Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
Housed within a building that served as a neighborhood deli and general store since 1910, The Amber Rose chooses to embrace the history and the culinary culture of an area slightly farther away: Eastern Europe. Hearty soups, roasted meats, and vegetable stews fill the menu of eclectically inspired comfort foods. In addition to Polish sausages and Lithuanian-style cabbage rolls, the menu features beef stroganoff inspired by classic Russian recipes, as well as a signature turtle soup served by the bowl, cup, or crazy straw. This selection of rib-sticking comfort foods even includes a few gluten-free items.
The Amber Rose's cottage-style space evokes the ambiance of a casual European cafe. Dark wood trim and weathered floorboards lend a cozy and inviting bit of warmth to the dining room. The restaurant's most distinctive piece is the bar, which is made entirely of imported Turkish marble. Here, bartenders pour glasses of hard-to-find European wines and beer.
Even after Aaron and Bethany Horn moved to the United States, they would fondly look back on memories of buying fresh, warm meat pies from their local bakery. Hoping to introduce this treasured New Zealand treat to their American neighbors, the duo decided to open their own bakery. They set up shop in a stand at the local Dayton community's PNC Street Market amid the booths of local growers, artisans, and culinary specialists that pack the lively market's historic freight house. Aaron and Bethany whip up food from their menu of New Zealand-style pasties that has been lauded on Living Dayton. Each day, they pack flaky crusts with plump morsels of lean meats, fresh vegetables, and hearty sauces, cooking a variety of classic, Indian-style, and breakfast pies. The bakers use natural ingredients in their products, eschewing MSG, artificial flavors, and golf balls painted to look like radishes.
When people walk into Stan the Donut Man, they often inquire if Stan is still around. Store manager Jodi Fryman says he’s not; after he ran the shop for more than two decades, he sold it to his then employee, Janet Foster—Jodi’s mom—more than 14 years ago. But Janet, Jodi, and their staff still use his original recipes to craft their from-scratch treats. All day long, they’re pulling caramel-iced cinnamon rolls, blueberry cake donuts, custard-filled donuts, and chocolate cupcakes fresh from the oven.
The bakers let everything cool before making deliveries to area eateries and stores, but at Stan the Donut Man, customers can choose from still-warm treats. Though the shops are on the small side, there’s indoor and outdoor space for people to sit and enjoy their treats, especially at the Xenia location, which has more seating. But the from-scratch donuts are popular by the dozen for customers to take back home or bring to office proms.
When Schlotzsky's first opened in Austin back 1971, the owner offered just one sandwich. Known as The Original, the stack offered lean smoked ham, genoa and cotto salamis, three kinds of cheese, and a layer of marinated black olives, all atop a hot sourdough bun. That’s all it took to get Schlotzsky’s off the ground and send it on its way to become a global franchise, today featuring locations in 35 states and four countries. Of course, today’s menuholds many, many more flavor combinations—Angus roast beef and cheese, chicken and pesto, and a smoked-turkey reuben, to name a few—along with salads and pizzas. The latter aren't as much of a divergence from Schlotzky's lunch-friendly template as it might sound: at eight inches across, they're still easy to grab on the go, and the crust is made with sourdough just like the signature sandwich bread and the walls of the head baker's home.
Cincinnati-style spaghetti is a point of pride at Skyline Chili, a University of Dayton institution. The main component of this piquant dish is chili seasoned with a secret blend of spices and served over a bed of steaming spaghetti noodles. Red beans, diced onions, and a mountain of shredded cheddar cheese complete the recipe. Cooks use the same combination of chili, cheese, onions, and beans to kick up steamed potatoes and hot dogs, creating tasty meals that comfort stomachs more effectively than swallowing a child's blanky whole. Alternatively, they can whip up vegetarian versions of several menu items by substituting chili for black beans and rice. The Brown Street location serves as a mecca for students with large-screen TVs, free WiFi, an outdoor patio, and a spacious parking lot.