One of Dayton’s best kept secrets is Culp’s Cafe located at the Carillon Historical Park. The original Culp’s Cafe was started in the kitchen of Charlotte Gilbert Culp who sold breads and baked good out of her West Third Street home. When downtown Dayton boomed in the 1940’s, The Culps opened a cafe by the Arcade building serving homemade food to about 5,000 customers per day. During the 1960’s, people began moving to the suburbs forcing the Culp’s to sell their beloved cafe due to declining sales. Culp’s Cafe is alive again thanks in part to Carillon Park and Chef Jose Calzada who puts his modern touches on nostalgic home cooking. If you are looking for good, homemade food set in a beautiful atmosphere, then Culp’s Cafe is the place to be.
Culp’s Cafe celebrated St. Patrick’s day offering a menu consisting of traditional Irish favorites. As soon as we heard about this, we knew we had to attend as guest of Chef Jose and the Dayton Historical Society. The menu included a three-course lunch for $11.75. The entrees were Irish classics: Fish and Chips, Sheperd’s Pie, and Corned Beef with Cabbage. The desserts were just as festive including such tasty treats as Irish Cream Chocolate Mousse Cake, Chocolate Guiness Goodness, and a White and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Irish Cream Sauce.
Our appetizers were brought to the table by a server decked out in a traditional 1940’s waitress uniform. (Imagine a gray version of the uniform worn by Flo at Mel’s Diner.) This really brings a nostalgic vibe to Culp’s Cafe! We were served a simple, refreshing salad and a cup of hearty potato soup. The soup was the tasty kind your mom used to make, but Chef Jose throws in a little bacon and cheese for added flavor. We loved our appetizers and waited eagerly for our entrees to arrive!
Our friendly server, Carol, brought out our Fish and Chips and Corned Beef with Cabbage. The Big Ragu is the known as the “King of Fried Foods” and naturally ordered the Fish and Chips served with a side of house-made Cole Slaw made with pineapple and poppy seeds. We ordered the Corned Beef with Cabbage. The dish consisted of three large pieces of Corned Beef that resembled the tongue of Kiss’ Gene Simmons. (If you don’t understand that reference, we suggest that you Google ‘Gene Simmons Tongue.’) The cabbage was tender and the Corned Beef was flavorful. The Big Ragu even took a bite of the Corned Beef — an amazing feat if you’re familiar with the issues Ragu has with certain meat textures. Too bad we didn’t photograph this part of our dinner…the facial expression was classic. The Corned Beef with Cabbage was also served with boiled red potatoes leaving little room for dessert!
As we were waiting for our desserts, we thought we would entertain our fellow diners with our interpretation of “River Dancing”. Fortunately, we left our tights and curly-haired wigs at home. As the desserts arrived, our eyes got about as big as our bellies! The Big Ragu ordered the Irish Cream Mousse Cake — a nice, light way to end the meal. We ordered the Bread Pudding which we quickly devoured. The Big Ragu makes pretty good bread puddings, but Culp’s Bread Pudding puts ours to shame. Chef Jose took it to a whole new level by adding Dark and White Chocolate! After all of this food, we were feeling “extra heavy”. We feared the only way we could leave the cafe would be for someone to kindly roll us out to our car!
The Irish Feast was amazing and we appreciate Chef Jose and Elise Hafenbrack from Dayton Historical Society for inviting us to be a part of this great event. Culp’s Cafe is open seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Some of the other dishes we highly recommend are the Reuben, Grilled Basil Chicken Sandwich, Original Culp’s Cake, and that amazing Pot Roast. Culp’s Cafe takes you back to the long lost era of good, homemade comfort food set in one of the most scenic dining rooms in Dayton. We encourage you to visit Carillon Historical Park and take pride in Dayton History and enjoy a great meal at Culp’s Cafe.
Have you had a chance to visit Culp’s Cafe in Historic Carillon Park? Please leave your comments below !
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