Watermark’s larger space
and expanded menu shine

The thick-sliced brisket is hickory smoked for 6-8 hours. Time well spent.

By Paula Johnson

Watermark, located in Miamisburg’s historic Erie Canal Building, is named for the building’s high water line from Dayton’s 1913 Great Flood. It’s the newest incarnation of Maria and Eric Walusis’s former restaurant, Nibbles. Nibbles occupied the space next door to Watermark, and will be reopening soon as River Town Chili, a breakfast and lunch operation specializing in breakfast sandwiches and three or four kinds of chili. (When a beer license is secured, dinner service will be added.) Chef Maria Walusis is helping to launch this venture with other partners in her former space, but will concentrate on overseeing the thing she and husband Eric have planned and worked for since opening Nibbles a few years ago: making the concept of Watermark
a success.

How is this restaurant different than their previous one? Fans of Nibbles know what made that a success—Chef Maria’s skill, creativity, and execution. If you are unfamiliar with her story, it’s an inspiring one. Walusis worked for years in another career and apprenticed herself to some of Dayton and Cincinnati’s best chefs to learn her craft. Known as a fine dining dinner place, Nibbles developed a following that made the Watermark expansion possible.

The first evident difference here is the space. There’s certainly a lot more of it, but first and foremost is that there’s a bar, which is Eric Walusis’s domain. He’s worked hard developing Watermark’s cocktail game—which is strong—and now he’s got the space for people to gather, have one of his cocktail creations, and snack on a well priced bar menu, another big difference from Nibbles. The Watermark Social menu is available Monday through Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m., and nightly 10 p.m. until closing. Highlights include $6.00 cocktails and $5.00 wine, plus pork belly or fish tacos, fried pork skins with pimento cheese, and their wonderful French fries, these ranging from $3.00 to $5.00. It’s clear Watermark is positioned to attract people who want to gather casually at the bar for happy hour after work. It’s the best deal in town, both in terms of quality of product and price, and I plan to socialize there regularly.

However, the night I visited, I wanted the full-on multi-course dinner experience, starting with a cocktail, The Really French 75 ($10.00). This one is made with cognac, simple syrup, lemon, and Prosecco, a perfect seasonal summer drink. My dining companion did a glass of Famille Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône Rosé ($8.00) another seasonal favorite, practically summer in a glass.

We chose options from Watermark’s regular and Chef’s Whim menu, starting with oysters, offered every Wednesday night. They can be had raw or grilled, and we tried and loved both, especially the smoky taste of the grilled. Shrimp Ceviche ($12.95) was a lovely start, zesty, fruity, with a little heat, elegantly presented in a martini glass. We also loved the Pork Belly or Fish Tacos (three for $9.95). The Cajun seasoned fish can be had fried or grilled, and we chose to sample all three. Crisp fresh cabbage, pickled red onion, and a spicy red pepper jam accented the meat and fish, served on a crunchy fried shell. All three were perfect.

Up On Smoke
Cameron’s Smoked Brisket ($26.95), served with macaroni and cheese and herb-buttered green beans with house made Bourbon BBQ sauce was my dinner choice. Cameron Weare is smokin’. Really. His brisket is finding its place on Watermark’s permanent menu. Weare has been with Watermark since its Nibbles days, and is responsible for a lot of great stuff that comes out of the kitchen, including the prime grilled Weare-burger. I asked him about his brisket. “It takes the fire 2 hours just to be ready, then the brisket is smoked with hickory for 6 to 10 hours,” he says. Weare likes the thick slabs of brisket with the other BBQ sauce he makes, a concoction of habanero, ketchup, molasses, mustard and vinegar, which he brought over for us to sample. “The vinegar makes it Carolina style. The idea is a hybrid—it’s Texas style execution, Kansas City style flavors with a Carolina style sauce.” I really like his take on the sauce, but I also liked the traditional bourbon sauce. They both win.

My friend had the night’s special Jambalaya ($17.95), something I had sampled previously and loved at a cocktail competition, as did all the other judges on the panel. We ended with the delicious Cabernet & Spice Molten Lava Cake ($9.95), with a hot liquid center and notes of cinnamon and chili. Watermark has made their mark on me and on the Dayton dining scene.

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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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