The ghosts of past eateries trigger wave of nostalgia

Daily News food writer shares his bygone favorites

Something triggered my nostalgia gene a few weeks back (Wait a minute — since when did I get old enough to get nostalgic about ANYthing? Harrumph), and I started pondering a few of the things I missed most from the Dayton dining scene.

I published a list of what I missed most online on our Taste: Dayton Food and Restaurants page and invited readers to share their memories and reminiscences about some of the dishes and restaurants you pine for from a bygone era.

The response was, shall we say, robust, with nearly 100 comments posted, and you’ll find excerpts accompanying this story. It makes for fun reading, and brings back many great memories.

By its very nature, my list is highly personalized and very much skewed to the geographic areas where I lived and worked — but here goes:

Armando’s Deli bread

Armando’s operated briefly on East Dorothy Lane in Kettering, and made one of the finest baguette-style Italian loaves I’ve ever dipped in olive oil, here or in Italy (although the baguettes from Boosalis Bakery in Miami Twp. may have him beat). Armando sold all kinds of goodies out of the deli, but it was the bread that kept me coming back with alarming frequency.

Chin’s Oriental Grill

Yes, Art Chin still operates the very fine Chin’s Ginger Grill in Tipp City, but I still miss his Chin’s Ginger Grill that operated for a decade or so at Fifth and Jefferson streets, and I bet I’m not the only one. Perfectly stir-fried chunks of fresh fish such as salmon or escolar with a mound of seasonal vegetables was lunchtime heaven for downtown Dayton workers.

Rinaldo’s Bakery in The Arcade

Yes, Rinaldo’s is still baking bread and operating its Fairview Avenue bakery, but when I could sneak across the street from the newspaper’s former offices at Fourth and Ludlow and purchase a picturesque Challah from the display case, I knew the bread would make anything else served at the dinner table seem like a fine meal.

Lunch at Rike’s downtown and Elder Beerman downtown

Were those not the finest waitresses — and yes, they were waitresses back then, not servers — on earth? The most efficient, friendly restaurant service anywhere.

Other downtown Dayton restaurants that served as delicious lunch stops

The too-brief life of the African Star restaurant with its flavorful little fish cakes and thick, tart tomato sauce, and before that (I believe), Izzy’s deli with its overstuffed sandwiches and the best potato pancakes around. And what about Charley’s Crab when it was upstairs in the Arcade? Those addictive, warm, butter-drizzled rolls, and a perfectly cooked chunk of garlicky bluefish....

The Blue Moon

The fine-dining restaurant that had a nice little decade-long run in the Oregon District had some memorable wine dinners. It also had a wonderful bar, great service and a fine atmosphere.

The Savory

Reaching back into history just a bit, this long-defunct restaurant on Smithville Road in Dayton offered an amazing rack of lamb with ever-changing sauces, and it, too, hosted some amazing wine dinners.

Vito’s Venice Inn

The long-gone restaurant on East Dorothy Lane in Kettering served a dish I believe it called Roman Spaghetti that boasted a robustly spicy and highly addictive tomato sauce.

Upper Krust

The North Main Street deli had charm and character, and served up one fine sandwich in the Philadelphian, with its pastrami, corned beef and cole slaw stuffed between two slices of great rye bread.

Steve Kao’s Asian restaurant in Miami Twp.

The man could coax a lot of flavor from a few ingredients and set a high standard for Asian fine dining. He also was something of a pioneer in pairing fine wines with Asian dishes.

And finally:

Blowing the dust off some very old childhood memories, a restaurant called Guenther’s or perhaps Guenther’s Seafood House on Linden Avenue near Smithville (I think) offered a Friday night all-you-can-eat seafood buffet that included whole lobster. Yes, whole lobster. This was sometime in the mid- or late 1960s, I believe, and even though lobster was, I’m sure, far less expensive then, I still feel a bit guilty that my childhood lobster appetite may have helped doom a restaurant’s financial health. But it was fun while it lasted.

Readers reminisce about dining experiences and restaurants of the past

"When I was in high school (early '60s), my girlfriend and I would go down to Rike's on Saturday to shop and have lunch. Our favorite was the Date Nut Pudding with Lemon Sauce. It was incredible. For special occasions, we went to the King Cole. Great memories!" — Andrea

"At Neil's Heritage House, the corn fritters that were brought to the table before the meal were my all-time favorite. And then I always followed those with a creamy chicken over rice. I miss it!" — Mimi

"Village Inn Pizza on Siebenthaler had some of the best pizza in Dayton long before there was a pizza joint on every corner. Along with the Tropics, King Cole, Brown Derby, Rike's, Key Hole, Hasty Tasty, Parkmoor, also a Chinese restaurant downstairs on Ludlow near Second Street and Betty Greenwoods on Salem." — Phil

"The Alibi in Miamisburg in the '60s and '70s. Had the 'Alibi Special'—a 6-ounce filet, potato and salad for $2.95. Also anyone from Miamisburg will remember Daisy's Kitchen: every Thursday was chicken pot pie day." — Tim

"So many great food memories. I'm 60 and worked downtown from 18 on. What about The Coin Room at Rike's — bread pudding with bourbon sauce, and Hidden Salad. And their mezzanine — great fried egg sandwiches. Does anybody remember Grammer's in the Oregon District — it looked like a German Village? ... I'm feeling so nostalgic now!" — Robyn

"This is really going back some years: The Cascade Supper Club at Salem and Grand in the early 1950s." — "Old Timer."

"Oh my gosh, I remember Guenther's Linden House! I must have been about 10 and my parents took our family to Guenther's for a five- (or was it seven?) course meal. It was my family's first time to go to a restaurant that served more than one course, so it was a very rare treat indeed! The onion soup was divine, and I still love it." — Pam

"No one will remember Rest Haven on Dayton-Xenia Road for fried chicken, or Steve's on East First Street for cabbage rolls." — Dick

"Thanks so much for remembering the waitresses at Elder-Beerman. My mom was one of them! I remember going there when I was young, and during the holidays, my mom would take my sisters and me on an annual shopping day with lunch at Beerman's. And because she worked there, they always treated us extra special. I remember the french onion soup and the roast beef hot shots were my favorite. Oh, how I wish I could relive those memories with my girls now." — "I MissThoseTimes"

"What about the Pewter Mug on First Street. They had the best sauerkraut balls and hamburgers in town." — "Daytonian"

"Favorite special night out was Daniel's Park Row on Patterson Road — I still remember their Orange Duck, so tender. For Chinese, no place could compare to Keeng Wha near Rike's Kettering on Woodman." — Maria

"Two other favorites of mine were the Colony Club and the Black Knight. Always good food, great staff, good entertainment and good customers." — Denny

"I remember the Tropics and Keyhole — great restaurants and food. Suttmillers and the King Cole and Rike's restaurant — what memories this article brought." — "Red"

"The Peasant Stock was a special place for us, and we enjoyed nothing more than dining there and listening to Jim McCutcheon's guitar on weekends. I still miss the steak au poivre. We. too, liked the Savory. Kitty's near the Victoria Theatre also was a favorite." — Larry

"Ivy Lounge on Main near Siebenthaler had the best scampi ever. All the waitresses were amazing, with beehive hairdos just like the waitresses down at the King Cole." — KLS

"Thanks to anyone who remembers the dining room at Rike's/Lazarus. I was a waiter there. Best recipes of everything in the world: veggie breads, real broccoli soup, cream of potato, you name it and we made it fresh daily. And the best of the best waitstaff in the USA." — "Headwaiter"

"Mike's Chili Parlor on the west side and later in North Dayton. Sure miss the chili dogs and the chili from the '60s." — Dennis

"The finest place I can remember was Kuntz's Cafe out on Troy Street. Huge two story building with two floors and a dumb-waiter. Had a bar and the first local TV I ever saw. Always packed on the weekends. Home cooking!" — Paul

"Here are a few long-gone places that I miss: 1) Waldo Peppers on National Road in Vandalia across from the airport. 2) Mamma E Mia Trattoria located in downtown Dayton under Talbott Tower. Had a great gyro & some of the best homemade potato chips." — "Vandalia/Huber Heights guy"

"Does anyone remember Dick's Fish House out on Third Street? Or how about Boyer's Bar near Third and Wilkinson? And one more — Virginia Cafeteria. Phew, that goes back many, many years — to the early '50s." — "Bilsbiz"

"Does anyone remember the great hamburgers at the Goody on Salem Avenue back in the '60's?" — Sara

"I sure miss the Upper Krust and the Keyhole along with the China Boy on Salem Avenue, along with the Jed's and Ponderosa of long ago." — M.R.

"I miss Dominic's the most. But I also miss Bert Rosencrantz's on Troy Street. They had the best walleye on Fridays, and on Thursdays the ribs had a great sauce." — Kevin

"I really miss the Boulevard Grill in Beavercreek, Tuscany Grill in Bellbrook and Zola downtown." — Harry

"I loved, loved, loved the wild mushroom soup at Porches in Oakwood with a slice..or several..of their wonderful bread, finished with a piece of banana fosters cream pie! I also miss the White Chili from the Diner on St. Clair and of course the Kettering Village Inn. Oh what about the Cooker's mashed potatoes and rolls. And everything from The Breakfast Club downtown..the more I type the hungrier I get ... ." — Missy

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