My Town Monday: Where the Stars Come out for Brunch

Last week for Mothers’ Day, my husband and daughter took me out for brunch at my favorite place for breakfast – The Golden Nugget Pancake House. Not to be confused with the Chicago-based chain of the same name, the Golden Nugget’s been in the Dayton area since the early 60’s. They don’t have a website, so I wasn’t able to easily check exactly when it first opened, but it’s been a fixture on the south side of town ever since. With its retro-diner decor, hearty portions, plain and simple but delicious coffee, and paper coasters that haven’t changed since I can remember, it’s like a tasty trip back in time.

The paper coasters featuring "Goldie" the burro haven't changed since the 60s

I can remember going to the Golden Nugget with my grandparents when I was little in the early 70s. I vaguely remember the exterior looking like the postcard above, although I don’t remember the interior being those colors – I remember the chairs and booths being a 1950s aqua blue, which they were until the building burned down in 2006. Thankfully, they rebuilt it, with an updated look that still has a retro flair.

It became a regular spot for me after I graduated from college. There’s nothing better after a night out partying, if you can hack the 1/2-hour or longer wait. Back then, there was no waiting area in the restaurant, just a long vestibule along the front. On weekends, the line would fill that area, and wrap around the building. If there were only two of you, and you were at the back corner of the building, the wait was 30-40 minutes. Once you got inside, it was about 15. And it was totally worth it. Unsurprising since “Pancake House” is part of the name, there’s a good variety of pancakes available, although not what you’d get from some of the larger chains. My favorite is cinnamon pancakes with apples. They also offer this in French toast, which was what I had last week. Yum! The coffee’s fantastic – strong, but not bitter. They use Superior coffee, which from what I understand, is a common offering from restaurant supply services. But nowhere else does it taste like at the ‘Nug (as my friends and I affectionately called it). The servers are very conscious of coffee, too – it’s unusual for your cup to be empty.

The Golden Nugget today

I also went there for lunch occasionally, since I worked down the street for my first “real” job. Lunch is good, too – basic stuff like burgers, grilled cheese, and soups. My favorite was broccoli cheese soup. I had a coworker who ate lunch there every day. The main reason was she was a coffee fanatic, and loved the friendly wait staff who always kept her cup full. She almost always got the same thing to eat: fried mush. I tried it once, and it was good, but not being a real Southerner, I can’t vouch for it. I can vouch for the biscuit and gravy though – awesome, and a sure ticket to a food coma!

My coworker also saw some interesting people there. Once, she saw Andre the Giant when WWE (or back then, WWF) was in town. She’s also seen Rob Lowe and Martin Sheen there, who are both from Dayton. I’ve never seen anyone famous there, but the food and coffee’s enough to make me come back, and even brave the line occasionally.

So now you know where to go for breakfast or lunch if you’re in the area! The Golden Nugget doesn’t have a website, but they are on Facebook. If you’re from around here, do you have any Golden Nugget memories to share? If you’re not, what’s your favorite place in your hometown? I’d love to hear from you – please comment and let me know!

My Town Monday: Historically Delicious!

This past Saturday evening, 28 of us gathered to take a tasty trip back in time. Not like the people in my books, but figuratively: we were the participants and guests at Carillon Historical Park‘s Tavern Dinner that night.

Our hosts – three ladies and two men – already looked the part in their historical clothing, as they outlined our destination, and why they’d chosen that particular year: 1830. You see, the Miami and Erie Canal had been completed through Dayton the prior year, bringing with it much greater accessibility to supplies from the east, including goodies like sugar and flour. This allowed them to offer much greater variety in the food that could be prepared for a historically-accurate, end-of-winter feast.

The canal also drastically reduced the cost of such goods. A shipment that would have cost $125 to bring to Dayton via horse-drawn wagon or stagecoach, cost only $25 to bring out on the canal. Bring on the food, right?

Most of our meal was cooked here! Cabbage soup and sausage stew are in the kettles. Our hostess checks the oven.

Not quite! After the introduction, we all got a little hands-on experience in preparing some of the evening’s meal. Our group went first to the summer kitchen, where our hosts had been busy since that morning, putting on the cabbage soup appetizer, the main dish stew, and getting the ingredients ready for dessert. They’d baked bread in the stone oven a few days earlier, just as would have been done in 1830. But what’s bread without butter? That still needed to be done, so we all tried our hand at churning. Not a hard job at all, but one that would get tedious if it had to be done all at once, by one person, for it takes about a half hour of steady work. While we churned, our hostess answered questions about the food preparations, and explained how the fire had been going all day, and the soup and stew put on around 2 pm that afternoon. Ever think it takes too long to preheat the oven? This one takes a couple hours! But we’d have cookies by the time dinner was done.

Implements for tea and coffee preparation

Our next stop was the William Morris house, an authentic, preserved historical home which, like the summer kitchen, had been trucked to the park from Centerville, about 10 miles away. There, our hostess described how coffee and tea was shipped in, and the latter roasted and ground. The coffee mill was difficult to crank – luckily, enough had been already ground that we weren’t dependent on what we could do!

After that, we stopped outside the tavern to learn about the musket that might have been used to kill the night’s meal, had we actually been in 1830. Since the group before us jammed the musket, we got to see how the term “flash in the pan” originated, when the musket didn’t create enough force to fire the bullet, but the gunpowder burnt prematurely.

Finally, we headed inside Newcom’s Tavern, Dayton’s oldest building, for dinner.

It's Historically Delicious!

As dusk descended, it certainly felt like a trip back in time to eat in the old, log building by candle light. And the food was wonderful! We started out with bread that was baked in the summer kitchen with the butter we’d churned, and cabbage soup, which was much tastier than it sounds, thanks to its beef broth base and herb seasonings.

The main dish was the sausage stew, which was a mild, savory sausage in a tomato paste base, served with locally-grown rice. The sides were a thick bean-and-corn dish, and apples and onions, which were baked in a crockery pot and dutch oven piled under ash in the summer kitchen’s fireplace. Apples and onions sounds like a strange combination, but it was really good. We also had roasted diced potatoes, with onions, carrots, and turnips.

Candlelight dinner in the tavern

After dinner, we were in for yet another treat. A trio of illusionists who said they’d just ridden in on the stagecoach from Cincinnati performed a few magic tricks and card tricks for us and got more than a few laughs. We capped off the evening with dessert – stewed pears, with the sugar cookies that had just been baked in the summer kitchen. All in all, a fantastic meal!

Have you ever eaten a historic dinner, prepared by historically-accurate means? What do you think of the menu – does it sound like something you’d like to try? Have you ever churned butter or fired a musket?

My Town Monday: A Dickens of A Christmas

This past Friday night, my daughter and I went back in time. Well, not really, and certainly not like the characters in my books, but in a figurative sense, with help from the residents and volunteers of the St. Anne’s Hill Historic Society.

48 High St. Gallery

Every year since 1986, the group has conducted a tour of homes in their historic Dayton neighborhood. It includes a walking tour of the area, led by tour guides in capes and top hats. Most of the homes are from the Victorian era or the early 20th century, and are lavishly decorated. The homeowners were friendly and enthusiastic, and happy to tell their homes’ stories and answer visitors’ questions. All who were asked, permitted us to take photos inside as well.

Our tour started at 5PM, when it was getting dark, so none of the photos I took turned out well. So most of the photos shown are from the St. Anne’s Hill website, which features a very cool online tour. The 2011 “Dickens of a Christmas” Tour started at the 48 High Street Gallery, which is home to the Dayton Society of Painters and Sculptors.

The first residence in the St. Anne's Hill neighborhood

St. Anne’s Hill was one of the first neighborhoods plotted outside of the immediate downtown area, by Daniel Cooper, one of the early city planners, in the early nineteenth century (sources vary on exactly when this happened). The first reference to the area as “St. Anne’s Hill” appeared in newspaper ads for a greenhouse in the early 1830s. Where the name came from remains unknown.

A Swedish botanist named Eugene Dutoit built the first residence, a farmhouse, on his 111-acre farm and orchard on the north side of Fifth Street. The original house still stands at 222 Dutoit Street.

The Dragon House

One of the first homes we visited was called “the Dragon House.” Located at 629 McLain, the turn-of-the-century Victorian house was called such because it once had a metal dragon figure mounted above the porch (if I recall the story correctly). The homeowner still has the dragon, stashed away in the basement waiting to be restored. What was really cool, was the address numbers were formed of dragons! Unfortunately, my photo didn’t turn out, and they’re too small to see in this one. The interior of the home sports some amazing woodwork, that reminded me of the interiors of the Piatt Castles. It was also full of beautiful, restored antique furniture. My daughter says she wants to buy the Dragon House. I told her she’d better win the lottery LOL. However, there was a flyer lying on the newel post that stated the owner is planning to put it up for sale this spring.

The majority of the neighborhood was built by craftsmen and industrialists. When the original Dutoit farm was split up and developed, much of the houses were smaller, simpler homes for working-class families. With original construction dates ranging from the 1830s to the 1960s (just a few of those!), there’s a lot of diversity in the architecture, yet it all goes together.

The Bossler Mansion

It was interesting to see how some of the homes were decorated, furnished, and remodeled inside, particularly the three smaller homes we visited on Henry Street. These had very contemporary-styled decor, or an eclectic mix of antique and modern furnishings. All of the kitchens and bathrooms (that we saw) had been updated, and some were very modern. My daughter was drooling at the claw-footed bathtubs in some of the homes.

The tour concluded at the Bossler Mansion, where servers in Victorian garb served coffee and homemade bread pudding. This Second Empire-style home was built in 1869 by Marcus Bossler, a builder and stone worker, who lost the home a few years later in order to avoid bankruptcy caused by another project. The mansion was later divided into thirteen apartments, several of which were still occupied when Lee Smithson, the current owner, purchased the house in 1980. Mr. Smithson spent the next five years overseeing a complete restoration, doing much of the work himself. An accomplished chemist retired from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Mr. Smithson is also a foodie, and has catered numerous weddings and other events at the Bossler Mansion. He resides in the third floor, and even allowed visitors into his personal space. This included the cupola, from which we could see a dramatic view of the city – probably one of the best around!

If you live in the area and are interested in history, the St. Anne’s Hill Christmas tour is a must-see. I’d like to go again, preferably during daylight hours so I can get a better view of the homes’ exteriors and maybe some decent photos. The $20 tour admission was money well spent, and will go toward the Historic Society’s continued work in preserving their neighborhood.

If you’re in the Dayton area, have you ever toured St. Anne’s Hill? I’ve done my own driving tours before, as one of my books’ main  characters lives there (in 1905, on a fictitious street). Walking the neighborhood and talking with the residents adds a whole new perspective! If you don’t live in the area, does your town offer something similar, and have you taken advantage of the opportunity?

More at the My Town Monday blog

Reducing Stress when You’re Busy Busy Busy

After many weeks of not hitting my ROW80 goals, I’ve finally nailed one! Well, I nailed last week’s too, but I purposefully set the bar very low, after not hitting it for so many weeks. This week’s was a challenge, especially with all of the extra holiday stuff to do, but I did it!

One thing that helped immensely was to let go of guilt and “ought-tos” and just do what was really necessary. For example, maybe you like to wrap elaborate, beautiful gifts. I used to too, but this takes time. And it just gets torn up anyway! So several years ago, I decided to just let myself do what the rest of the family does, and wrap it, and stick a bow on. That’s it! The best thing? No one seemed to care! Oh, they used to notice the beautiful, beribboned packages and appreciated them, but it’s an extra, not an expectation. So I let it go!

Same thing with gift tags. I used to make my own, out of recycled Christmas cards. Fun to do, cheap, and boy did they look nice, but it took a good couple hours! Now, my family gets store-bought stick-on labels. And they’re OK with that!

This year, I decided not to make a food item for my RWA chapter’s holiday party. In the past, I’ve taken beef rollups, mini quiches, and other goodies – none of which were difficult to make – but all took time. The kicker was that I always seemed to have a lot of leftovers to take back home! Some things didn’t go over that well at all, even though they were tasty (IMO and my family’s). I also noticed in past years that the food was all appetizers and desserts, yet the party was held at noon – lunchtime. I figured something more “main dish” would be appreciated, so I just called in an order for footlong subs at Subway, asked them to cut them in quarters, and picked them up on the way to the party. Even though someone else also brought mini-sandwiches, my subs were a hit! I had two quarters left over, and my husband quickly took care of them. For the gift exchange, I “gifted” a book on Amazon, and chose the printout option. I chose a craft book that I personally love – Holly Lisle’s Create a Plot Clinic – that can be useful to a writer at any point in her career. It was for a Kindle book, and I don’t know if the woman who received it has a Kindle or smartphone, but an Amazon Kindle gift book can be exchanged for anything, so hopefully she’ll get something else she likes if  Create a Plot Clinic isn’t for her. A thoughtful gift, and another task made easier!

So that’s how I got the type-in done for six revised chapters this week, even though I’m learning this is a task that takes longer than I thought when the book needs a lot of work.

This week, I want to get Chapters 10 & 11 typed-in, and off to the beta readers. Then I’m going to dig back into the markup, and get through Chapter 18 & 19. This will get me through the big black moment.

How are you doing on your goals, whether or not you’re participating in ROW80? Got any tips on reducing holiday stress? I’ll share some more here on Thursday, so check back!


By the way, thanks to all who joined in Samantha Warren’s Blog Scavenger Hunt! I had fun participating, and hopefully a lot of readers found a lot of fun books!

Thanksgiving: Oh Really?

According to popular American folklore, the Pilgrims and Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621 with a feast of turkey, potatoes, corn, bread, cranberries, pies, and more.

The stories are wrong – or at least, debatable – on many counts.

The pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621

Status: Debatable

First off, the settlers who arrived in Plymouth in 1621 called themselves “saints” or “separatists.” Their goal in coming to the new world was, like the Puritans’, religious freedom.  The term “pilgrim” wasn’t applied to these settlers until the American Revolution. Regardless of what they were called, they may not have celebrated the first Thanksgiving, either. Aside from the fact that harvest celebrations have been held by cultures around the world since before recorded history, there are others who claim the distinction of the first feast actually called Thanksgiving.  One of these is Berkeley Plantation on the James River in Virginia, where the Margaret brought 38 English settlers in 1619, who then celebrated with a “day of Thanksgiving.”

Another possibility for the first American Thanksgiving is the town of San Elizario, Texas, where Spanish explorer Juan de Onate led hundreds of settlers after a grueling trek across the Mexican desert in 1598. Upon arrival, De Onate hosted a large Thanksgiving celebration. Others go back even further, and credit another Spaniard, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, as the instigator of the first Thanksgiving in the same region of Texas while searching for gold.

This guy had a lot more to worry about on the first Thanksgiving than the turkeys did

Turkey was the main dish for this early Thanksgiving feast.

Status: false.

Although wild turkey certainly could have been on the menu, it’s never mentioned in any of the accounts from that time. Original sources mention that the Wampanoag Indians brought five deer, and that the colonists shot wild fowl – though what kind of fowl was not specified. Furthermore, in England deer were mostly found on private estates, and hunting them was a pastime of the wealthy; poaching them was a serious crime. Therefore venison on the menu was a novelty, and was likely the centerpiece of the feast.

Other dishes served at the first Thanksgiving included potatoes, corn, bread, cranberries, and pumpkin pie.

Status: false.

While it’s likely that corn, being one of the native peoples’ staple foods, was consumed at this early harvest celebration, it’s probably the only thing on the above list that was. Potatoes weren’t yet a common part of the English diet. Cranberries are bitter without sugar, which was expensive and considered a delicacy at the time – if the settlers had any with them, it likely wasn’t much. They also didn’t have wheat flour, needed for breads and pie crusts. However, they probably did eat pumpkin – boiled, most likely.

Turkey makes us sleepy.

Status: false.

While turkey does indeed contain tryptophan, which in pure form can induce drowsiness, for the stuff to really work one needs an empty stomach. As part of a big Thanksgiving meal, there’s too much else going on in the body for the brain to absorb enough tryptophan to get sleepy. Sure, the food coma definitely happens, but the more likely causes are the fact that we’re finally relaxing after a busy week, drinking alcohol, or the sheer amount of calories in that dinner we’ve just consumed.

Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year.

Status: debatable.

Despite the hype and attention given to shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, some sources say that the Saturday before Christmas is actually the busiest. Others point out that while the Saturday before Christmas used to be the busiest, it is now, in fact the day after Thanksgiving. All I know is that I avoid going out on both days (thank you, Amazon!).

A busy night at the bar in 2006

The night before Thanksgiving is the busiest bar night of the year.

Status: true.

Although the evidence is mostly anecdotal, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is, in fact, the busiest night at many bars. Also called Black Wednesday, it’s a time when college students are home for the holiday, and want to party with friends before being stuck with family for all the following day. For others, it’s an extra day in the middle of the week to go out and get wasted without having to go to work the next day. It’s been theorized that people also go out to bars because they’ve spent the day cleaning and getting prepared to host Thanksgiving the following day – so who wants to have people over and mess everything up? When we owned a bar, my husband always got ready for work that night like he was going into battle. Some years that was a good comparison!

Got any other Thanksgiving myths or fun facts to share? Do you go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, or to the bar the night before? And regardless of your beliefs, if you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today, here’s hoping it’s a good one!

The first Thanksgiving 1621 by  J.L.G. Ferris, via the Library of Congress, public domain.
White-tailed deer photo via Wikipedia, creative commons license.
Bar photo ©2006 by me.

My Town Monday: Dayton’s Feast of Giving

EDITED Monday, October 22, 2012: This blog post is now nearly a year old. I have nothing to do with this event; this post is just an informational article sharing about something cool that happens in Dayton. If you want to volunteer for the Feast, or otherwise want more information, do not email me – I don’t have the answers you’re looking for. I’m guessing you found this blog post through a Google search, so I suggest you try some of the other links that you found while searching. Thank you!

Sometimes, things happen in Dayton that restore our faith in the human race.

One of those is the Feast of Giving.

Now in its third year, the Feast of Giving is a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner – turkey with all the trimmings – held at the Dayton Convention Center, for FREE. Although some people emphasize those who have financial need, or those who have no one to spend the holiday with, all are welcome. The event’s sponsors stress that they want  “people from all walks of life to attend.” The primary sponsors are area businesses, including ABC 22 & Fox 45 Dayton’s News Source, Dermatologists of Southwest Ohio and Lastar Inc., manufacturer of low-voltage cabling and the parent company of Cables to Go.

Volunteers at last year’s Feast of Giving

Donations are accepted from others as well; click on the Dayton’s News Source link for donation information. Over 3,500 people attend the event each year, and many people volunteer to help. Volunteers are capped at 500, and every year, several times that offer to volunteer. As many as 2,000 would-be volunteers have been turned away in the past, by the Feast and its predecessor.

While the Feast of Giving is only in its third year, it follows a long tradition started in 1969 by Arthur Beerman, founder of Elder-Beerman stores. Mr. Beerman had suffered a heart attack earlier that year. While hospitalized, he received hundreds of get-well cards. After he returned home, he started the dinner  “to thank the good Lord for letting me get home for Thanksgiving,” and also to give back to the community that had been so good to him. He died the following year, but his family and the Beerman Foundation continued to host the event every year until 2009. According to the Dayton Daily News, “The annual Thanksgiving dinner was believed to be the largest of its kind in the nation having served an average of 4,000 turkey dinners per year.” In 2009, the Foundation’s board announced that they would not be hosting the Thanksgiving Dinner, as they had determined that its funds would be more effectively spent on charities and programs with a broader scope.  That year, the above sponsors combined their funds and efforts to keep the tradition alive with the first Feast of Giving.

The Feast of Giving will be held from 11 – 2, and tickets are not required. The convention center is offering free parking, and Dayton RTA offers free bus service to and from the event.

The 2010 Feast of Giving

I’m blessed to have family in the area, and someone has always been able to host (this year, me), so I have never attended the Feast of Giving or the Beerman Thanksgiving Dinner. But it’s cool to think that the biggest event of its kind is right here, every year, for anyone who wants to go. If you live in the area, have you ever attended? If you don’t live around here, does your community offer anything like it?

Photos via the Feast of Giving page on Facebook

More at the My Town Monday blog

I won an award! Just for fun, the Versatile Blogger Award

Okay, not a real award, like the Rita, or even the Wrters Digest 100 most useful blogs, but what the heck, it’s fun. You can play too, as long as you play by the rules (at least somewhat):

1. Thank and link to the person who nominates you.

Thanks to my writer friend, Stacy McKitrick! Stacy keeps a fun blog called Stacy’s Rantings and Whatnot, where she rants writes about TV, writing, sports, travel and whatever else strikes her fancy. Check her out!

2. Share seven random facts about you.

Hmm, this one was kinda tricky. I mean, I’m not that interesting. That’s why I make stuff up! So anyway…

  • Some stuff I like - and some I don't

    I hate, I mean loathe, green peppers and celery. I can deal with the latter if it’s cooked, as that takes out the stringy texture and mostly kills the taste, or I pick them out if they’re not tiny, but peppers tend to leech into the surrounding food upon cooking, which pretty much ruins whatever it is for me.

  • I bought a car. Turned out to be an alien robot, who knew? I ordered it a month before it even went into production. It came with new friends, who knew?
  • I can curl my tongue, and make the Vulcan “live long and prosper” gesture. It always surprises me that there are people who can’t do this, including my husband and daughter!
  • Despite my artistic background, I never was able to get into scrapbooking, quilting, knitting, crocheting, or anything like that. I do like sewing clothing, though – I wish I had more time to do it. I’ve made numerous sweatshirts, dresses, hats, slacks, bridesmaid dresses, and even a wedding dress for one of my college roommates. The dress outlasted the marriage, but she’s been happily married to husband #2 for over 10 years now.
  • I am a Dale Carnegie graduate, which came in really helpful when…
  • I met my husband at a bar. If not for DCC, I wouldn’t have kept talking when the mutual friend who introduced us be-bopped off to talk to someone else and left me at a table with him. I started dating him after I paid him $400 to fix my car. I figure I’ve gotten my money’s worth – quite a few times over, as we’ve now been married 17 years!

    My Earliest Memory

  • The earliest thing I can remember is going to get my dad’s new car – a ’69 Camaro – when I was 2-1/2. I mostly remember the weird look on my mom’s face when we went to the dealership, which I later found out was because she’d had no idea my dad bought a car! It’s still in the family, too – my brother spent two years restoring it, and it’s beautiful!

3. Pass this Award along to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know about it!

Well, I’m only going to list a few, as most blogs I follow are mostly about writing. Some of these aren’t so new to me, either. If you’ve already received this award (or don’t do memes like this), you can repeat it, or ignore, no problem. Everyone else – these are some fun blogs I follow that aren’t all about writing, so check them out!

The Evil Jim Winter – Edged in Blue

Athena Grayson

Michele Stegman – Thoughts from a Writer’s Block

Catie Rhodes – Full Tilt Backwoods Boogie

Julie Glover

My Town Monday – a group of writers who collect links from the comments – fun facts about places all over! Anyone can participate, so if you’re looking for blog topics, MTM is a good way to get them – and share!

Woman carrying a basket of bread and vegetables photo via Microsoft Office Clipart

My Town Monday: The Waynesville Sauerkraut Festival

Continuing last week’s homage to our area’s German heritage, let’s take a look at one of the biggest food festivals in southwest Ohio: the Sauerkraut Festival in Waynesville. And yes, it’s huge: according to the Sauerkraut Festival website, the event drew around 350,000 visitors last year, who ate seven tons of sauerkraut!

Last year's Sauerkraut Festival

Situated in the very northeast corner of Warren County, about 15 miles or so southeast of Dayton, Waynesville is known for its small town charm, and is considered the “Antiques Capital of the Midwest(sm).”  The festival started in 1970 as a feature dinner for a sidewalk sale, which quickly became the main event. Subsequent years brought more and more vendors as well as a steadily-growing attendance, and included unusual items like sauerkraut pizza, sauerkraut donuts, and even sauerkraut ice cream! I can’t help wondering if the ham and sauerkraut pizza is as good as Marion’s. For those who don’t like sauerkraut, there are plenty of other offerings, including perennial festival favorites like funnel cakes, deep fried candy bars, pulled pork, burgers and hot dogs.

image of sauerkraut ballsOne of my favorite foods, which we typically only have during the holidays, is sauerkraut balls. My grandparents went to the Sauerkraut Festival once in the mid-seventies, just to get the annual festival cookbook. With no Internet and limited bookstore offerings, it was the only place she knew she could get the recipe for sauerkraut balls. Even though I was a kid at the time, and like most kids, didn’t like kraut, those kraut balls were awesome! Grandma’s no longer with us, so if we get them now, it’s up to me. They are a lot of work, but some years I still make them, they’re so good. One of my coworkers makes the festival a must-go every year – his wife goes to shop for crafts, he goes to eat. The kraut balls are one of his favorites. He was disappointed in last year’s; said they must’ve used a different recipe. If this years’ kraut balls aren’t the good ones, I might have to make some to take in to work and share.

The Sauerkraut Festival is held every year on the second weekend in October, which would be the 8th and 9th this year – next week! I will admit I’ve only been to the Sauerkraut Festival a couple of times, and a long time ago at that. I do sometimes pass through on the way to and from another event that’s always held on the second Sunday of October, which we’ll visit next week: the Motorcycle Hill Climbs in nearby Oregonia.

What are some of the fun food festivals in your area? Are there any foods you specifically look for there – and maybe learned to make because of it?

More at the My Town Monday blog

Festival photo via official Sauerkraut Festival website, sauerkraut balls via 

My Town Monday: Margarita Madness

Other places might have Monday Margaritas, but only Elsa’s has Bad Juans.

BadJuanElsa’s is a Mexican restaurant and sports bar that’s been a fixture in the Dayton area for decades. There are several locations: the original location on Linden Ave. on the east side of town, the second one on Far Hills Ave. in Centerville, Elsa’s Kettering, Elsa’s on the Border (of Dayton, Kettering, and Oakwood) and new locations are planned. The food is good, but the Bad Juans are what Elsa’s is well-known for.

The Bad Juan is Elsa’s trademark margarita. They come in many flavors – I’m not sure what, because I always order raspberry frozen. Original lime on the rocks is probably the most popular.

The Bad Juan isn’t complicated. It’s basically cheap tequilla and a couple of mixers. For ten years, my husband Don owned a bar across the street from one location (they weren’t really competition – his place specialized in live music). He had his own version of the Bad Juan, called the Bad Don. People said it tasted exactly the same (and had the same effect), but it never quite took off.

Which brings me to the real distinction of a Bad Juan: They will mess you up! So if you go to Elsa’s and plan to drink a couple, plan on walking home, or have a designated driver! One is plenty for me, and that’s with food. So yes, they taste good, too.

A couple years ago, Elsa’s got all of the licensing, suppliers, and distribution set up, enabling them to offer bottled Bad Juans in grocery stores and other retail locations, so now you can have a Bad Juan at home. At 42 proof, the bottled Bad Juan isn’t as potent as the ones in the restaurants, but it’s still worth drinking for the effect. And you don’t need to drive!

Helpful hint from the former bar owner: If you want the bottled Bad Juans to taste just like the Bad Juans served at Elsa’s, chill it really well, so less ice melts.

If you’re from the area or have visited, have you tried Bad Juans? Got any good stories? If you’re not from the Dayton area, does your hometown have any distinctive drinks?

My Town Monday: Unique Dining in Dayton

Dayton, Ohio is not the place to go for fine dining. Don’t get me wrong – we have four-star restaurants here (I think – LOL), but the vast majority of our local eateries are chains. Marion’s Piazza is no exception – it too, is a chain, but it’s a local chain, and one of the few food things unique to our area. As such, it’s one of my go-to places to take out-of-town visitors.
Marion’s is a thin crust pizza, but not what I’d call New York style – the crust is crispy. Its other distinction is one that a college friend from the Cleveland area immediately noticed, that until then, I had no idea was unusual (and maybe it isn’t, now). Because when I brought the pizza to our table, he looked at it with an utterly baffled expression. “It’s cut in squares.”
Me: “Um, yeah?”
My friend: “I’ve never seen a pizza cut in little, bitty squares.”
Me: “They don’t do that in Cleveland?”
My friend: “No!”
Must be a Dayton thing, because our other local pizza chain, Cassano’s, also does thin crust pizza cut in little, bitty squares.

Marion's SupremeFlavor-wise, Marion’s is like no other. There’s not a lot of sauce. While there are plenty of toppings, they’re not piled on. It’s not spicy – even the sausage is very mild. And that’s one of the best things about Marion’s. The sausage has a really good flavor, and it’s crumbled over the entire pizza – no big chunks. Many of my out-of-town friends I’ve brought to Marion’s insisted on making it a regular stop on subsequent visits, and one friend from Cincinnati even used to get a whole, large pizza to take home for later whenever she came up here. Marion’s pizza microwaves very well and tastes great, even though the crust is no longer crisp.
They have other stuff too, but I like the pizza so much I never order anything else. I usually get pepperoni, sausage and mushroom, although once in a while, I get ham and sauerkraut, which I thought sounded gross until a coworker gave me a piece to try. Awesome! Soft drinks are Pepsi products, a big plus for me (Mountain Dew!), but they also have Coke and Diet Coke. They have a great lunch special – half of a 9″ pizza with two ingredients, and a 24 oz. drink for $4.50.

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I can’t remember when I first ate a Marion’s pizza, but it was when I was a little kid. They’ve been around since 1965, according to their website, and their first location was at the corner of Shroyer and Patterson Rd. near the border of Dayton, Kettering, and Oakwood. By the eighties, they had seven locations, which are all still around. At the original location (and some of the others, I think) they have photos of famous people all over the walls. Most of these are performers who visited our area to perform with the Kenley Players, a now-defunct local theater group. Many of these people were from before my time, but I always recognized a few.
Marion’s doesn’t deliver – it’s mainly an eat-in place, although a lot of people call in and get stuff to go. All locations are spacious, good places for a large party or gathering. If you go, take cash – they don’t accept checks or credit/debit cards.
And my friend from Cleveland? He ate the pizza and loved it – and yes, he’s been back.

Read more at the My Town Monday blog

If you’re from the Dayton area – or have been there, and tried Marion’s – do you like it? If you’ve never been there, what are some of your favorite, unique hometown eateries?

Pizza photo via Wikipedia, Creative Commons license. Restaurant photo via Google Street View.