Dayton’s Rip Rap Roadhouse delivers biker and family fun
By Paula Johnson
Photo: Broasted Wings at Dayton’s Rip Rap Roadhouse; photos: Paula Johnson
For the drive out to Rip Rap Roadhouse, I put together a playlist to prep for the experience—my first visit to a biker bar(!). Selections included Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild,” “The Weight” by The Band, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” from Procol Harum, and, of course, Joe Cocker’s “With A Little Help From My Friends.” The fact that I’ve never actually been on a bike doesn’t mean I don’t admire the style, so I donned my leather biker boots and leather jacket in an attempt to maybe fool the regulars. There wasn’t time to watch “Easy Rider” since I was meeting Jurgen Durstler, my frequent dining buddy, early on a Monday night. Turns out I really didn’t need to have gone to all that trouble—Rip Rap Roadhouse was a real biker bar back when it was called Jackass Flats. The space was purchased by owner Jason Wadzinski and extensively remodeled to turn it into a family-friendly bar and restaurant with a bike theme.
Open since the spring of last year, the historic structure built in 1853 underwent massive changes to morph into what it is now. Though alterations were made, everything was done with an eye toward preserving the integrity of the original building: there’s a significantly expanded kitchen, plus a bar area seating 70, and a separate dining room accommodating 84. (Oh, and there’s parking. Acres of it. And a heck of a lot of bikes can be found outside on the weekly Wednesday Bike Night. Riders are encouraged to display their rides and meet other fans of the road.) Hand hewn wood posts, antique light fixtures, vintage Coca-Cola and Pepsi posters, and some motorcycle items (including a beautiful antique Indian) make for a pleasant thematic atmosphere. Plus, a clean, well-appointed ladies’ room. Yep, clean. My expectations for what a bike joint would look like were shattered.
Jurgen and I settled in to a bar table and were ready to see if we would be as surprised by the food as we were by the space. Jurgen is a fan of a good Old Fashioned ($6), and wanted to see if this bar could make one. A standard old-school cocktail to be sure, it was just fine according to JD (despite our server telling us they had to look up how to make it). Rip Rap is definitely a haven for the beer lover with a fairly extensive tap wall.
Smoke (or Broast) ‘Em if You’ve Got ‘Em
For appetizers, our capable and friendly server, Angie, steered us to one of the things Rip Rap is known for: Wings. Rip Rap does them two ways: Applewood Smoked, which they do in house, and Broasted (each $5.75). I’ve written before about the joys of broasting, a 1970s technology, which is sort of a cross between deep frying and pressure cooking, resulting in a great crunch and juicy meat. If I see broasted items on a menu I cannot be persuaded to look elsewhere—and these wings proved my obsession correct. The others were a close second, with a great smoky flavor. Another thing we loved is that these wings were not the teeny drumette and wing sections, but the whole big meaty wing together. As for the sauces, Rip Rap offers five. We ordered Parmesan Garlic and Sweet Thai Chili and found both to be good. Angie suggested we try the house-made BBQ, the standout of the sauces we sampled. Not overly sweet, it had a great depth of flavor and tanginess. “Now this is some barbecue sauce,” Jurgen exclaimed. The menu also offers ribs, something we wished we had chosen after sampling the sauce.
I Double Dog Dare You
The menu covers a lot of bar standards like chili fries, fried pickles, and Rip Rap’s version of potato skins, which they call Hog Wheels. There are also burgers and sandwiches, plus broasted chicken dinners. Jurgen chose Stogey’s Meat Loaf Sandwich ($6, dinner $7). What caught my eye as I looked at the sandwich selection were two of my favorite words—Chili Dog. The Roadhouse Cornbread Chili Dog was described as an extra long dog with award winning Joe’s Smokin’ Roadhouse Chili and topped with cheese ($6) in a small loaf of corn bread. My excitement over a chili dog nestled in corn bread was tempered upon presentation, however. The corn bread was of the cakey and sweet variety. I would have preferred a more textured, savory corn bread with the chili, as it was on the sweet side as well (and extremely cinnamony). Additionally, the ratio of meat to bread was way off. I would love to see them use a plumper dog, or perhaps add a second one. I ordered a side of sauerkraut and happily discovered Rip Rap doesn’t just open a can. Robust and flavorful, with caraway seeds and a really nice tartness and crunch, it made a great counterpoint when eaten along with the hotdog and chili.
Bread was also an issue with Jurgen’s meatloaf. We both felt a crustier, more substantial roll would really enhance what could be a really good sandwich. Jurgen also noted that the taste of the meatloaf wasn’t exactly fresh—his sense was that it might have picked up refrigerator flavors. I would be willing to try the meatloaf again, thinking that this might have been the case. On the side were tasty cheesy potatoes and a cup of gumbo that, while chunky and peppery, seemed a little watery and lacking of other flavor notes to balance the pepper. All in all a worthy effort, with enough highlights to make Rip Rap a place to recommend for a casual, affordable meal in an interesting space.
Even though Rip Rap Roadhouse didn’t fit my vision of a typical biker bar, I still played my soundtrack on the way home as I reflected on the experience—family and biker friendly, with some tasty highlights. I rolled down my window to get the wind in my face as I sang along with The Band. It’s probably the closest I will get to that kind of hog.
Rip Rap Roadhouse is located at 6024 Rip Rap Rd. in Dayton. For more information, please call 937.236.4329 or visit RipRapRoadhouse.com.