As the world keeps moving along, technology moves right with it. In the 1880’s, the first vending machines were released into the world. They were used to sell a wide variety of items, like postcards, candy, notepaper, drinks, and other small items. One of those items that were sold were cigarettes. As more and more were learned about cigarettes, the less and less you saw cigarette vending machines. They started to go the way of the phone booth and the metal-tipped dart board. All of them are items that started to disappear as the social need for them left as well. The ubiquity of cell phones turned phone booths into WiFi stations, and metal-tipped dart boards are dangerous! Cigarette vending machines disappeared as smoking also became more dangerous. You can still find one of these magical machines in very special places. Theo’s Lounge is one of those places.
Theo’s Lounge (7890 Paragon Rd., Dayton, OH 45459, (937) 813-8580) is not a place you would find if you were not looking for it. The only thing that indicates it exists as you drive down Paragon Road to 725 is a sign above the door. It sits in the shadows of the Paragon Club, and it thrives there. The minute you walk in you can tell it is a comfortable space, from the complete lack of windows to the music quietly playing the background. It is not an incredibly well-lit space or an incredibly large space, but that is part of the intimacy. That may also be why there is a wall of mirrors on the right, to make it look larger. They have a small patio out back as well, which is nice to enjoy on a summer night. Walking into the space, it is nothing but comfortable. Like slipping into an old sweater.
The televisions and conversation provide the entertainment here; there is not room for much else. Certainly not pool tables. In fact, on the lone sign out front states that conversation is one-half of what Theo’s offers. The other half is cocktails, which come with enough variety to satisfy any palate. Is there a menu you can peruse? No, there is not. Every bartender has their own specials, along with a few of the classics that they make. There are so many regulars that the staff “knows three-quarters of the time what they want.” And the cocktails we enjoyed had a healthy pour. The same holds true for the beer selection. The most exotic you can expect is a Sam Adams Boston Lager or a Guinness. The craft movements do not hold much sway here. The food selection is just as simple. The offer fresh-made, self-serve popcorn in the corner, but also offer chips and pretzels for a modest fee. They have pizza if you are looking for something a little more substantial, and tasty snack known as Hanky Panks. They are a combination of rye bread, spicy sausage, and cheese. According to the bartender at the time, they are a “hillbilly thing.” We took her word for it.
Let’s go back to the bar’s atmosphere. The comforting feel comes from many of the little details. Though dark, we could tell they really spent time taking care of the space. It was clean in there. The lack of outside light makes it easy to lose track of time. The dark wood, mirrored wall, and lowered shelves over the bar made it feel like we were walking into the
1970’s. And there could be a reason for that; Theo’s has been at this location, in various forms, since roughly that time frame. There is no opening a new dive bar; it has to be groomed into one after years of love and use. Like that old, comfortable sweater, it only gets that way through constant use. All the conversation was relaxed and casual, and they were set up for some big groups of regulars to come in. They take care of the people that come to their bar.
With the approach of summer, Theo’s is working on adding some events. There is a dart league being created, as well as a Ladies’ Night. The Kentucky Derby is a fancy affair there, with ladies coming in their finest hats and everyone enjoying some food and drink. They have their regulars, including the employees at many local restaurants. You know that if industry workers are going there, the place is low key and the drinks are good. Theo’s not only added events for the regulars, they added spirits. When I asked about a lone bottle of saki sitting on the shelf, the bartender told me there was a regular that requested it. So now they have it. It may be one of the few dive bars we have gone to that has saki!
We are used to things that move at breakneck speed. It is great to know that there are no-frills, no drama places like Theo’s Lounge where the world slows down while we are there, and there are plenty of friendly faces to spend that time with.
Theo’s Lounge is located at 7890 Paragon Rd., Dayton, OH 45459. You can contact them through their Facebook page or at (937) 813-8580. They are open Monday through Saturday, 3 PM to 2:30 AM and Sunday from 3 PM to 1:00 AM.