Table talk

Make yourself comfortable at downtown Dayton’s Table 33

Posole, a Mexican red chili or stew, at downtown Dayton’s Table 33; photos: Paula Johnson

By Paula Johnson

“Every lesson I learned as a kid was at the dinner table. Being Greek, Sicilian, and Ruthenian, my folks are an emotional bunch. It was where we laughed, cried, and yelled—but most importantly, where we bonded and connected.”

This sentiment is one that renowned chef Michael Symon and Table 33 co-owners Chris Harrison and Charlie Carroll had in mind when they considered the kind of place they wanted their restaurant to be. Maybe not the crying and yelling, but most certainly the idea of bonding and connecting—and that those things take place while sharing a meal at a table. Harrison and Carroll have nearly 30 years in the restaurant business collectively, and take seriously consider the concept of hospitality one of their highest priorities. That and a commitment to Dayton’s continued downtown revitalization led them to choose the location on West Second Street.

It’s a pleasant and interesting space with a clean, industrial style. Large street-view windows wrap around the entire front of the space, opening onto a plaza patio for seasonal dining. The interior is barbell-shaped, with a pair of larger dining spaces connected by a corridor lined with two-top tables. The entry space features some comfy, low, lounging couches as well as tables. The other dining space houses tables and a coffee and juice bar with grab-and-go options for the on-the-way-to-work crowd, as well as cocktails for a little later in the day. Table 33 is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Its proximity to cultural venues suggests a great opportunity to capitalize on show-going diners, but I am a little puzzled by the 7 p.m. closing time.

The Table 33 menu is limited, with small plates and no full-on, multi-course dinners, so it’s likely the owners don’t see themselves filling that niche. While there is a focus on cocktails (I sampled a terrific one at a menu launch event prior to my review), I am not sure I would choose Table 33 for an after-work, happy-hour place with that early closing time. I do recognize the challenge restaurants not located in the Oregon District face, so I leave it to Carroll and Harrison to figure out if they can attract enough diners to extend their hours (and maybe their menu). If they continue to successfully serve the food I’ve experienced, my bet is they would.

I lunched with a friend to try, for a second time, some of the dishes I sampled the menu launch. At that time, I learned about the restaurant’s commitment to locally sourced, high-quality, sustainable meats and produce. While lunching I ran into one of Table 33’s meat suppliers, Matthew Keener of Keener Farms. “Table 33 has the highest percentage of Keener meat… of the restaurants we serve!” he told me. Two diner-style patties of his grass-fed beef make up Table 33’s Burger, topped with provolone cheese, Dayton Beer Company stout-braised onions, and house-made jam of tomato and Keener bacon ($9). I tried this burger and really liked the combination of sweet and savory toppings, and was tempted to choose it for my lunch, but Table 33 does something that I wanted to try again and write about. It’s something that I normally run screaming from, but at the tasting I was converted. I had to be sure I hadn’t dreamed it all up. What am I talking about? Gluten-free dining.

Gabbing about Gluten

So, let’s talk gluten, and what it actually is, for a second. One of the most heavily consumed proteins on earth, gluten is created when two molecules, glutenin and gliadin, come into contact and form a bond. That bond creates an elastic membrane, which is what gives bread its chewy texture. Gluten also traps carbon dioxide, which, as it ferments, adds volume. This is why most gluten-free breads and baked goods are cardboard-like and so deeply unsatisfying. Table 33 has a lot of gluten-free menu choices because owners Harrison and Carroll are concerned that gluten is causing health issues for people. Whether it’s a fad or not, almost 90 million Americans are either eliminating or reducing their gluten intake. I’m fortunate not to have any dietary sensitivity, so I avoid gluten-free choices, as they almost always disappoint. Like all food and diet trends, for me, the question always comes back to taste. I was persuaded to try Table 33’s versions of fried chicken, waffles, and cake, and I found them to be a bit of a revelation.

I started lunch with a cup of Posole ($5), a Mexican red chili with hominy, chunks of pork shoulder, and a festive topping of colorful cilantro and red cabbage. Though by no means bad, this was my least favorite dish, which I found to be lacking in depth of flavor, despite the great range of textures and freshness. I was hoping for more of a brothy consistency and a little more savory zing.

I moved on to Table 33’s Chicken and Waffles ($12) surprisingly light and fluffy in texture. The chicken’s crunchy coating is made with Rice Krispies, and the whole thing is tied together with kickin’, sriracha-infused maple syrup and a big dollop of jalapeño blueberry butter. Just as good as I remembered! My friend tried the Breakfast Sandwich ($9), a croissant (not gluten-free) filled with an over-easy egg, Keener Farm’s bacon, Gouda, and the aforementioned tomato-bacon jam. The egg oozed all over the thick, crispy bacon, a delicious mess of goodness. We both enjoyed the smoky sweet Gouda combined with jam, making this a cut above the usual bland breakfast sandwich, and not just for breakfast anymore.

Taking the Cake

I couldn’t be finished without a piece of the Italian Cream Cake ($6) I had tried before. This was Table 33’s final test. Would it be as good as I remembered? Indeed.

Nuts and dried fruit augmented the texture of the cake, and with lots of creamy icing this cake was the same sweet, rich treat I fell for the first time. Other dessert offerings change, but this cake has a place on the regular menu—as it should.

Table 33 has my vote for breakfast and lunch, most definitely. While I’m sure I might occasionally indulge in a lunchtime libation, I will certainly try for an early, after-work happy hour soon. I’m sure there’s a cocktail that matches perfectly with cake!

Cuisine (Taste, 50 % max.): 48%
Value (Price-based, 25% max.): 24%
Service (Quality of, 25% max): 24%
TOTAL RATING SCORE: 96%

Table 33 is located at 130 W. Second St. in downtown Dayton. For more information, please call 937.999.3070 or visit Table33Dayton.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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