Vandalia’s Little York Tavern—Brews yes, Bites no.

By Paula Johnson

Little York Tavern & Pizza has a long history and a dedicated following. The building where it was originally located (Little York Road and North Dixie Drive) was constructed in 1835. The business began in that location in 1981 as a tavern serving drinks only. In 1988 pizza was introduced, and in 1994 a game room and pool tables were added. A road-widening project in 2005 prompted the move to its current location at Little York Road and Poe Avenue, approximately a quarter mile from the old location, allowing for a big expansion. At four times the original space with a large outdoor patio, the menu also grew from mostly pizza to a full selection of burgers, sandwiches, bar snacks and a few dinners as well. Driving on the highway I had often seen Little York’s sign and wondered how you got there. The route is a bit convoluted but thanks to GPS, I was able to navigate correctly to give it a try.

I met up with some friends for an early after-work dinner, arriving around 5:30 to find a baby shower already in full swing in the dining area where we were seated. Little York is the kind of place where gatherings and larger groups can be easily accommodated with their casual space and relaxed attitude. Laughter and the sound of tearing wrapping paper seem like the norm for Little York’s dining room. Menus were distributed and food decisions were underway. Knowing that pizza was the original menu item and the only thing served for many years, we knew we wanted to try it. But first, we decided on a few bar snacks to begin. Quite a lot of what’s offered for appetizers is fried, from the mushrooms, blooming onion, jalapeno poppers, cheese sticks, to the French fries. Little York’s menu, while expanded from the original pizza, offers little beyond bar food standards. Nachos, burgers, hot dogs, subs and some sandwiches make up most of what’s available, along with a few dinners like chicken parmesan, fried fish and spaghetti.

Battered up

Chili nachos ($7.59) and fried cauliflower ($6.29) were ordered, along with a cup of chili ($4.59) in order to sample both the hot and mild chilies featured. The ratio of batter to vegetable resulted in disappointment for the cauliflower. The batter itself wasn’t bad, albeit on the greasy side. Larger chunks of cauliflower would improve things a lot. The nachos were topped with chili, shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream. The chili was fair, most definitely on the too sweet side (both the mild and hot versions). Adding some scallions or cilantro would add something to help cut the sweetness. Same for the cup of chili, which was served with only shredded cheese and no sour cream. None of us found the spicy version to be particularly hot. Maybe adding some extra jalapenos would help.

Soup’s on

We moved on to hopefully greener pastures with chicken parmesan ($10.49), beer battered fish ($9.49, half order), fried pork tenderloin sandwich ($8.49), ham and bean soup ($4.49) and a deluxe six-inch pizza ($5.15). The menu boasts that the soups are “warm and soothing, like grandma used to make.” The daily special, ham and bean soup, indeed tasted homemade, satisfying with thick chunks of ham. It would turn out to be the best thing I sampled that night.

The fish was really disappointing, and suffered from the same issue as the cauliflower: a preponderance of oily batter and virtually no fish. Unremarkable fries and coleslaw accompanied the sad little fillet. Joining the unremarkable column was the chicken Parmesan. Served on a bed of spaghetti, the sauce had a distinctly institutional character to it and was not the fresh tomatoey marinara we were hoping for. The fried pork tenderloin sandwich fared better in our estimation. Pounded very thin, the pork’s coating was crunchy, and made for a good sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on a Kaiser style bun.

Pizza puzzle

What was really puzzling to me was the pizza. Touted as an old family recipe, and the only thing that Little York served for several years, I had high expectations when I ordered it. The small disc arrived on a cardboard circle, and I found the crust to be about as tasty. Admittedly I am not a fan of the uber-thin style of crust which is so popular here, but there was not much else outstanding to recommend this pizza; sauce, cheese or toppings-wise. We all agreed that unfortunately the search for good pizza in Dayton would not end at Little York Tavern.

Food-wise, nothing other than the soup stood out for me in our uninspiring meal. I would certainly not return to Little York for the pizza, but it does seem like a great place to grab a pitcher and listen to some music with a group of friends. Its address is in my car’s GPS. I haven’t deleted it just yet. Maybe I will hold on to it for a summer evening when I’m in the mood for a beer on a nice patio.

Little York Tavern & Pizza is located at 4120 Little York Road in Vandalia. For more information, please visit littleyorktavern.net or call 937-890-6700.

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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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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