The Pine Club maintains
great steak house standard

While you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, I highly recommend
The Pine Club’s bone-in rib eye (above)
and Nantucket Cape scallops.

by Paula Johnson

It Certainly Ain’t Broke—If You Understand It
My first visit to The Pine Club was an absolute disaster. Steak house dining to me conjured images of the hushed elegance of linen napkins and white table clothes, hovering tuxedoed waiters and chandeliers, red flocked wallpaper, and the muted strains of violin music in the background. PIP (Palate In Progress) and I had dressed for just such a special occasion destination restaurant. It was a frigid Saturday evening in February. And there was a UD game.

Those of you who know the Pine Club can stop laughing now so that I may finish my story. Directed by an almost surly hostess, we stood flattened against the wall approximately six inches from the door, blasted with arctic air every time that door opened. I was furious. Is this what passed for a renowned steak house in my new home town? The wait was close to two hours, but we grudgingly soldiered on, shifting slightly as the fortunates ahead of us got seated.

Credit Is Due
When we were finally seated that frosty evening, we ordered immediately the thing everyone comes to The Pine Club for—steak, along with their signature offerings, the salad dressing and the stewed tomatoes. I found both to be far too sweet for my liking, especially the tomatoes, but I remember remarking that they had something there with the steak. Two more surprises rounded out the evening: The Pine Club doesn’t offer dessert, complete unforgivable heresy to my way of thinking. And they don’t take credit cards. “Aw that’s OK, honey,” our server assured us, as we frantically pawed through our wallets for cash. “I’ll get you something to fill out for a house account card.” We looked at each other in astonished bewilderment. Surely she didn’t mean they’d BILL US for our dinner? Yep, she did, and they did. We got a bill and a Pine Club card with my name on it in the mail soon after.

Later I railed against my experience to a friend who is a fierce devotee of the restaurant. He filled me in on what I didn’t know and appreciate: the history, the lore, the legend that surrounds this Dayton icon which has been in business since 1947. I conceded that my negativity had much to do with unmet expectations, and that I should go back for another bite at the steak before making a permanent judgment.

The Judgment Of Paula
Return I did with my Pine Club fanboy friend. We dined early (5:00) on a Tuesday, no UD game happening, and still I was surprised at the number of people already seated eating steaks. The Pine Club menu doesn’t venture much beyond a typical steak house, covering veal, pork, and lamb chops, prime rib, and a few sandwiches. Steak prices range from around $35 to $69.95 for a porterhouse for two. Appetizers are seafood-centric with oysters, shrimp cocktail, herring, and scallops. Service at The Pine Club is informal, familiar, and matter of fact. As our server rattled off the list of side options and add-ons for the steaks, I noted that many, if not most of the servers are women who have been with the restaurant for a while, some for decades.

At my friend’s urging we began with the Nantucket Cape Scallops ($13.95), tiny fried sweet little scallop bites to dunk in a creamy sauce, quite a delicious start. Blue point oysters (6 for $14.95) were next with cocktail and horseradish. Again, nothing exotic, just plain good. As steaks go, I’m sold on the bone-in rib eye ($41.95), a combination of extensive marbling and roasted bone flavor I find superior to most all other steaks. The tangle of onion straws are a great accompaniment, as is the newly added Bernaise sauce. I recommend the hash brown potato for a side, or the classic baked potato. And creamed spinach, the perfect enhancement for beef. These sides also pair well with Lamb Chops ($33.95), something I recently tried after many visits to The Pine Club.

I also strayed from steak to try a burger, something which had been recommended to me by yet another Pine Club devotee. No surprise that it was a really good burger—they’re ground in-house from the filet. On The Pine Club’s website, you can buy gift packs of steaks, steak sauce, salad dressing, and stewed tomatoes, but here’s a pro tip for burger lovers: you can call to see if they have any extra burgers which you can order and pick up, that is if you get lucky and they’re available.

Club Kid
So yes, it’s by now obvious that I’ve succumbed to the charms of a restaurant where everyone (even a visiting US president) waits to get seated, and there’s no dessert. I got the memo and I understand the place. I’m tickled by the fact that I now carry a Pine Club card in my wallet—it makes me feel part of the immutable Dayton tradition that this restaurant is. I’m in the Club.

Cuisine: 47/50
Value: 24/25
Service: 24/25
Total: 95

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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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