All good things must come to an end. In this week’s Food Adventure installment, our crew bids farewell to a Dayton institution, the Grub Steak. On Saturday, Feb 23rd the restaurant on Alex Rd in West Carrollton will serve its last meal. Started by Joe Bissett 50 years ago, steaks, seafood and ribs have been a hallmark of this classic supper club, whose original location was on North Main Street in Dayton. Food Adventures had to say goodbye to this old friend of the Miami Valley and visit the legendary menu one last time. In the 70’s we ate there as kids in our “toughskin” pants and wide collared shirts. In the 80’s we impressed high school dance dates with the Grub Steak’s elegant dinners. In the 90’s and beyond we visited the restaurant through its changes and moves to State Route 35 and West Carrollton. It is now down to the final plate. But before it ends, lets remember how it started.
MEMORIES ON MAIN STREET
In 1963 Joe Bissett opened up a small restaurant and bar at 1410 N. Main St. With his chef Ray, Joe soon invented a new way to eat ribs, called “Royal Ribs.” They are small slabs of boneless pork loin on wooden skewers. Originally, in the 1960’s The Grub Steak charged $1.50 for a complete Royal Rib Dinner. Soon they were the largest pork tenderloin user in Ohio. Of course, The Grub Steak was also known for steaks, which were hand cut by the kitchen staff. Various favorite steaks included the NY Strip, Prime Rib, Filet Mignon, T-Bone, The Hotel Steak (sirloin), and the huge Kansas City Sirloin. In the 80’s things were changing and the Royal Ribs Dinner now cost $4.95. The restaurant needed more seating so an addition was built onto the restaurant. The construction also included a courtyard and business was booming. Over the years, Joe Bissett became a local legend. He was an avid golfer, and manged the restaurant until his passing in 1994.
Former owner and Joe’s daughter, Dawn Bissett, sat down with The Big Ragu this week to reminisce about her experiences at this iconic restaurant. She recalls customers celebrating countless birthday parties, anniversaries and engagements inside the doors of the Grub Steak. Dawn started working at the coat check room, and eventually worked her way up through the ranks to managing the restaurant at North Main St. and on The Grub Steak II on State Route 35. She recalls the North Main Street bar constantly bustling with regulars and restaurant staff preparing drinks. Dawn explained, “My fondest memories are the wonderful customers and the many staff members I met over the decades.” She said loyal customers and lifetime employees became family to her. We were lucky enough that Dawn shared some of her private family Grub Steak photos with us for this Food Adventure article. Please browse the photo album below to see these true blasts from the past. In 1998, Fred and Sheila Fieberger took ownership of the Grub Steak, and eventually moved the restaurant south to West Carrollton in 2008.
GRUB STEAK LOCATION IN WEST CARROLLTON
For the past few years, Fred and Sheila have brought Grub Steak specialties to a whole new generation. From homemade bread, to the incredible salad dressings, they stayed true to the original menu. Today the Grub Steak is managed by Heather Wimberly, their daughter who has been dealing with huge crowds in the closing days of the restaurant. Heather and her wonderful staff took the time to host The Food Adventure Crew this week, and for that we are very appreciative. Make sure you get to the West Carrollton location by Sat Feb 23rd, for one last memorable dinner.
LAST CHANCE TO GET SOME GRUB – WHAT ARE YOU GONNA ORDER?
You have a few more days to get your last bite at the Grub Steak, and if you do we recommend these classic trademark dishes and sides. Looking for an appetizer? Go traditional with the cocktail shrimp, served chilled. Nothing beats these succulent bites in a classic setting. Also, realize that you are in a restaurant that makes their own salad dressings. In fact, they are so popular, they are for sale in pints. We recommend you get a salad with the creamy peppercorn dressing. It is simply fantastic, and our favorite. Big Ragu has loved this dressing since his childhood, and even more today. He has not tasted anything remotely close to this unchanged recipe. One of the highlights of our meal was the homemade dinner rolls served piping hot and with a side of butter that would make Paula Deen proud.
For an entree you can’t go wrong with any steak on the menu, but we would suggest the Hotel Steak & Royal Ribs Combo. The Hotel Steak has virtually no fat on it and we would suggest you get it butterflied. The flavor of the steak is amazing and will bring a smile to your face. The accompanying pork loin with four skewers was a familiar sight. These “royal ribs” were brushed in Grub Steak’s tangy, special barbecue sauce. The royal ribs were incredible and had us craving more.
Grub Steak has some great side dishes like the golden fried hash browns. We would also recommend the stewed tomatoes as a traditional choice that is filling and sweet. And what about the corn fritters served with maple syrup? They are excellent! For dessert, fend for yourself because The Food Adventures Crew is about to go into a food coma!
FOOD ADVENTURE MEMORIES
Our childhood memories of The Grub Steak are mainly at the Main Street location which was also near the Upper Crust. The Big Ragu remembers the dimly lit dining room had a great steakhouse vibe to it. The place seemed to always be packed. We recall waiting at the bar with oour parents sipping a kiddie cocktail until a table was available. It was a fun experience as a child going to this fine dining restaurant, the staff made it seem like a big deal. The waitresses were from a past era when being a server was a long term career.
On any given night you could see local Dayton Celebrities such as WHIO TV’s Don Wayne, or none other than Emmet Royer from BHA. Unfortunately Toby the Dog was not with him. But still, The Grub Steak was the place to be.
Summed up, our memories include good food, reasonable prices, and with great service. It is tough to see The Grub Steak closing. We saw servers with tears in their eyes, showing appreciation to long time customers. It was an emotional night. When places like this disappear, we seem to be left with chains serving similar food. In Dayton’s tough economic times, unfortunately we are seeing see a lot of struggling mom and pop restaurants. The Miami Valley needs these establishments for their personality and tie to the community. Food Adventures exists to share our favorite locally owned restaurants with our fans. We seek not only to promote our Dayton favorites, but actually spend our dollars there. But enough of our soapbox.
Thank you to the Fieberger family for being such gracious hosts. We loved the food, but the dinner was bittersweet, as we know this the end of an era. And so it goes, with heavy hearts, we say to this classic local eatery.. “Goodbye Old Friend.”
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