The kitchen in the corner

If you don’t eat your meat, how can you have any pudding?

By Paula Johnson

I’m beginning with the butterscotch pudding. I’ve heard that some people don’t eat dessert, claiming they get too full. I can’t begin to imagine that sad condition, but it’s a logical place to start because it was the first thing I ordered. “Can you put one aside for me?” I anxiously asked the ever gracious and efficient Daniel who was assigned to our table. I then turned to Amy, one of my lovely dining companions to urge—no, insist—that she reserve one too.  (This is a pudding about which I received the following text in screaming caps from a friend at a very late hour: “OMG. HAVE YOU HAD THE BUTTERSCOTCH PUDDING AT CK???”)  I knew Amy would thank me when that first silky buttery bite with little bits of crunchy praline hit her palate.

Dynamic duo

That’s where I started this review, but the story of Natalie and Jack Skilliter and the birth of Corner Kitchen began several years before, when they met while both were employed at a major hotel in Washington, DC. They worked well together, and a life partnership began with the two marrying and moving to Dayton where Natalie’s family lives. While Jack served as Executive Chef at the Dayton Racquet Club, their eventual goal was to open their own place. So many people open restaurants that fail for lack of experience. In this case I had every confidence that Corner Kitchen would be a success due to the solid combined experience of a seasoned front of the house professional and a very talented chef. Their combined vision and the care taken with every detail in the planning process was extraordinary: everything from scouring auctions and antique malls for the charmingly mismatched china used, to the unique design of their business card, to the innovative art on the walls.

Think of them as the Jay Z and Beyoncé of Dayton dining. The night of my visit I observed the pair, an easy thing to do with Corner Kitchen’s open kitchen, visible from nearly every seat.  Watching them work the line together, Jack, boyish in a backwards baseball cap as he calls out direction to the kitchen staff, and Natalie out front, alternately expediting dishes and acting the gracious and elegant hostess to her guests, really speak to the reason Corner Kitchen works. This partnership of two dedicated professionals leaves nothing to chance.

Do they serve food here?

I’ve spent a lot of review space so far not mentioning the food. I could simply say: Go here. Eat the food. You will be happy. But I will cite some specifics to inspire you to visit Corner Kitchen. The menu changes regularly to reflect what’s in season, and features many small plate options, as well as a tasting menu with or without wine pairings. Here are some highlights of our meal:

The soup of the day ($6) – It’s been said Natalie married Jack for his soups. I can see that, having tasted them, most notably the butternut squash featured in the fall. The soup for that day, Wild Rice with Duck, celebrated the crunchy pop of wild rice with chunks of mushroom, celery and carrots along with shards of rich duck confit in a creamy delicate stock.

Reuben ($15) – A Reuben the New School way—House cured corned beef, thick meaty slices dressed with a tangy dressing. A fried egg, crispy brown around the edges with just enough yolk. Buttery grilled rye. And French fries ON the sandwich. Not your Jewish grandma’s Reuben, but a savvy reinterpretation of the venerable deli classic. The old school in me wished only for a pickle spear.

Meatloaf ($16) – Both Amy and Kevin ordered it, and were thrilled with the hunky slab glazed with savory sauce, mound of mashed potatoes and fresh broccoli filling the plate. Kevin was particularly happy that it was gluten free, as are several menu offerings.

Fettucine with House Made Sausage and Peppers ($9) – The sausage was well seasoned but mild, with a finely ground texture. When pasta is freshly made, enough said. All others should just go home. (All the pastas are available in small plate or entree size portions.)

Poutine ($8) – Thank you Canada! Corner Kitchen’s homage to Montreal street food. A huge mound of perfectly cooked fries dripping with rivulets of thin savory gravy, crowned with squeaky cheese curds and hunks of short rib.

The nightly fish special – That night it was a Grilled Mahi Mahi filet ($22) with basmati rice and black beans. The chef topped it with a colorful confetti of mango, pepper and cilantro—bright and island-y. The fish I’ve eaten here has been some of the most expertly prepared I’ve had in Dayton.

The desserts ($6) – I also ordered the Chocolate Mousse, because who says you can’t have two desserts? This one is dense,
dark, delicious, and has a different texture from the silky pudding. I’ve also had pie here with crust so buttery, light and flaky it’s practically criminal.

Corner Kitchen is a restaurant that has my interest and admiration for a kitchen that consistently sends out thoughtful, quality food in a comfortable, lively space, served by a well trained staff. It takes familiar traditional foods you’ve grown up with and interprets them in ways that both heighten them and harken back to your memories of them. If you haven’t been yet, it’s time. Just make sure you order dessert first when you do.

Corner Kitchen is located at 613 E. Fifth St. in Dayton. For more information please call 937.719.0999 or visit

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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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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