Mimosa soaked hours

Weekends are for brunch in Dayton

By Paula Johnson

 “In thousands of years, historians may regard modern brunch as the terminal stage of a soft civilization in decline. Now, however, there is no more important social meal, which is less about sustenance and more about making a destination of leisure” –Joshua David Stein, writing for Grub Street. This sums up the current brunch culture perfectly. Everyone is jumping on the brunch wagon. Consider the following:– Starbucks recently began quietly testing an official brunch menu at 78 Portland and Seattle area locations. The weekend-only menu includes standard fare like baked French toast and two different cage-free egg quiche options as well as Belgian waffles that come topped with fresh blueberries, powdered sugar, and syrup.

– The first-ever BrunchCon went down in—where else?—Brooklyn, at Grand Prospect Hall in March. There were 50 restaurants on hand, along with an open Mimosa bar (it wouldn’t be brunch without an all-you-can-drink offer), brunch-themed goods for sale, a hangover lounge, and, for some reason, speed-dating. Tickets went for $55.

– A New York City East Village restaurant recently unveiled a Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar with 20 garnishes including octopus tentacles, pretzels, and roasted ham.

But it’s not just here in the U.S. that brunch is a thing. Unique versions of brunch are found in Canada, China, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates, where things are really over the top. The UAE does epically lavish brunches on Fridays to kick off the end of their work week, which runs Sunday through Thursday.

Brunch Love

We here at the Dayton City Paper value and esteem brunch so much that we are devoting our cover story to this most civilized of meals. We will highlight five diverse brunch options and end with a comprehensive list of where brunch is served in the area, so we’ve got you covered. But first, a little history. Where and when did the craze for croissants start, and what makes brunch distinct from just breakfast?

According to Wikipedia, brunch originated in England in the late 19th century and became popular in the United States in the 1930s. The mash-up term for breakfast and lunch was first described in 1895 as a Sunday meal in the writer Guy Beringer’s article, “Brunch: A Plea.” He writes, “Instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a post church ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well.” He continues, “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

Here, here! Now let’s break it down:

The Buffet

“The Wynn has the greatest breakfast buffet ever. You die at that breakfast buffet. If you have cafeteria lust, which I do—if you secretly wish that all meals could be in a buffet setting—this is for you. Eight thousand strips of bacon. Every single kind of fruit imaginable. Smoked salmon. A Japanese breakfast, if you happen to be Japanese. And you can play Keno while eating.” —Travel + Leisure, June 2007

Nora Ephron had this to say about her passion for the buffet. (Though she refers to it as a breakfast buffet, this meal clearly strays into brunch territory.)

I too have a passion for the brunch buffet, and found that there aren’t a great many here in Dayton, but I found one that offers an embarrassment of options at an amazing price: the $17.95 Brunch Buffet at the Miami Valley Gaming Casino in Monroe. Think a dizzying array of food choices from fried chicken to turkey with stuffing, Steak Benedict to several kinds of breakfast hash, plus shrimp cocktail, soups, and salads to name a few. Oh and then there are the desserts, cheesecakes, and a gelato bar.

Pro tip to be the most successful at your brunch buffet game: Watch when new items are added to the buffet. Hollandaise under a heat lamp goes south fast and becomes a rubbery disk instead of the luxurious liquid sunshine it should be. If it sits, it no longer hits should be your buffet credo. Fortunately, the tenders of the Casino buffet replenished it often, and were happy to get fresh items on request. I’ll finish on the buffet spiel with what I think sums up its charms perfectly, a quote from Rick Schaefer of Brock Masterson’s Catering: “In my humble opinion, a brunch without a buffet is sacrilegious. Brunch is supposed to be a feast, not a cutesie tootsie little plate dappled with a hodgepodge of diminutive pretense. I want to step into a buffet like a lion and step out like a lamb.” Word.

Where It All Began: Dim Sum

Great Tang Restaurant

I started by citing the British origin of brunch, but I’m going to go back to where brunch really has its roots—China, with dim sum, translated from the Chinese as “a little piece of the heart.” What exactly is dim sum? It’s a style of Cantonese Chinese cuisine prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Dim sum dishes are usually served with tea, and together form a full tea brunch. Dim sum traditionally is served as fully cooked, ready-to-serve dishes. The evolution of dim sum centers on the healthfulness of tea. An imperial physician in the third century wrote that combining tea with food would lead to excessive weight gain, but it was later discovered that tea can aid in digestion. So tea house owners began adding various snacks, and dim sum was born.

The dim sum at Great Tang was classic, with rolling carts stacked high with bamboo steamers being pushed by ladies who stop at each table announcing and showing off each dish. You are free to simply point to what you would like to try. In our case, soup dumplings, shou mi, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves, and steamed pork buns started us off—and nearly finished us. We barely scratched the surface of the seemingly endless array of dishes.

Pro tip: Typically each dish is priced categorically in three tiers—small, medium, or large. The bill can add up for just two people, so the best strategy for doing dim sum is to go with a group. Besides bringing down the individual cost, this allows each person to maximize trying as many dishes as possible.

The Dayton Classic

Meadowlark. It’s the first place on everyone’s brunch list, and there’s a reason why Chef Wiley is the doyenne of the dejeuner. She loves it. And most chefs don’t. Brunch food is labor intensive with most everything made to order. But it’s Chef Wiley’s favorite, and the usual wait to get in proves it to be Dayton’s favorite as well.

Pro tip: The full brunch menu is served at Meadowlark’s bar, so sit at one of the high top tables or at the bar itself. It’s also quieter.

I asked Chef Wiley what she feels are Meadowlark’s signature dishes. I had a host of recommendations from friends, but I wanted to hear her suggestions. (It felt like I was asking her to pick a favorite child.) She mentioned right away the Steve Evans sage sausage, and the herbaceous green chorizo they make in house and serve with scrambled eggs. “Most everyone is familiar with the red chorizo, but this is a different take on it.” I tried it, and it is a must. “We’re also known for our Oat Cakes. It’s a recipe I developed at a breakfast place I worked at a long time ago. We soak the oats overnight so they become soft but still retain texture.” She also mentioned the classic Huevos Rancheros, which I had to try, along with a half order of Strawberry French Toast, thereby addressing the perennial brunch conundrum of sweet versus savory. I toasted my repast with my favorite Meadowlark brunch cocktail, The Pimmberry. It’s a black pepper infused simple syrup with Pimm’s, lemon juice, strawberries, and a dusting of fresh ground pepper. Meadowlark again lives up to its much-deserved stellar reputation.

Brunch It Forward

One of my favorite brunch places is not like anywhere else. This is a place I go often and hands down has the most beautiful and unique way of operating anywhere. You will never be greeted as warmly and enthusiastically as you’ll be at One Bistro. Located in Miamisburg (and now in Xenia), One Bistro’s purpose is to serve the community. Their mission statement reads, “Our menu consists of a brunch fare with a suggested price of $6–$9 per meal. Any donations over the suggested price help to cover the cost of a neighbor’s meal. In this ‘pay what you can afford’ concept, the hope is that customers will ‘pay it forward’ and pay more than the suggested price to help feed our neighbors.”

Brunch is served Saturday only, and though the menu is limited, what is served at One Bistro is top notch. Of course it’s a great concept, but it wouldn’t make my list if the food wasn’t noteworthy. You’ll find a basic blue plate special, an omelette, an Eggs Benedict, changing seasonal pancakes, and fabulous French toast. One of my favorites is one they do in the fall with pumpkin cream cheese. But what I love most is the staff—all volunteers. It’s a place where young people and mentally challenged people work alongside regular staff. On one of my last visits I found myself singing my favorite Adele songs along with two of the workers. I dare you to brunch there and not feel the love.

Pro tip: You don’t need one here.

Brunch on a Budget

The Trolley Stop is an Oregon District fixture. Their brunch was recommended to me as affordable to those on a budget. Plus it has a make-your-own Bloody Mary and Mimosa bar. A lot of what Trolley Stop offers is locally sourced—another good reason to brunch there. A friend’s favorite is French Farmer’s Breakfast coming in at a reasonable $7. It’s two eggs, grilled asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, roasted potatoes, and baguette toast. I love that there are dishes like The Recliner, a two-egg omelette with cheese, roasted potatoes, sausage gravy, and grilled onions with a biscuit, and The B-E-L-T Burger, a third pound BLT Keener Farms burger. A Pancake Cinnamon Stack is only $5.

Pro tip: Buy a bottle of bubbly to split for two if you’re doing the Mimosa bar. It’s more cost effective than each ordering two drinks.

The List

You’ll notice I didn’t include places that are simply breakfast places. Admittedly, some of those are Dayton favorites, and mine too. However, for this piece I wanted to focus on places that offered distinct brunch menus different than just breakfast. That’s another article I plan to begin work on. The following is a list of area places where you can get your brunch on. May the French toast be with you!

Beavercreek

Brio

4459 Cedar Park Drive

937.429.7792

BrioItalian.com/the_greene.html

Brunch served 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Saturdays and Sundays

Fleming’s

4432 Walnut St.

937.320.9548

FlemingsSteakHouse.com/locations/oh/Dayton/

Brunch served 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sundays only

Dayton 

Basil’s on Market

312 N. Patterson Blvd.

937.818.4390

BasilsOnMarket.com/basils-Dayton.php

Brunch served 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sundays only

Blind Bob’s

430 E. Fifth St.

937.938.6405

BlindBobs.com

Brunch served 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Saturdays and Sundays

De’Lish

139 N. Main St.

937.461.2233

DelishDayton.com

Brunch served 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sundays only

The Dublin Pub

300 Wayne Ave.

937.224.7822

DubPub.com

Brunch served 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sundays only

Lily’s Bistro

329 E. Fifth St.

937.723.7637

LilysBistro.com

Brunch served 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Saturdays and Sundays

Lucky’s

520 E. Fifth St.

937.222.6800

LuckysTapRoom.com

Brunch served 10 a.m.-2.p.m.

Saturdays and Sundays

Mudlick Tap House

135 E. Second St.

937.895.4066

MudlickTapHouse.com

Brunch served 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sundays only

Salar

400 E. Fifth St.

937.203.3999

SalarRestaurant.com

Brunch served 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Sundays only

The Trolley Stop

530 E. Fifth St.

937.461.1101

TrolleyStopDayton.com

Brunch served 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Saturdays only

Lebanon

Golden Lamb

27 S. Broadway St.

513.932.5065

GoldenLamb.com

Brunch served 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Saturdays and Sundays

Miamisburg

Another Broken Egg Cafe

3450 Rigby Road

937.866.4510

AnotherBrokenEgg.com/location/miamisburg-oh-austin-landing

Brunch served 7 a.m.-2 p.m.

Monday-Sunday

Troy

Basil’s on Market

18 N. Market St.

937.875.2068

BasilsOnMarket.com/basils-troy.php

Brunch served 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Sundays only

Waynesville

Cobblestone Village Café

10 N. Main St.

513.897.0021

CobblestoneVillageAndCafe.com

Brunch served 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sundays only

Yellow Springs

The Winds Café

215 Xenia Ave.

937.767.1144

WindsCafe.com

Brunch served 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sundays only

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Paula Johnson
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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