All things come to an end, and we knew at some point Duante Beddingfield would leave us.
Many of you know him from his work covering arts and events over the years here at Most Metro or the local newspapers. Some of you may know him from his jazz performances, singing at venues like Gilly’s, Blue Note, and the Levitt Pavilion. Maybe you’ve listened to his Monday night jazz show, Equinox, on WYSO over the last three years, or attended Stivers School for the Arts with him, or salsa danced with him, saw him hamming it up onstage in a play or at a karaoke bar, or maybe he supported you as an artist or small business owner. Maybe he pissed you off at some point. Even if you’ve never met him, you probably knew Duante.
We’re proud to be the first to announce he’s been hired to be the new arts and culture reporter for the Detroit Free Press. And proud to say we had him first! He’ll be leaving Ohio soon, but he asked if he could write one last thing on the way out. If you know Duante, you know he’s not only a major foodie but was also a professional restaurant writer in town for years, and so we’re presenting his list of the ten restaurants he’ll miss most when he moves to the Motor City.
Duante was never known for keeping things short, so we’re posting it in two parts… You can find part one here, and part two is below.
5. The Oakwood Club (2414 Far Hills Avenue, Oakwood)
You want the best steak in town? Don’t mess around. Welcome to The OC. Forget that other place that gets all the hype, and I’ll spare you my laundry list of reasons it’s overrated and one visit was more than enough for me. If you want a welcoming, quality fine dining experience that goes above and beyond for the customer, The Oakwood Club is here for you, providing top notch food and drink since 1962.
I could go on about old-school steakhouses with dark wood paneling and the most comfortable dining chairs in the Valley, but instead I’m going to tell a personal story about why this place means something to me. The first time I came here, I was as poor as anyone could be. It was Christmas Eve, I’d lost my job, and I had about $18 in my pocket when a friend invited me to dinner as their guest. I almost declined because I felt I had no place in an upscale restaurant at that point in my life, but I eventually reasoned I was in no position to turn down a free meal, so I spiffed up and drove over. Here I was, this broke kid in my early twenties, feeling unworthy, not to mention self-conscious as hell as very much the only brown face in the room…but that evening, not only was I treated as welcome – I was treated as though I’d been there all along.
When I returned later, under better life circumstances, I was remembered and greeted warmly. Outstanding service should be rewarded, and respect given makes for respect earned, so all these years since, I have made it a point to continue supporting The Oakwood Club as a regular. As I was shown in a time when I didn’t feel I deserved it, it’s a place where I’ve always belonged.
Now, where food’s concerned, my last meal in Dayton will be the first thing I ever tried here. The garlic shrimp and linguine with twin filet mignons is one of the best deals around; for under $30, you get three large shrimp broiled in garlic, wine, and lemon butter, served with pasta tossed in a tomato vinaigrette, and they perfectly complement the twin filets cooked to order. (Little known fact, you can swap the shrimp out for scallops – I always do!) But there are some other can’t-miss items here, as well: their crisp salads, served in chilled metal bowls, and the killer creamy garlic-peppercorn dressing they still refuse to sell me the recipe for (jeez, I swear I won’t give it to anyone, help me out!!). The tower of thin, crispy onion straws (which reheat so beautifully in the air fryer or on a sheet of foil in the oven).
And, another hidden gem of Dayton dining is buried here, where for $10.50, you can get the best burger for miles around, made from hand-cut steak trimmings. It’s no-frills, served on a fluffy bun with a thick slice of onion and tomato and a huge, crunchy slab of lettuce, and it’s everything you’ve ever wanted in a hamburger sandwich. And, now, I’m gonna hip to you probably THE number one biggest secret in the local restaurant scene. It’s not on the menu. If you’re there late in the evening, and it’s kind of slow, enough to where the kitchen can take its time with something one-of-a-kind…and you’re feeling adventurous…have Chef Nate come out to your table, and ask him about the West Side Burger. But first, you gotta ask yourself if you’re ready… (website | Facebook)
4. Amar India Restaurant (2751 Miamisburg Centerville Road, Centerville)
I’ve dined at some of the most respected Indian restaurants in the U.S., and I’ve never found better than what we have right here in the award-winning Amar India. What can you say? The food is just out of this world. The decor is spare, and the staff focus on their top priority: providing unforgettable meals in quantities that make you feel like someone’s gonna have to cart you out on a dolly. Who can be mad at that?
I know many, many picky, unadventurous eaters who swear they hate Indian food despite never having actually tried it, and that’s a real shame, because they’re missing out on some of the richest flavor profiles in the known world. The most common base ingredients include rice, chicken, potatoes, spinach, tomato, onion, garlic, butter, seafood… I mean, we’re dealing in basics people from every country understand, they’re just spiced differently than you might be used to. Food, from culture to culture, rarely changes much in terms of what’s actually being cooked. What changes most tends to be the herbs, spices, and the method by which things are cooked. To look at food as a cultural pillar around the world is to see that we’re not that different; we’re all eating the same things, just tweaked a little.
If you’ve never made an honest attempt at Indian cuisine, I challenge you to check out Amar’s extensive menu, find something with ingredients you understand, and try it with an open mind. Chicken tikka masala is a terrific entry point for newcomers, as is chicken curry. Vegetarians will go crazy for the saag paneer, homemade cheese cooked in spinach and cream. One of the sadder side effects of the Covid-19 era, for me, has been the loss of Amar’s glorious lunch buffet, which changes daily and is the best way to experiment and see what you like and what might not suit you, without spending much money. When coronavirus has passed and you hear the buffet has reopened – run, don’t walk! In the meantime, I highly recommend the aloo mater (potatoes and peas in curry sauce), dal soup, and garlic naan. And, most of all, my addiction, their aloo tikki. I don’t know what it is about these savory little herbed, deep fried potato patties, but I crave them constantly and could eat a whole platter of them. I’ve had them at many restaurants…no one else’s have ever come close. They’re one of the best menu items in Dayton.
Something I really got into last year was ordering Amar on winter Friday nights when I’d had a really rough week and I was cold and angry and defeated and couldn’t bear the thought of cooking. I’d order Doordash from Amar and jump into a scalding hot shower, get out, put on pajamas, and right around the time I was knotting my robe, the doorbell would ring, and I’d have a steaming hot selection of comfort food. It felt like being hugged at the end of a very hard day. Maybe give it a try as we make that transition into the cold, dark part of the year. It was so rewarding each time.
Amar is such a jewel, and this region is incredibly lucky to have it. A second location opened on Miller Lane in Dayton in 2017. (website)
3. Elsa’s Mexican Restaurant (3618 Linden Avenue, Dayton)
Roll your eyes if you wanna, but there’s a reason this place is Dayton legend since 1979. There are now multiple locations around the region, but I love me a good hole-in-the-wall dive, and the O.G. Elsa’s over in the Belmont ‘hood still proudly wears that vibe. Their famous Bad Juan margaritas, so strong they limit them to three per guest, can take down even a heavyweight like me, so that warrants automatic respect. (And I’m not joking – please order them with caution. They can sneak up on you, especially after the second one.) Being perfectly honest, the chips and salsa are probably the worst in the city, and maybe even beyond, but their queso with chorizo is a winner (not gonna lie, I get it to go and eat it at home with better chips), and the ground beef tacos with Monterey Jack cheese are simple, perfect, and addictive. A semi-secret is their excellent chicken wings, which you wouldn’t expect from a cantina-type establishment. The fact is, for just a good, fun time unwinding with friends, you still can’t beat Elsa’s. The Bad Juan can’t be found anyplace else, and that’s something I will seriously miss. A lotta good memories. Well…the times I can remember, anyway. It’s a really good thing they stop you after three. (website)
2. Figlio Wood Fired Pizza (424 E. Stroop Road, Kettering)
My favorite date-night spot for over a decade, this hidden gem is tucked away in a back corner of Town & Country Shopping Center and is that place you’ve always meant to check out but always forget until you’re driving past on the way to eat someplace else. Make a plan. This warm, stylish joint is still, somehow, after 20-some years, the best-kept secret of Dayton’s dining scene. With the orange glow of the open kitchen’s giant oven and an ever-present soundtrack of breezy bossa nova and international jazz, the place has romance to spare, but what really elevates it to something special is the personal touch of the owners, Peter and Laurie, who personally choose the wines and write the descriptions for the specials. Each one ties the selected vintage to an experience from their life together, and after reading them for years, you feel you know the couple and keep coming back to hear more from them.
Bonus: by popular demand, Figlio purchased the recipe for the Peasant Salad, the regionally famous signature from the long-gone Peasant Stock restaurant that formerly occupied the space. Elsewhere on the menu, while the pizzas are the stars of the show, I’ll tell you a secret – this place has the greatest spaghetti and meatballs you’ll ever find. As a rule, I never order spaghetti at a restaurant, because why pay for the simplest dish anyone can make at home? This is not your mom’s noodles with ground beef and doctored sauce from a jar. Trust me on this. Every person I’ve ever convinced to order it is now a believer. It’s next level. (website)
1. Sky Asian Cuisine (4090 Wilmington Pike, Kettering)
My home away from home the last year or so, I fell in love with this place during the summer of 2019. From the moment I entered with my group, we were treated like family. The second time we visited, they remembered our faces and called us by name, and we’ve returned again and again, often several times a week, to perch at the bar and enjoy the food, drinks, and conversation with the wonderful staff and regulars. The sleek interior provides a sexy, laid back setting for some of the best sushi options in the region, along with a full menu of delicious fare. Me, I’m a sucker for the teriyaki salmon. Don’t miss the happy hour treats, especially the tender gyoza – and last week, they debuted a seasonal Cajun seafood menu that’s been getting lots of attention. And a bonus, they offer their own delivery if you live within a few miles of the restaurant, which makes it significantly cheaper to order direct from them than via Doordash or similar. If you haven’t tried Sky yet, your new favorite awaits. Make a reservation! (website | Facebook)