together with friends, do “parallel “ activities which find them watching something—a sporting event or TV for instance, which precludes talking in the same way just having coffee might. Enter the “third place” as a cure for filling a modern American void.

What is a third place and why is it valuable? According to Wikipedia, the third place is the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home (“first place”) and the workplace (“second place”) And according to sociologist Ray Oldenberg, one thing often missing from most modern American men’s lives is a “third place.” He introduced the concept in his 1989 book “The Great Good Place.” “Most guys don’t have that third place, which means that most of us are missing out on a crucial space of expression, connection, and growth,” he states. It’s a space that’s basically a welcoming hang out spot which fosters a sense of community, and one of the greatest examples of this is a diner.

We’re gonna get to the food folks, we are. This is simply an explanation as to why places like these little diners are important and should be celebrated as a necessary part of the daily fabric of American life. Enter The Bullpen Diner in Dot’s Market on Patterson Boulevard as exhibit A to illustrate what I’ve just expounded upon. See? Food is coming, like I promised.

A League Of Their Own

But one further sidestep: I’ve told you why diners are important, but what makes a good diner? “Breakfast all day” is first on my list. A low price point is a must, and good informal service. New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells says that for a diner to be a diner, it has to be the kind of place where the server calls you “hon.” This did happen to me at The Bullpen.

Now let’s circle back to the man thing. I visited The Bullpen with a hulking man friend who loves the three-egg breakfast offered all day, and what I noticed immediately was that the clientele was largely male. Not in the way that women wouldn’t feel comfortable eating there, or weren’t represented, it just seemed like a whole lot of tables were filled with groups of guys talking over coffee long after finishing their breakfasts. (Perhaps it’s the name Bullpen which conjures up masculine imagery, apologies to women’s ball teams.) Anyway, these guys were regulars, and have clearly found their third place at The Bullpen.

We arrived at 11 a.m. on a Thursday for a breakfast—which my friend had assured me would win me over, and he was right. The place was bustling, owing in part to the crowd, abut also that there seemed to be only one harried server. Fair warning: if you are in a rush, this isn’t the place for you, confirmed by my frequent dining companion. “It’s always a wait, but it’s worth it,” he offered. Indeed we did wait as the server rushed around delivering heaping plates and hot coffee as best she could, but when she got to us she was warm and effusive in her apologies, and won us over. We were rooting for her in the face of adversity, as plates piled up on surrounding tables as more patrons filtered in.

Homestyle Home Run

The menu is standard diner fare with lunch and dinner offerings (They’re open 7-7 everyday, 7-2 on Sundays). Non-breakfast specials include broasted chicken, liver and onions, and bison burgers. The fact that they’re located in a supermarket, and one that’s known for its meat, means that the meat is fresh and of good quality. That’s what prompted me to try the country fried steak. As my companion pointed out, it would be made in the kitchen with fresh steak. Honestly, it was fantastic, crisply fried outside and tender and beefy inside, topped with peppery sausage gravy generously studded with big hunks of meat. I had it with tasty silver dollar sized oniony potato pancakes, two eggs over-easy, and a really good regular sized pancake. Both the potato pancakes and the actual pancake were substitutions for home fries and toast. Amazingly, unlike most places, The Bullpen did not charge extra for the substitution. My friend had his standard three-egg breakfast with home fries, a nice patty of sausage, and rye toast. Mine was $5.69, his $5.99. It almost didn’t seem possible when the bill was rung up.

As I mentioned previously, the things that make a diner great, as well as being a great third place, were all present and accounted for in a big way at The Bullpen. It’s been around since 1964. Here’s to another fifty plus years!

The Bullpen is located inside Dot’s Market, 2274 Patterson Rd, Kettering. For more information, visit them online DotsMarket.com or call 937.253.6784.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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