Dewberry 1850 serves savory favorites
at UD’s Marriott

The meatball appetizer at Dewberry 1850

By Paula Johnson

Ho-tel No! – It’s fairly well known that there are myriad reasons why you should avoid eating at a hotel, but in case you’re wondering, here are a few of them: high cost, bland, predictable food, and lack of local culture. Let’s start with cost. Travel writer Chris Backe notes, “They’re overpriced as all hell. More often than not, you can find the same or similar offerings outside the hotel for one-third the price – and with far less pretentiousness.” Another reason – hotel restaurants put their emphasis on “safe” food that will be eaten by those seeking the familiar. And finally, most locals don’t eat at hotel restaurants – so if you’re planning to explore some of the local culture, neither should you. So though I’ve made a strong case to convince you why it’s a terrible idea, I now will tell you to go to a hotel restaurant here in Dayton. It’s a surprising exception to the rule.

Dewberry 1850 is an independently run restaurant in the Marriott Hotel at the University of Dayton campus. “Independent” meaning the chef is not corporate, but plans and executes his own menu, and that’s why it’s worthy of a visit. The name refers to what was once Dewberry Farm, formerly comprised of 125 acres of vineyards, orchards, a mansion, and farm buildings. The farm was deeded to a local priest who founded St. Mary’s School for Boys in 1850, which in 1920 evolved into current day UD.

Dewberry 1850 describes itself as an American gastropub, indicating a focus on food as well as drink, as PIP (Palate In Progress) and I found on a recent Sunday evening visit. The feel of the space, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, is light and contemporary, and a little bland – very much like what one would expect in a hotel. The strange, frenetically thumping music playing seemed at odds with the environment, and was thankfully subdued soon after we noticed it. There’s a large TV around which a few patrons and staff were gathering (there was a playoff game on). Aside from that, the dining room was sparsely populated until several members of a sports team with parents in tow began filling out the tables. 

Strong Starters

Our server advised us of the signature cocktails with an admonishment that they weren’t for the faint of heart, or for someone who was not a fan of bourbon. The Dewberry 1850 Single Barrel Knob Creek bourbon featured comes from a special select barrel and is about 20% more alcoholic than most bourbons. ( I stuck with wine that night). We began with a winning trio of appetizers, Duroc Pork Belly Tacos ($15.00), Meatballs ($15.00), and Flying Pigs ($12.00) – petite pork shanks fried crisp with Cajun seasonings. We dunked these crunchy little porky drumsticks in a tangy roasted poblano lime chimichuri sauce, and wanted more. The Pork Belly Tacos were equally as excellent – zesty jalapeno pineapple salsa was the perfect foil for the rich, fatty pork. The description of the meatballs gave me pause – smoked cheddar fondue with pickled grapes and bacon chutney. I questioned the trendy bacon chutney, especially as the meatballs were all beef, not to mention the fact that bacon is on everything. I love pickled anything and so does Dewberry, since pickled items appear more than once on the menu. These elements in combination with a smokey cheddar? Turns out it worked just fine, with all the elements coming together in a really tasty way. The attractive arrangement and plating of all the dishes also stood out, and PIP and I looked forward to the rest of our order.

We found the next course, a Caesar salad ($10.00) to be off the mark. Theirs was an unusual deconstructed version with the romaine hearts grilled whole and served alongside Parmesan chips, croutons, and citrus olives. I loved the olives and croutons but found the chips overly biting, and missed shaved sprinkles of Parmesan on the lettuce. The result of grilling the hearts whole meant that the interior leaves were naked – totally undressed and untouched by grilling. This is a salad that could work with some reworking. PIP’s Italian Sandwich ($13.00) featured pepperoni, salami, ham, honey ricotta, pickled onion, and balsamic syrup, and unfortunately charred romaine, in this case too much charring – resulting in an ashy burnt taste. Dewberry features several intriguing sandwich combinations with lively unusual ingredients, and I wouldn’t hesitate to try any of them, this one included, absent the romaine. 

Skin In The Game

I fared better with the Great Lakes Trout entree ($24.00), served over wilted Elmwood Stock Farm greens, and accented with lemon beurre blanc, and more of that pickled red onion, terrific with the fish. Surprising was the slightly salty crispy skin, (more places should serve fish with the skin on). Our server mentioned that Dewberry would be debuting some menu changes and new additions in the coming weeks, and I am hoping this fish remains.

I ended with the Tree Fruit dessert ($9.00), described as roasted seasonal fruit, (in this case an apple), honey ricotta, turbinado sugar, and crunchy spiced pistachio brittle. What left me cold was that it was cold. I expected and anticipated roasted to be warm, and although I liked this dessert – I very much liked the focus on the fruit, and that it reminded me of candy apples at a county fair – it was a case of expectations not being met. I would drop the roasted from the menu description, and I would cook the apple a little more. Full marks would then be awarded. 

While not every dish was perfect, as I previously detailed, I found myself appreciating the creativity and effort that went into preparing everything, and the sourcing of high quality, often local ingredients. If the price point on some dishes seemed perhaps a tad higher than expected, this is why. My meal was a pleasant surprise, and one I look forward to experiencing soon. What I ate made me want to do Dewberry again. 

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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

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