The Midwest Coast at Jay’s Seafood Restaurant
By Brian P. Sharp
“Is there good seafood in Dayton?” That’s a question I am often asked. While usually I remind people that we are not living on a shoreline, there are a few places that exist where you can get very fresh seafood. Jay’s Seafood Restaurant in the Oregon Historic District is certainly one of those places.
The building was once known as The Joseph Kratochwill Dayton Corn and Grist Mill, just off the Miami Erie Canal and situated on a brick paved street. Once inside the restaurant, you can’t miss another piece of Dayton’s history. The bar – a beautiful example of wood and leatherwork – was once housed in the Pony House Restaurant located on Jefferson Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets. The Pony House was owned by James Jacob Ritty, and the bar has seen many a visitor from Wild Bill Cody to Jack Dempsey and even John Dillinger. John Jacob Ritty is said to have actually been the inventor of the cash register but sold his rights, which later ended up in the hands of John H. Patterson. The bar was almost lost to the wrecking ball, but was saved and preserved and is now the centerpiece of this fine restaurant.
My friend Steve and I went in for an early dinner. We were greeted and seated close to the bar, where Wally told us all about the restaurant’s history. Drinks were ordered as we looked over the extensive menu. We also ordered an appetizer of golden artichoke hearts.
Bread was served and then the appetizer arrived. The artichoke hearts are baked golden in garlic butter and topped with parmesan cheese – served still bubbling from the oven. The hearts were tender and full of flavor. The melted butter and garlic was a perfect dip for the fresh-baked bread.
After hearing about the specials, the fresh fish and the fresh lobster sizes available, I asked about the August Three Course Special, which seems to offer nice selections for a reasonable price at $26.
Both of us decided to try the Three Course Special. For the first course, I ordered a fresh caprese heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad drizzled with balsamic, and Steve ordered the chilled pea soup served with truffle oil and grated reggiano cheese. The tomatoes were red and yellow and tasted like they had been freshly picked from the garden – sliced with mozzarella cheese and topped with a balsamic drizzle, it was the perfect start. The soup – chilled and quite flavorful – a mix of peas and garlic, and the cheese on top was the perfect compliment.
For our second course – the main entrée – I chose the grilled mahi-mahi served with avocado slaw and Meyer lemon relish. Steve chose the bistro steak – mushroom duxelle with caramelized shallots and served with herbed house fries. The mahi-mahi, perfectly seared and grilled, was served atop the avocado slaw, which was a nice compliment to the very mild flavor of the mahi-mahi. The steak was tender and grilled to order sliced with mushroom duxelle – a sautéed mushroom and shallot mixture – on the side and seasoned sliced potato house fries as a nice starch compliment. The dinners were absolutely delicious.
Certainly, this menu features much more than this prix fixe menu option, though it is a nice alternative. The appetizers range from clam chowder to oysters Rockefeller and range in price from about $7 to $28. The entrée choices are plentiful with everything from grilled chicken to crab legs and fresh lobster –something for everyone. Entreés range in price from $21 to $52 and market price for fresh lobsters.
Time for dessert – we both chose the mixed berry cobbler over the peanut butter pie, which was the other option on the prix fixe menu. The cobbler is served with fresh whipped cream. Certainly a better option would have been to warm it and serve it à la mode. However, it is what it is! There are other dessert options on the regular menu that vary from bourbon pecan pie to crème brulee to Jay’s original chocolate mousse. Other dessert options range in price from $5 to $9.
There really is something for every taste at Jay’s Seafood, a lovely restaurant still serving a candlelit dinner. If you have the taste for fresh seafood, your best option is Jay’s Seafood located downtown Dayton in the Oregon Historic District.
I wonder if there will be a September prix fixe menu? You better check it out!
Jay’s Seafood Restaurant is located at 225 E. Sixth St. For more information, call 937.222.2892 or visit jays.com.
Reach DCP food critic Brian P. Sharp at Theatre@DaytonCityPaper.com.