Tavern tales

Belmont’s Slyder’s is a story worth telling

10 oz burger at Slyders.

By Paula Johnson

Recently I read an article on the website, Serious Eats, because if you’re a food geek like me, that’s how you spend all of your time. Anyway, it was written by a bartender, and it was about what makes a neighborhood bar great. I looked it up and re-read it after PIP (Palate In Progress) and I made our inaugural visit to Belmont’s Slyder’s Tavern, a place that has been around since 1948. I had heard lots of lore about the burgers, and I also heard that it’s generally a great joint. This made me think about what separates a place that merely sells drinks from one that succeeds as a great bar. 

They’re Always Glad You Came

According to New York barman Michael Neff, there are a few things that have to be present. The first thing he cites, is community: “Who goes there, and why? How do people interact with the bartender? With each other? If the bar is full of people who clearly know the place well, chances are it is the center of a strong community. This usually means that the people are loyal to the bar, and the bar is loyal to its people”. We found this in spades at Slyder’s. Of course, I have to trot out the Cheers reference—Everybody DID seem to know everybody’s name. 

Pack Mentality

Passion is next on Neff’s list: “Anyone can sign a lease, apply for a liquor license, and open their doors. What distinguishes really good places from those that are drab and ordinary is often a passion on the part of the owners or staff for something very specific.” In this case, it’s the burgers. And it’s also the service—not something I expected to be as noteworthy as it was. The owner clearly cares about his clientele. When we entered, we were warmly welcomed and told to sit anywhere. Throughout the evening, we were served and checked on by everyone, it seemed, not just the server who took our order. As we chatted, he described Slyder’s team effort service this way, “We’re a pack!” Would that more places (regardless of the type of establishment) took a page from the Slyder’s playbook.

Then there’s atmosphere. It can come from the people who frequent a place, or maybe it’s about what’s unique in the space. The atmosphere at Slyder’s really does come from the community of patrons, but it also comes from its comfy, ultra-casual, old school vibe. Walking into Slyder’s feels like walking into the ‘70s, without the smoking. Think wood paneling, low lighting, multiple TVs, a glass block bar spanning the length of the front room, football helmets, carpet that’s been there for a while, neon beer signs. The update is the juke box—there is one, but it’s circa 2018, wall mounted, looking more like a flat screen TV than the vintage cabinet style. New school, but the tunes were a soulfully tasty retro mix. We hummed along to a playlist heavy on Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. [It might have been the Bill Withers that led PIP to declare his burger “righteous”.]

And what about those burgers, and the chili nachos, wings, and onion rings we ate? Let’s start with the fact that the meat comes from Dot’s Market, an indication that Slyder’s is committed to a quality patty. And there are options, people. Burgers can be had in 5, 7, or 10 ounces. Of course, PIP and I both went for 10 (and could barely finish them after the nachos and wings). This is not a place that asks you how you want your burger, and I was thrilled to see it arrive perfectly medium rare. This is also not a place that offers burgers with frou frou toppings like truffle ketchup, though we were told of an Italian style burger with marinara sauce that’s on special once a week. These burgers are basic, and basically delicious, thick, and juicy with lots of bacon and cheese. 

Holy Ghost!

The wings were meaty, good, and worth your time. We went with the loaded nachos to sample Slyder’s “award winning” chili. I must say that while I appreciated the chunky homemade taste of the chili, I found it to be bland. I also would have liked the cheese sprinkled on top to be melted instead of cold. Pro tip from one of our servers to kick the chili up—some wicked ghost pepper to add in for more heat. Pro tip from me—use it sparingly! 

With ten wings, loaded nachos, and large-size burgers with bacon, our total was under $39.00. Another reason to love Slyder’s Tavern. PIP is not exactly a barfly, but he summed up our experience with the highest of compliments: “If all bar food is like this, I’m going to start hanging out in bars.” Not all bar food is like Slyder’s, and that’s why it’s one great neighborhood joint, one that we will be hanging out at again soon.

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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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