What reigned supreme in 2015?

Dayton’s Dining Empress picks her favorite eats of the year

By Paula Johnson

Photo: The crepes at Crepe Boheme are a must-have sweet treat

It’s that time of year again—time to sit back and reflect on my year in food. This is not the time, however, for another restau-RANT. Instead, I’m feeling the love for a lot of places I visited and dishes I sampled. Writing this list really made me aware of how much good food there is here in Dayton-land. As I scanned my year’s reviews I salivated quite a bit and made dinner plans immediately. And lunch plans for the next day (and the day after). I can’t wait to eat again some of the terrific offerings I found all over our city, in styles of cuisine that were all over the map. Here’s a list of what I loved this year.

Ethnic cuisine

In Washington Township, India Chaat Cafe & Curry Out’s Choley Bhatura combo is not to be missed. It’s a chickpea stew with a crunch of onion and pepper, cooked in tangy tomato sauce. I loved mopping it up with airy pockets of deep fried crisp bhatura bread.

If I was pressed to pick only one dish from Yaffa Grill in Miamisburg it would be the Chicken Shawerma with some Turkish Salad. But honestly, everything is superb at this Middle Eastern cafe.


Calamari gets its own list? Yep. Surprisingly, I found three distinctly different takes on the humble squid that I can’t live without.

Calamari in Arrabiata Sauce at Franco’s Ristorante Italiano in Dayton. Tender calamari chunks are bathed in a hot zesty sauce that tastes like it’s simmered all day, concentrating the sweet and hot flavors, making this a dish not to miss.

Rock Salt and Pepper Calamari at China Dynasty in Centerville is deep-fried in a salty, peppery, tempura-like batter. The tender calamari rings arrive atop a confetti of peas, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, onion, scallions, red peppers, jalapeños, black pepper and fried basil leaves, but it’s the Sichuan peppercorns that make this dish sing.

Grilled Calamari at El Meson in West Carrollton does a big meaty calamari steak that’s sliced and grilled with a fabulous dipping sauce. The deep fried version is darn good, too.


I have a penchant for spicy soups, and the first two are the best in town. The corn chowder gets my vote for the non-spicy.

Tortilla Soup at El Meson. Everything arrives in a tureen. The hot broth is poured over and served with a pile of hot chips to crunch or crumble into the soup.

Tom Yum Soup at China Dynasty is crazy spicy and redolent with lemon grass ginger and chilis. This soup will cure what ails you.

Corn Chowder at Corner Kitchen in Dayton is sweet, velvety and rich with an unexpected complexity. I declare it is utterly delicious!

Bar food

Paisano Chips at Jimmie’s Ladder 11 in Dayton is basically Italian nachos. Picture a plate of fried pasta topped with mozzarella cheese, hot sausage, scallions and a terrific marinara.

The Poutine at Lock 27 in Dayton comprises crisp frites heaped with tender shreds of stout braised beef, a thin savory gravy, and mild cheese curds. Poutine may be Canada’s most delicious export, but Lock 27 nails it.


Fatback’s downtown. The brisket. The pulled pork. The chicken. The cornbread. All of it.


Sam & Ethel’s serves up my favorite pancake in Dayton!


Voltzy’s Rootbeer Stand in Moraine flips up more than just ground meat. Go experience the man and his burgers for some delicious entertainment.

Benjamin’s, The Burger Master in Dayton is a real old-fashioned diner burger topped with everything will make you a repeat visitor (not to mention the sweet potato pie).


One bistro’s pumpkin stuffed French toast with local bacon in Miamisburg. That is all.

The Old Arcana is well worth the trip up Greenville way to the small town of Arcanum to enjoy a creative and tasty brunch featuring amazing baking and food made from scratch.

The Hawthorn Grill in Kettering offers a fabulous Mimosa Kit including a selection of different juices that is enough to spread cheer to the whole table.


The September Sun crepe at Dayton’s Crepe Boheme wraps up fat, juicy blackberries and cream cheese in a sweet crepe, topped with orange marmalade. This crepe means I can’t just shop when I go to the Second Street Market, I must stop and have one of these!

The Chocolate Mousse and the Pecan Pie at Corner Kitchen in Dayton’s Oregon District is the mousse I’ve been dreaming about. It also serves up the best piecrust in Dayton!


The Muletide at Lily’s Bistro in the Oregon District is an award winning vodka cocktail, and a must-taste!

The Pinkie at Corner Kitchen is a lovely retro drink, made with sparkling rosé, rosemary syrup, gin and lemon, and is a beautiful shade of—you guessed it—pink!

The French 75 at Salar in the Oregon District is a great combination featuring gin and champagne. I love fizzy drinks!

More details about most of these dishes and restaurants are available online at daytoncitypaper.com. Is there anything I missed that should be on my radar for 2016? What are your own top 2015 dining experiences? Email me—I’d love to hear about them! Best wishes and joyous eating in 2016!


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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