BEST OF DAYTON: Why Pine Club was the top winner in 2021

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Cooking Channel is just the latest to give iconic Dayton steakhouse a shout-out.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

It’s more than a restaurant. It’s an institution.

“So many people have histories here,” Pine Club general manager Karen Watson said. “We have customers whose grandparents and parents all celebrated here, and now they do too. People loving the Pine Club is why we’re here.”

From the wood-paneled walls and vintage bar stools to the mouth-watering filets and classic stewed tomatoes, the Pine Club — which first opened at 1926 Brown St. in 1947 — is all about tradition.

“This is our customers’ restaurant,” Watson said. “When people walk in the door after not being here for years and say, ‘This place hasn’t changed a bit,’ they’re already filled with nostalgia and good feelings.”

Those good feelings translated into the restaurant earning first-place honors in four contests in this year’s Best of Dayton: Best Fine Dining, Best Old-School Restaurant, Best Restaurant to Take an Out-of-Towner and Best Steak. Over the years, the Pine Club has been recognized by The New York Times, Food Network and USA Today, but every accolade is truly an honor.

The business is also an example of why and the Dayton Daily News annually host the voting for Best of Dayton to celebrate the long-time favorites and new selections for eating, drinking, shopping and living life in the region.

“It’s always special,” Watson said. “It says to me that we are continuing to do the right things.”

Watson knows about the restaurant’s tradition after working in various capacities at the Pine Club for 43 years. From kitchen prep and hostess to office manager and now general manager, she understands how important every member of the 37-person staff is.

“I couldn’t be happier with how we came out of the pandemic, and we couldn’t have done it without this staff,” she said. “They are shining stars.”

Dedication is a hallmark of the Pine Club staff, as there are servers who have waited tables there for more than 25 years and kitchen staff in their second decade on the job. Dedication is also a hallmark of the Pine Club customers.

“As soon as we reopened, people were flocking in,” Watson said. “It just shows how loyal our customer base is.”

That loyalty often means a lengthy line of people at 3:30 p.m. waiting for the doors to open on a Saturday afternoon. The customers know what they will get at the Pine Club.

“We’re consistent,” Watson said. “You will get a consistently good steak every time you come in.”

Little has changed at the Pine Club since it served its first customer more than seven decades ago. It doesn’t offer desserts and still doesn’t accept credit cards. Having a house account, however, is a point of pride for many regular customers.

“We are very conscientious about making changes,” Watson said. “So many people have histories here, we don’t want to mess with a good thing.”

While steaks dominate the menu offerings, salmon was recently added to the menu – an addition that was discussed for several years before being made.

It’s not about gimmicks or new-and-improved at the Pine Club. It’s about the tried and true.

“We are a classic steakhouse,” Watson said. “It sells itself.”

Pine Club

First Place: Best Fine Dining

First Place: Best Old-School Restaurant

First Place: Best Restaurant to take an Out-of-Towner

First Place: Best Steak

1926 Brown St., Dayton


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