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Updated: 11:12 a.m. Wednesday, May 2, 2012 | Posted: 6:52 p.m. Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The best dining is under sun, stars

We round up the best outdoor dining spots in Southwest Ohio



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The best dining is under sun, stars photo
Some customers are willing to wait an extra 30 minutes to have dinner on the patio at Thai 9 in Dayton’s Oregon District.

By Mark Fisher and Alexis Larsen

Diners throughout southwest and west-central Ohio, have embraced patio dining with gusto — and restaurants are increasingly eager to accommodate them.

Brazenhead Irish Pub in Mason is expanding the current patio that seats 150 to include a grassy area for games such as corn hole and bocce. “Customers love it (the patio) and they keep coming back. Some evenings in the summer we may not be full inside, but we’re on an hour wait for the patio,” said Bruce Worth, Brazenhead’s general manager.

Sharon Bistrek, owner of Amelia’s Bistro in Bellbrook, is expanding her restaurant’s patio this spring to better serve customers who enjoy patio dining — “and I’m one of them myself,” Bistrek said. She also keeps a few blankets on hand to offer to customers who want the dining al fresco experience even when the temperatures are a degree or two shy of ideal.

Rob Strong, co-owner of Thai 9 restaurant in Dayton’s Oregon District, said his wife and restaurant co-owner, Nongyaw Strong, “spends many hours taking care of the plants and flowers to make (the Thai 9 patio) look nice.” And customers have responded. “We often have occasions when the patio is full and we have open tables available inside, but people are willing to wait an extra 30 minutes just so they can sit out on the patio,” Strong said.

And Stephen O’Neil — owner of Stefano’s Italian Cafe, a popular Middletown restaurant in its 23rd year — said his restaurant’s two patios located directly in front of the restaurant are a great marketing tool to lure customers who are driving by. “It’s just good for business,” O’Neil said. The patios will be decked out with flowers after Mother’s Day, and will host occasional live music.

Not every restaurant and pub owner goes to such lengths to beautify outdoor dining areas, some of which have clearly become the default smoking sections of their restaurants. But many others have made their patios a much-sought-after destination to enjoy dinner under the stars — or under the setting sun, anyway. And assuming that March doesn’t turn out to be the peak patio dining month of 2012, restaurant patio season is just heating up.

Today, we spotlight some of the best patio dining in the greater Miami Valley — but we know we’re just scratching the surface. If you have a favorite restaurant patio dining spot that is not mentioned here, email Mark Fisher (Mark.Fisher@coxinc.com) and Alexis Larsen (alexis.e.larsen@hotmail.com) and tell us about it. Include your full name and hometown, and the reasons why you think your restaurant patio rocks, and we’ll assemble some of the comments for a future story.

And consider giving a few of our favorites a try.


Dining destinations: Patios throughout the region worth a visit

Local spots for patio dining

Amelia’s Bistro

129 W. Franklin St., Bellbrook; (937) 310-3040; www.

ameliasbellbrook.com. Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.

Why it rates: A spacious patio that wraps around two sides of the restaurant, with tables that can be partially shielded with red curtains.

The food: Amelia’s steak offerings have excelled since the restaurant opened, and it also serves an interesting pasta dish called Shrimp and Scallops Absolutely ($24) consisting of sauteed shrimp, scallops, spinach, roasted tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella in a peppered vodka broth served over pasta.

The Back Porch

9626 Princeton-Glendale Road, West Chester. (513) 874-2432, back-porch-saloon.net. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Why it rates: This place emphasizes outdoor dining (and more) like no other. It offers a Tiki Bar and cornhole area, and recreational, co-ed sand volleyball leagues that run from April through October.

The food: A menu more extensive that most sports bars. What other sports bar serves a Sicilian Chicken Breast topped with pastrami, bacon, mozzarella and Italian dressing? The menu features the usual burgers and quesadillas but also includes multiple chicken and fish dishes, salads, soups and special low-carb options. Tuesday is Texas hold-’em night, and Thursday is Trivia night. Some appetizers are half-price from 4 to 7 p.m. and from 10 to 1 a.m.

Brazenhead Irish Pub

5650 Tylersville Road, Mason; (513) 229-0809; thebrazenhead.net. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Why it rates: This massive Irish Pub, now well into its sixth year in business, prides itself on the patio experience it offers diners. With seating for 150 and a beautiful view overlooking a pond with a fountain and plenty of flowers, it offers a great get-away for those looking for something different.

The food: In early April, the Brazenhead menu had an overhaul with 60 percent of the menu now featuring new items, according to Bruce Worth, the general manager. The new barbecue dishes make for a nice patio pairing for spring, with menu options including smoked brisket, pulled pork and ribeye steaks.

Brixx

500 E. First St., Dayton; (937) 222-2257; www.brixxicecompany.com. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Why it rates: One word: Dragons. Just as patios and summer go hand in hand, so does baseball and outdoor dining. For those who love to experience all that America’s favorite pastime has to offer, Brixx can help keep the energy going long after the game has wrapped up.

The food: If it’s a game day, you might want to go with the Dragons Toes (fried chicken bites, $6.95). The chicken or tuna sliders ($8.95), California Fish Tacos ($9.95) and the Veggie Stir Fry ($10.95) are refreshing summer patio options. There’s a full list of specialty drinks to wash it all down with including a Brixx RBI (vanilla vodka, root beer Schnapps, Coke and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, $9.95) and flavored lemonades that can be served with or without vodka.

Carmel’s

1025 Shroyer Road, Dayton; (937) 294-1261; www.carmelsgrill.com. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Why it rates: Business in the front, party in the back and fiesta as far as the eye can see after you go through the doors. This colorful restaurant offers stiff drinks, plenty of happy-hour specials, a spacious patio — all with a price tag that won’t break the bank.

The food: There are the usual suspects — tacos, enchiladas, burritos —and a slew of other interesting options like Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins ($6.45) and a Bronco Buster burger topped with BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar cheese, Tabasco onion rings and a Western coleslaw ($7.99, $5.99 a la carte). There are great happy hour specials and coupons are available on the website. Grab a margarita and relax.

The Caroline

5 S. Market St., Troy; (937) 552-7676; thecarolineonthesquare.com. Open Tuesday through Friday for lunch, Tuesday through Saturday for dinner.

Why it rates: The restaurant’s patio doesn’t get direct sunlight, making it a good late-summer option, especially when there is music on the Troy Town Square. If this patio is full — its capacity is 24 — consider a short walk over to La Piazza, the fine Italian restaurant also nestled on the Troy town square.

The food: The Ahi Tuna ($10.95) appetizer is a winner, and you can’t go wrong with The Caroline’s steaks and chops. And the desserts here are worth the trip unto themselves: The Caroline’s Strawberries with Kahlua sauce has been a top vote-getter from both the public and from judges in the annual Taste of Miami Valley event. It’s a perfect end to an evening of open-air dining.

El Meson

903 E. Dixie Drive, West Carrollton; (937) 859-8229; www.elmeson.net. Open Monday through Friday for lunch, Monday through Saturday for dinner. Closed Sundays.

Why it rates: This West Carrollton gem has two patios — one that operates year-round, heated at the right times and cooled at the others, and another newer outdoor open-air patio. If you’re looking to relax and have an out-of-country experience in-country, this is the spot.

The food: This restaurant specializes in authentic cuisine from South and Central America, Spain and the Caribbean. You can’t go wrong with the signature menu items that are featured year round or with the monthly rotating themed menus. There are many specials to be had if you can get there early — happy hour runs weekdays from 4:30

to 6 p.m., featuring $3 cocktails and some really affordable appetizers. Daily specials include Mojito Monday, Taco & Tequila Tuesday, Sangria & Small Plate Wednesday, Tapa Thursday, and Weekly Featured Cocktail Friday.

Mike and Rosy’s Deli

330 W. McCreight Ave., Springfield; (937) 390-3511; mikeandrosysdeli.com

Why it rates: We first told you about this deli on last week’s Food page as a regional Dining Destination. There’s more. As far as seating goes, Mike and Rosy’s has it all — four distinct areas in all: the dining room to the left of the deli (seats 50), the downstairs courtyard to the right of the deli (seats 35), the Pressbox — the upstairs bar featuring more than 75 beers (seats 50) and the outdoor patio off the bar (seats 30). The upstairs patio connected to the back of the bar is a hidden destination that you have to search out, but it’s worth the effort and has access to the full deli menu. It’s another hidden gem that is tucked away and has the ability to transport you for a few moments if you give yourself up to the lure of the breeze and the sun.

The food: Featuring deli sandwiches, soups and pizza, Mike and Rosy’s features a fairly basic, no-frills menu, but it capitalizes on the fresh ingredients that are the most comforting. You won’t break the bank eating here — price range from $5.25 to $8.25 for sandwiches. Just as important as the ingredients in a Mike and Rosy’s sandwich is the signature steam that’s applied to sandwiches. The meat heats up, the cheese melts and the bread softens. They’ve been doing it for more than 36 years now.

Oregon Express

336 E. Fifth St., Dayton; (937) 223-9205; www.oregonexpressdayton.com. Open Monday through Saturday.

Why it rates: A cool-kid factor runs high at this Oregon District staple that was established in 1976. Good people, good food, good vibes and an amazing rooftop patio all collide to form a perfect storm for summer — the relaxing kind that you don’t need an umbrella for. Hipsters, oldsters, bikers, college kids, professionals and more mingle together effortlessly in this colorful space that offers incredible views of downtown with an occasional passing train to break the familiar landscape.

The food: There are sandwiches, soups, salads and nachos on the menu, but a trip to the Oregon Express demands pizza. There are weekly specials including half-price pizzas on Monday starting at 5 p.m. And 25 percent off pizzas all day on Wednesday. The specialty pizzas offer several of our favorites in town — most notably the Reuben ($11.99 for a 10”, $17.99 for a 14” and $20.99 for a 16”). Other pizzas that are worthy of investigation are the Garden Special, the Artichoke, Chicken Ranchero, and the BLT. This isn’t friendly to low-calorie diets of any kind, but the sin is worth it.

Stefano’s Italian Cafe

2200 Central Ave., Middletown. (513) 422-9922, www.stefanositaliancafe.com. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Friday, and for dinner on Saturdays.

Why it rates: A spacious patio — actually two, with one reserved for smokers (extra points for that) — is essentially the front porch of the restaurant, which is nestled in a residential neighborhood of Middletown.

The food: Regulars praise the pasta dishes and specialty salads, and the menu includes chicken, veal and seafood specialties in addition to traditional pasta dishes, as well as pizzas and calzones.

TJ Chump’s Miamisburg

12 E. Linden Ave., Miamisburg; (937) 859-4000; www.tjchumps.com. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Why it rates: Close to the bike path in downtown Miamisburg, this TJ Chumps location — one of three in the area — offers a large, rustic covered outdoor space that allows in enough sun and breeze to please while offering the shade and ceiling fans that are needed to take the edge off the hottest days of the year.

The food: TJ Chumps menu offers typical bar food fare alongside more interesting entrees like ribs, sushi grade salmon and swordfish. A bike along the trails that connect to downtown Miamisburg can work up an appetite, and this is a prime location to fuel back up. The swordfish ($9.99 for the sandwich platter, $14.99 for the grilled swordfish dinner) is a refreshing choice for summer. There is more light fare where that came from. Budget some extra time because if the temperature is right, you’re going to want to extend your outdoor stay. You can’t say we didn’t warn you.

Thai 9

11 Brown St., Dayton, (937) 222-3227, www.thai9restaurant.com. Open nightly for dinner, weekdays for lunch.

Why it rates: The patio at Thai 9 — which turned 9 this year — gets busy the moment the weather warms up, and customers know it’s worth waiting for even if tables are available inside.

The food: Plenty to choose from here, as this restaurant excels at both sushi and Thai dishes. Favorites include the Panaeng Curry with Seafood ($9 at lunch, $15.95 dinner), Pad Thai Noodles with Chicken ($7.50 lunch, $10.95 dinner). And Thai 9 also has become a destination for hop-heads, offering occasional beer dinners and specialty beer nights.

The Trolley Stop

530 E. Fifth St., Dayton; (937) 461-1101; www.trolleystopdayton.com

Why it rates: If you want to get away from it all but don’t have the cash to bankroll it, take an afternoon off with a visit to the Trolley Stop patio. Enjoy a cocktail or a beer from one of the bars rotating taps and catch your breath in this space that is walled up in a beautiful courtyard that is enclosed enough that it’s easy to forget where you are. With great bar food, free WiFi and events happening all the time including an awesome beer tasting the first Wednesday of the month with Mike Schwartz of Belmont Party Supply, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.

The food: So many favorites on this menu that it’s hard to know where to start. It’s all bar food, but it’s fresh, quality, tasty and homemade. We especially love the Chicken Black Bean Tortilla soup ($2.50 for a cup, $3.50 for a bowl), which has enough spice to make you feel it and enough cream to soothe any residual burns. The buffalo chicken quesadilla ($6.95) is another long-time favorite. There are plenty of vegetarian offerings to accommodate those looking to avoid meat and daily specials to keep things interesting.

The Winds

215 Xenia Ave., Yellow Springs, (937) 767-1144, www.windscafe.com. Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, and Sunday for brunch.

Why it rates: The patio behind the restaurant is protected with a screen and vines and is a peaceful, soothing place to enjoy lunch or dinner.

The food: A menu that rotates every two months to take full advantage of local, seasonal ingredients assembled into fresh, creative dishes. If the Tuscan Bread Salad is on the menu, order it. And if any type of duck dish is on the menu, order it. But you can’t go wrong here, especially in the summer. And a rotating wines-by-the-glass list is consistently well-chosen.

Calling all foodies

Mark Fisher and Alexis Larsen have been covering restaurants, bars and trends in southwestern Ohio dining for more than 10 years. One of the things they savor the most is feedback from their fellow foodies. If you have ideas for a restaurant, bar or chef feature or another dining guide you’d like to see message them at Mark.Fisher @coxinc.com and alexis.e.larsen@hot mail.com.

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