Time to take another trip down memory lane - which of these fine Dayton area restaurants of yesteryear do you remember?
Like with movies, success leads to a sequel and since my first ‘Dayton Restaurants of Yesteryear’ article is most read thing I’ve ever written, there had to be a part two. There probably won’t be as many installments as ‘Star Wars’ but there were enough memories for at least one more. Hope these restaurants stir up some fulfilling memories of your own, Wookies not included.
A good place to start is steakhouses, namely York Steak House. The one I remember was in the Springfield Mall, not part of the food court, but its own stand - alone restaurant. Unfortunately there wasn’t a Chinese place offering free samples of Orange Chicken next to it. The York Steak House held a special place in my heart, because it’s where my grandma would always take my brother and I whenever we were off school. The staff got to know us, we were there so frequently. I always got the same thing, the Ribeye. The Ribeye’s were far from big, and under $10, but in my grandma’s eyes, she was buying us the best meal ever. Shopping has become much less enjoyable now that I no longer get a steak, and am getting to old for Spencer’s.
York Steak House was cafeteria like in design, as you went through the line with a tray and selected your salad and/or desert, drink, placed your order for the main course and was given a roll. The rolls were a highlight of the meal, coated in melted butter and almost equivalent to the ribeye’s in size. Different from the western décor of a lot of today’s steak houses, there were no peanuts, at York’s. The dining room was dimly lit, kind of reminiscent of a castle with black iron lights hanging from the ceiling. York’s became Bradfield’s for a while before closings its doors for good. There appears to be a York Steak House still in operation in Columbus.
I only remember going there once, as my parents never enjoyed buffets, but I recall a Bonanza’s. It was very similar to Ponderosa, which I believe are now also now all gone from the Dayton area. The same is true of Ryan’s Steak Houses, which like Ponderosa, also had the buttery bun-like rolls.
Back to the Springfield mall, atop the big hill next to it sat a Bill Knapp’s, and there were others around the Dayton area. The building was all white, with green shutters and signage. It was never a top pick of mine, especially since a Ribeye was so nearby, but it felt more geared to the older generation. Guess my reasoning is because it specialized in home cooking, which I could get at home. Bill Knapp’s was a popular destination on birthdays, especially for senior citizens, as the percentage of your age was taken off of the bill.
Another place that featured home cooking was Country Connection, in New Carlisle. Country Connection always seemed to be busy, but at least had a waiting room with enough space to handle the overflow. Some of the busiest restaurants seem to have a closet sized waiting room. I seem to remember Country Connection having a large circular wooden bench type structure to sit on in the center of the room and other seating along the wall, plus toys for children to play with.
Raised in Huber Heights, for decades I passed by Kenny’s Cakes & Steaks without ever going, but was always curious. A true ‘greasy spoon,’ Kenny’s lacked any curb appeal as it made Waffle House look like a five-star restaurant, yet dining there seemed to be like a rite of passage to me. At some point during my teen years, I ventured in, and don’t recall what I ordered, but it wasn’t a steak. I may have gotten their other claim to fame, the pancakes. It must not have been bad, because I went back, including after it changed to Grandpa’s Café. The only difference was the name.
There is a place that I did really enjoy, which wasn’t in Dayton, but nearby in Cincinnati was the Springdale Music Palace. Even as a kid it wasn’t their pizza I cared about, but the music that came from the huge organ. The organ and its player would come up from underground and entertain with a variety of songs, including some by request. In addition to the organ, a whole orchestra of instruments filled the surrounding walls. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, or since.
There seems to be no limit to the amount of fast food hamburger joints that can survive, though Rally’s, was an exception, but Arby’s controls the market on roast beef. Maybe it’s the horsey sauce or the 5 for 5 deals, either way, Rax could not compete. I liked Rax, especially the kid’s meals with the Uncle Alligator toys. There is apparently still a Rax in Bellefontaine.
Other places that some readers fondly remembered, many of which my parents would go to without me while I was a child are Tall Timbers, Peerless Mill, and the Peasant Stock. Another place readers mentioned a lot was the restaurant in the mezzanine of Rike’s, which I went to a few times after getting my picture with Santa. Elder Beerman’s used to also have a place to eat, up on the top floor, which I remember for soup and grilled cheese.
Among the most mentioned in the comments section on Facebook with the previous article was The Grub Steak. Founded in 1963, The Grub Steak was a fixture on N. Main for decades. Then in 2008 the new owners relocated it to West Carrollton. It survived for about 5 more years before closing its doors for good in 2013. Regretfully, I don’t believe I ever went to The Grub Steak as I’m sure I would have remembered their steak. The title photo, taken recently, is the familiar, although now dilapidated entrance to The Grub Steak.
I never had the nerve, or honestly even the desire, to go to the Shuckin’ Shack, but many others apparently did. There always seemed to be a lot of cars in the parking lot, but oysters never appealed to me.
That is all for this installment, hope I’ve touched on some of your restaurant memories of yesteryear and may the forks be with you!
Read the original article here: Dayton Restaurants of Yesteryear.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.