DEFYING THE PANDEMIC: A look back at notable new restaurants that opened in 2020

Across Dayton and the broader Miami Valley, restaurant owners and operators defied the most chaotic year the restaurant industry has seen in recent memory to open dozens of brand new establishments, ranging from taco joints to brewpubs to bake shops.

In the teeth of the COVID-19 pandemic, those restaurant owners forged ahead with plans, in some cases fulfilling lifelong dreams.

Here’s a small taste of just some of the restaurant openings in the Miami Valley during a tumultuous 2020.

Elsa’s, Springboro

Elsa’s Mexican Restaurants, the locally owned and Dayton-based chain that was already operating five locations in the Miami Valley, added a sixth eatery in late 2020.

The region’s newest Elsa’s is located in a 4,500-square-foot space (and a 1,200-square-foot patio) at 774 N. Main St. in the Settler’s Walk retail center in Springboro.

When plans for the new restaurant were first revealed in 2019, Jason Hemmert, a co-founder of the new Elsa’s, said, “We have, for a long, long time, wanted to get down into the Springboro area, and more specifically, we really wanted to get into the city of Springboro.”

Agave & Rye, Troy

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

The first Dayton-area Agave & Rye restaurant and bar is operating on Troy’s town square.

The fast-growing Cincinnati-area chain’s newest restaurant is located at 2 N. Market St. in the space that formerly housed La Piazza Italian restaurant.

Each Agave & Rye is in essence a tequila bar and a bourbon bar inside a Mexican-inspired restaurant. The Troy location, like its sister restaurants, features a selection of 87 tequilas and 87 bourbons.

The food menu includes 20 specialty double-shell (crunchy corn and soft flour) tacos, including the “Swipe Right Honey,” with lime-grilled chicken, sweet/spicy bacon, aged white cheddar, salsa and sour cream; the “Cat’s Meow White Cheddar,” with grits, Andouille sausage, bourbon shrimp, green onion, jambalaya sauce and crispy bell pepper.

City Barbeque, Miller Lane, Butler Twp.



City Barbeque opened its third Dayton-area restaurant on Miller Lane in October.

In a move that City Barbeque officials say will be repeated with future new restaurants, the Miller Lane City Barbeque is the first to include a drive-thru window, a customer-friendly amenity that many other regional and national restaurant chains are embracing.

City Barbeque offers a full array of smoked meats, including ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken breast, pulled chicken, turkey breast and sausage. Sides include baked beans, collard greens, green beans, three-cheese mac-and-cheese, vinegar slaw and fries. Dessert options include peach cobbler, banana pudding and triple chocolate cake.

Loose Ends Brewing Company, Centerville

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Loose Ends Brewing Company was founded in early October 2020 by a father-son duo with deep ties to Centerville. John Loose, a 2005 graduate of Centerville High School, partnered with his father, Kent Loose, to launch the region’s newest craft brewery.

The brewery offers its own beers along with a couple of guest taps, along with a restaurant-style menu of dishes prepared in-house.

Loose Ends Brewing is located at 890 S. Main St. (State Route 48) in Centerville, in a strip retail center that also includes Centerville Liquor & Wine.

Salt Block Biscuit Company, downtown Dayton

Salt Block Biscuit Company opened its doors in downtown Dayton’s Fire Blocks District in October. The bakery-restaurant serves breakfast, brunch and desserts.

Salt Block, 115 E. Third St., offers a large variety of bakery items, including biscuits in multiple varieties, served with house-made butters, jams, honey and other spreads. The bakery also offers seasonal cobblers, cookies, cakes and cornbreads, among other items.

Basil’s on Market, Mall at Fairfield Commons, Beavercreek



Basil’s on Market opened its most high-profile location yet in September 2020 at the main entrance of the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek.

Basil’s, which also operates restaurants in Troy and in downtown Dayton, serves lunch and dinner seven days a week.

The newest Basil’s on Market can seat nearly 200 inside and another 32 on a patio that overlooks the mall’s main entrance. It has two special-events banquet rooms and one smaller “board room” for private gatherings.

Geez Grill & Pub, Washington Twp.

Credit: Mark Fisher

Credit: Mark Fisher

Nick Giallombardo had a good feeling about his difficult decision to move the restaurant that he and his parents founded — its first move in the neighborhood pub’s 26-year history.

Geez Grill & Pub at 5841 Far Hills Ave. relocated in July 2020 to a slightly larger — but much more prominent — space in the former Ruby Tuesday restaurant at 6061 Far Hills Ave. in the Washington Square Shopping Center.

Italian specialties served at Geez, including the tomato sauce, meatballs and lasagna, are based on his mother’s and grandmother’s family recipes, Nick Giallombardo said. The restaurant also serves a broad menu that includes burgers, chicken, pizza and more.

Warped Wing Barrel Room & Smokery, Springboro

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Warped Wing Barrel Room & Smokery opened in August in a 20,000-square-foot facility at the crossroads of Springboro at State Routes 73 and 741.

The new craft brewery and pub houses a taproom, a restaurant, a biergarten-style outdoor patio with a fire pit, a large space for barrel-aging beers, a test-pilot brewery, a distribution hub and event space.

The restaurant portion of the new Warped Wing will have a major focus on smoked meats. The “Starters and Snacks” menu includes Smoked Pulled Pork Nachos, Smoked BBQ Brisket Quesadilla and Smoked Salmon Spread served with sliced cucumber and toasted baguette.

Café 1610, Dayton

Credit: Staff

Credit: Staff

A vegan restaurant, Cafe 1610, opened Labor Day weekend in the District Provisions building at 521 Wayne Ave. in Dayton.

“We are all enthusiastic vegans, but that’s not what this cafe is all about,” Xtine Brean, one of the founders, told this news outlet. “Our target market is people who are not vegan. We will show them that vegan food is not flavorless, and it is not boring.”

The menu focuses on vegan comfort food such as Chili (”hold the carne, with beans and deliciousness”) and Cauliflower Gyros.

Condado Tacos, The Greene, Beavercreek

Condado Tacos brought its build-your-own-taco-from-the-shell-up concept to the Dayton area in July when it opened its first Miami Valley location at The Greene Town Center, in space that previously housed EO Burgers..

Condado offers more than a dozen signature tacos with pre-determined ingredients, but its build-your-own concept is a popular option with diners, can choose from among a hard-corn, Firecracker or “Kewl Ranch” hard shell, a soft flour shell, or various combinations, including a soft flour tortilla lining a hard corn shell, which is then lined with bacon refried beans, guacamole and sour cream.

Protein choices include roasted chicken, ground beef, chorizo, braised beef, pulled pork, tequila-lime steak, Thai Chili tofu, roasted portabello mushrooms, barbecue pulled jackfruit, rice and black beans, or scrambled eggs. A variety of toppings, cheeses, salsas and sauces top the tacos.

redBERRY, Troy

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

RedBERRY a breakfast, lunch and brunch restaurant opened in the former Sherwood Shopping Centre in north Troy in August.

RedBERRY serves “classic breakfast, lunch and brunch fare with some creative surprises,” the spokeswoman said. Signature menu items include Parfait, the “redBERRY Skillet,” French Toast Bread Pudding, a signature salad and a BLT.

The redBERRY concept was developed by local entrepreneur Mykie Thompson and investors who have been re-invigorating Sherwood Shopping Centre, now called simply “Sherwood.” Thompson’s parents, Michael and Telisa Delligatta, previously oversaw the Michael Anthony’s at the Inn restaurant at the Inn at Versailles in Darke County.

Fino Sur Peruvian Street Food, Centerville

Credit: Mark Fisher

Credit: Mark Fisher

A new restaurant that brings the flavor-packed street food of Peru to the Miami Valley opened in the Cross Pointe Centre in Centerville.

The restaurant is the brainchild of Alberto Arenas and his family. Arenas has worked for several years in the local restaurant industry, including as a manager at El Toro Bar & Grill.

The menu includes Anticuchos combo plates, which offer skewers of marinated chicken or pork anointed with chalaca and chimichurri sauces. The Salmon Anticuchero offers a different preparation, featuring a grilled salmon filet laid upon a bed of salsa served with quinoa salad and cherry tomatoes. Appetizers include Empanadas and Yuca Frites.

Tavolo Modern Italian, Sidney

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Tavolo Modern Italian restaurant opened in May in downtown Sidney.

The restaurant’s founder, Rocco Catanzarite, told this news outlet in February that Tavolo Modern Italian would be “a destination for people all over the Dayton area, and I believe the main factor will be the experience.”

The restaurant’s executive chef, Keith Taylor, who has an extensive background in Dayton-area fine-dining restaurants, “has a way with food. It speaks to you,” Catanzarite said.

The menu includes appetizers such as Ahi Tuna Carpaccio, Stuffed Mushrooms and Crispy Calamari. Handmade pasta dishes include Gnocchi Mac n Cheese, Bucatini Carbonara and Ravioli made with beef short rib and caramelized onions. Meat and seafood entrees include a signature Tomahawk steak, Grilled Filet Mignon and Bronzino Piccata. “Italian Classics” include Spaghetti, Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan and Veal Saltimbocca.

IHOP, Miller Lane, Butler Township

Credit: Mark Fisher

Credit: Mark Fisher

One year after its three Dayton-area restaurants shut down abruptly and were padlocked, IHOP returned to the Dayton market in February with a new franchise owner and a new restaurant on Miller Lane’s restaurant row.

The relatively new IHOP is located in the former Max & Erma’s restaurant at 6930 Miller Lane, just off I-75 in Butler Twp.

It is the first in Dayton to include a relatively new IHOP “Coffee Bar” concept, where customers can sit in a bar setting and order lattes, cappuccino and other specialty coffee drinks.

The new IHOP’s franchise owner-operator has no connection to the franchisee who operated the three IHOP restaurants in Beavercreek, Huber Heights and Springfield, that shut down unexpectedly in January 2019.

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