Who knew healthy could be delicious?

Locally-sourced and organic specialties at Urban Harvest

By Tom Baker
Photo: Fried catfish with Hopping John and fried greens at Urban Harvest

There are two types of restaurants that I prefer to frequent: One – and most obvious – is the place that features great food and service. Two – and maybe a bit more abstract – is the place that tries its best to marry the above with a business practice that focuses on keeping things independent, including the use of local vendors, so that the dollars spent better support the local economy. Lucky for Dayton, I think Urban Harvest – Chef Matthew DeAngulo’s new venture in Clayton – finds some middle ground between these two ideals. The Dayton restaurant veteran cut his teeth at notable establishments such as Olivia’s in the Kettering Tower, Zola, Neil’s Heritage House and, most recently, as kitchen head at Olive, an urban dive.

It’s clear from the menu that Urban Harvest is looking to fill an empty niche north of downtown – good food, locally focused and made “with integrity.” While I can’t speak to the integrity, per se, I can speak to the place overall, and after a couple of visits, feel like the description is pretty accurate. Urban Harvest serves three menus: brunch, lunch/dinner and catering. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., lunch and dinner served Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Their brunch menu offers a little something for everyone, but don’t go looking for much light fare here, as we found on our first visit. Aside from their fresh quiche with fruit ($6), most of their Midwest comfort food-focused menu consists of stick-to-your-ribs hangover cures like the steak and cheese Monte Cristo ($8), the baked cinnamon apple French toast ($7) and the savory pancakes ($7).

The grass-fed beef and boursin cheese stuffed Monte Cristo, soaked in egg batter and pan seared, was served with eccentric grape jelly gravy – the jury is still out on this one. Their pancakes, on the other hand, were excellent, ordered straight up with butter and syrup, rather than smothered with pork and beans. We tried the apple French toast and felt it was a bit much, almost coming off as a bread pudding, more fitting for dessert. In contrast, a friend accompanying us tried the Campfire Breakfast ($7.00), a more conventional cast iron skillet of eggs, potatoes, onions, and bacon. Short answer: He was talking, he was quiet and it was gone – enough said. Finally, we wanted to try the Goetta, a unique and tasty Cincinnati-born sausage made with ground pork and steel cut oats. The Urban Harvest version is similar, however, they use pulled pork and unfortunately the seasoning seemed to be missing entirely. Served with an egg, some spring mix and tomato, it was the least exciting dish of the day.

The lunch and dinner menu continues the comfort food theme, albeit more successfully. With entrees topping out at $12 and a BYOB policy, it’s a pretty affordable outing, especially when you’re brown bagging it. With soups, salads, sandwiches and a handful of entrées, carnivores and vegetarians are all covered. Items range from a Garden Harvest Press sandwich ($7) to Xenia’s own Ed Hill Roast Chicken entrée ($12). Following a day at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery with our littlest roommate and already halfway there, we decided on a late lunch. Offering a decent kids menu, it’s always nice to know there is a place where you can get good food and keep the little ones happy at the same time. The babe had the meatloaf ($6 for kids and $7 as a sandwich) with mashed potatoes and white cheddar mac and cheese. I went for a cup of the corn chowder ($4) and the fried catfish ($11) with Hopping John, red-eye gravy and fried greens garnish. Mom decided to go veggie and had the black-eyed pea and sweet potato burger ($6) with some hand-cut fried potato wedges. All of our food was very good, from the catfish that came with a house-made dill tartar sauce to the very tasty and well-seasoned veggie burger and fries. The meatloaf was great, and I’d try the sandwich version in a heartbeat. A peanut butter chocolate milkshake ($5) – made with Cincinnati’s Aglamesis Brothers ice cream, house-made peanut butter and locally made milk – was a fitting end to a really enjoyable lunch.

Both of our visits to Urban Harvest were pretty quiet (save some great ‘80s and ‘90s indie rock classics), with only a handful of other tables occupied each time. Service at brunch was good; refills, however, were slow to appear. I found myself craning my neck to see if I could locate the server and make eye contact for a warm up. Service later in the day was also acceptable, but we couldn’t tell if our server was annoyed by our questions or just simply underwhelmed by the slow Saturday afternoon.

Either way we hope that Urban Harvest gets busier and that this results in the staff reflecting some of that excitement. I know that I’ll be excited to hear that things are picking up and the north side of town has an established spot for good, affordable and locally focused comfort food fare.

Reach DCP food critic Tom Baker at TomBaker@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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