Some partnerships—Fred and Ginger, Holmes and Watson, Rocky and Bullwinkle—seem predestined for greatness. Such was the case with Jeff and Jill Van Horne. Jeff, a wine collector, married his talents with Jill's gourmet cooking to create The Wine Loft, where their chemistry translates into delicious food and drink pairings. Stepping inside is akin to joining one of their dinner parties, with fellow guests lounging on sofas throughout the space and ordering cocktails or beer from the full bar.
Of course, the starring libation is wine. The cellar below the restaurant can store close to 2,000 bottles at a steady 58 degrees. More than 200 wines arrive at tables by the bottle, and 75 can be poured by the glass, complementing a variety of small plates and entrees. If you aren't sure what libation would best bring out the flavor of your lamb lollipops, servers gladly assist—or, you could attend one of The Wine Loft's wine education classes. These meet monthly to cover topics such as matching wine with chocolate or observing proper wine etiquette, which dictates that whomever uncorks the bottle must plant the cork and raise the resultant tree.
The Winans family has been making lives a little sweeter for more than a century. During the Great Depression, townspeople would flock to the family’s bakery in Piqua with their sugar rations. Owner Wayne Winans would take that sugar and turn it into freshly baked cookies—a small pick-me-up at a time when even small pick-me-ups were a luxury. Years later, Wayne’s sons, Max and Dick, carried the family torch into the 1960s, when the first Winans Fine Chocolates & Coffees was born.
Today, the Winans family continues to do what it does best at three Ohio locations. All of the business’s chocolates are handmade, with no preservatives or fillers, and never cryogenically frozen. The family’s emphasis on freshness carries over to their coffee, too, which has frequently been named the area's best by the readers of the Dayton Business Journal and the Dayton Daily News. The secret is in their roasting process—their small, 15-pound roaster requires them to roast the beans in small batches, which leads to a more consistent product. Once the beans are ready, coffee artisans carefully combine them with other roasts to create a vast assortment of flavors, which includes 11 house coffee blends, 12 flavored coffees, and even more seasonal selections.
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.
Since 1984, Champps Americana's kitchen has sizzled with made-from-scratch dishes, satiating sports fans and families with a comfortable atmosphere. Amid sunlit dining rooms, diners seated at wooden tabletops can root for their favorite pixels on flat-screen TVs broadcasting live sports. In the kitchen, chefs prepare pastas with grilled chicken and roasted artichokes, pile buns with barbecued pulled pork and spicy buffalo chicken, and fill soft taco shells with grilled steak. Behind the bar, bartenders whip up specialty cocktails and margaritas and fill goblets with wine and local craft beers on tap.
At The Butter Cafe, every dish that chefs create maintains their commitment to sustainable cooking and eating, from the fluffy, golden pancakes topped with organic sweet-cream butter to the omelets made with locally sourced, free-range eggs. This dedication to sustainability extends to ensure respect for animals and workers. Along with their all-day breakfast, which includes gluten-free and vegan options, lunch and dinner caters to meat lovers and vegans alike with hearty meatloaf served along with vegan hot dogs and spaghetti.
Taking its name from the symbolic plant of Lebanon, Cedarland Bakery & Restaurant excites palates with the sweet and savory delicacies from the Levant. Fluffy loaves of pita conceal treasures of crunchy-chewy falafel and tender chicken shawarma, and meat- and spinach-filled pastries challenge apple pie for its coveted spot in the American psyche. A handsome mural of rustic Mediterranean scenery fills the space, complementing relaxing hookah sessions or feasts of baklava, hummus, and baked kibbeh.