Stayin’ classy, gettin’ sassy

Old style tavern serves up new style flair at Oregon’s Trolley Stop

By Paula Johnson

Photo: Trolley Stop’s Double Dogs

Take the Fifth

The Oregon District’s Fifth Street has been recently designated as one of the Top 5 Greatest Streets in America. It’s chock full of unique, individually owned shops, businesses and restaurants. Not a Pottery Barn or Starbucks in sight, it’s a street to savor, stroll and stop for a bite. And Trolley Stop, the oldest continually operated tavern in Dayton, is a worthy venue to do just that. The Trolley Stop’s vibe is a cozy neighborhood tavern, with a reputation for using local, seasonal produce and free-range organic meats. They’ve recently celebrated 20 years as one of the most popular downtown lunch spots, and a place to hear local music and try a new craft beer in the evenings. There’s also one of downtown’s best patios out back for outdoor seating if the weather allows.

Trolley Stop’s menu features standards like burgers, chili, pulled pork, some Cajun favorites, soups and salads, but they go beyond the standard by using quality locally sourced, responsibly produced ingredients. The burgers and chili are made with Keener Farm grass-fed beef, including an intriguing one encrusted with peppercorns and stuffed with bleu cheese. The pork and sausage is sourced from KJB Farms. And a nice change of pace for a traditional favorite, Trolley Stop’s nachos are served with local grilled seasonal vegetables.

The art of lunch

Joining me for lunch was one of Dayton’s premiere visual artists, the Real Deal herself, lovely Amy. She happily accepted my invite to chow and chat since she is a big fan of Trolley Stop. And I was looking forward to it as well, having been initiated to Trolley’s cuisine twice before. I arrived first and slid into a cozy booth in the long narrow dining area after being instructed to sit wherever I liked. A bar spans the length of the dimly lit space, and there’s an additional upstairs hang out area featuring a pool table.

Amy arrived and we began perusing the menu. We agreed we’d like to try things we hadn’t tried before, and I immediately settled on the daily lunch special, a turkey hot shot. As she deliberated we ordered Falafel ($7) and Seared Ahi Tuna ($8) for appetizers while we sipped our iced tea and discussed Dayton’s art scene. Each of these very reasonably priced appetizers comes with several dipping sauce options. As for the tuna, I asked to try all three: a soy ginger aioli, a chili jalapeño and a satay. The fish arrived nicely seared and matched well with all the sauces, particularly the peanutty satay. Choices for the Falafel were hummus and tzatziki. Amy and I exclaimed tzatziki in unison and were rewarded with the perfect cool cucumber minty complement to the Falafel. These generous chickpea patties were fried crisp brown with bits of onion and red pepper in the filling, and we both agreed, delicious.

What clinched the Turkey Hot Shot lunch special ($8) for me was that it was served on a slice of tasty grilled rye bread, not the usual white which I find too bland. Turkey and a mound of homey mashed potatoes were crowned with a mushroom gravy, another savory addition to a sandwich which can sometimes be a little pedestrian. Completing the plate was a tangle of fresh green beans. It was autumn deliciousness in full.

Double dog dare ya

Amy spied the Double Dogs ($5.50)—a pair of beef franks loaded with an array of intriguing toppings according to the menu. Sauerkraut, cheese, mustard and kimchi! Our server told us that was a misprint, and that the cheese and sauerkraut really weren’t intended. Amy gamely decided that she would go with everything anyway, minus the cheese.

The dogs were small and slender, but tasty—the kind of dogs that really benefit from some heavy-duty toppings. We both found the kimchi to be an excellent foil for the franks’ soft texture and meaty flavor. Kimchi, sort of a spicy fermented Korean sauerkraut, made the standard stuff superfluous and barely detectable, Amy and I both agreed. Kimchi, unlike traditional sauerkraut, is more than just cabbage. It’s usually made with cucumbers, radishes and other vegetables as well. To get kimchi’s signature briny, vinegary, spicy kick, it’s often cured for up to two weeks. (The traditional way is to bury it in ceramic crocks outdoors.) The down dog on this one were the buns. They seemed pretty much of the out of the package supermarket ilk. I would have loved to see Trolley Stop use a more interesting crusty roll to add another dimension instead.

Triple threat

Three things I like about Trolley Stop: where they source their food, what they do with it and what they charge for it. If you haven’t gone in the past 20 years, make it a point to go to this Stop. Hopefully they’ll be around for another 20, but why wait?

The Trolley Stop is located at 530 E. Fifth St. in the Oregon District. For more information, please call 937.461.1101 or visit trolleystopdayton.com.

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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