A Not-So-Hidden Gem in Bellbrook
By Tom Baker
While recently perusing online menus for a new date-night spot, I came across Amelia’s and was shocked that I had yet to try it. Although lately I’d been hearing positive things, it seemed like Amelia’s just wasn’t hitting my radar. Lunch with family as well as a night out with the wife was coming down the pike, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to check them out.
Located across the street from Dot’s Market in Bellbrook, Amelia’s opened in 2008 and sits in a small business strip and features a patio for warmer weather dining. The entrance leads into a bar with several high-top cocktail tablessandwiched between two dining areas. We were greeted immediately and seated in the first dining room. The space was cozy and a bit dark due to the patio shades outside, but was comfortable – a nice option for a meeting or lunch with someone special. Our server was very friendly and helpful, and we decided to start with their Almond Crusted Goat Cheese Salad. Featuring mixed greens, raspberry poppy seed dressing and two dollops of warm goat cheese rolled in toasted slivers of almond, the salad was a great way to start the meal and plenty for us to share. Without prompting, our server brought extra dressing as the salad is only lightly drizzled with the pleasant vinaigrette.
As soon as we finished our salads, lunch arrived – my companion ordered the Pot Roast and I opted for the Fish Sandwich. The tender and flavorful Pot Roast covered a mound of mashed potatoes, and the carrots, onions and green beans still had just the slightest bit of crunch. The plate could have benefitted from some color as the presentation was very plain, but this was a mere afterthought once we hit the great potatoes. My lightly breaded and pan fried tilapia was cooked perfectly and served on a soft, Kaiser bun with lettuce, remoulade and a side of fries. The quality of the food, a total bill with beverages under $30 and the great service made for a very enjoyable lunch.
Propelled by my lunch experience, I followed up quickly with a visit for dinner on a busy Friday night. Reservations are recommended as we walked in to one of the last remaining tables, and the bar was lively with conversation and a musician in the background. I’m not a big fan of the live musicians for a date night, but sitting in the dining room and listening to the distant sounds of laughter and music was actually pleasant and brightened the wood and candles of the dining room.
The menu was fairly comprehensive, covering all protein bases as well as sandwiches, appetizers and pizzas, although the vegetarian lasagna was the only meatless entrée proper. Pricing was standard for a more upscale experience, with sandwiches starting at $8 and entrees reaching $29. The wine list was very approachable, although it did not reflect the breadth and creativity of the menu. Service was, again, friendly and attentive, but not intrusive. Even the chef stepped in – not only was he touching tables and quite personable, he delivered our food as well. My only criticism regarding service, however, would have been the limited wine knowledge of our server. While I certainly don’t expect a sommelier, I do expect that the server will know something about the wines on the list, especially in this environment.
We started dinner with the Seared Scallops – three scallops perched atop mixed greens, tossed with a sweet bacon vinaigrette, and garnished with a bit of bacon and red onion. The scallops were perfect and an appropriate introduction to what would be another great meal. We skipped salads and went right to entrees – my companion decided on the locally sourced Ed Hill half chicken with mashed potatoes and asparagus and I chose the Shrimp and Grits. The chicken was moist and flavorful and, according to my companion, “the best chicken I’ve ever had.” My shrimp were lightly blackened, and splashes of poblano coulis and a small mound of tomato and onion jam complemented the grits. I consider myself a bit of a shrimp and grits aficionado and these were high on my list of favorite versions.
Although not huge fans of dessert, we had heard about Amelia’s tableside Bananas Foster (they also feature tableside Caesar salad), and although the house-made desserts were tempting, we had to try the fiery spectacle of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, banana liqueur and rum. After hurriedly eating the chalice full of melting vanilla ice cream and warm bananas, we decided that Amelia’s was going to make the rotation.
Clearly it has been my loss, not having given Amelia’s adequate attention. Next time you’re looking for a solid lunch spot or someplace to take your sweetheart, make sure that Amelia’s is on your radar. Now that it’s on mine where it belongs, I’ll be looking forward to some patio time when it finally stops raining.
Amelia’s Bistro is located at 129 W. Franklin St. in Bellbrook, offers nightly specials, and live music Thur-Sat. (937) 310-3040.
Reach DCP dining critic Tom Baker at email@example.com.