I normally don’t write restaurant reviews, but I have certainly written my fair share over the years. I also don’t normally write wine reviews, but I am willing to bet you bullets to bucks that I have probably written hundreds and hundreds. This brings me to my review of one of the grande dames of steak houses in America, The Pine Club in Dayton, Ohio.

The Pine Club Steakhouse

A short while ago, I wrote a review of Buckeye Vodka which happens to be distilled in Dayton. Apparently, I didn’t offend the Buckeye Boys enough so that they would never have anything further to do with me and they actually invited me back up to their neighborhood for dinner. Being the new kid on the block in Ohio, I was looking forward to making new friends, and this seemed like a good opportunity to do just that.

The Pine Club is located in Oakwood, a truly lush suburb of Dayton that is much like Grosse Pointe is to Detroit. I got there early and drove around a bit ,and I must admit I would love to live there. Oakwood is composed of a rich collection of architecture with many of the houses constructed before World War II and many more even older in design. These include Tudor, Swiss Chalets, White Clapboard Colonial, and even Gothic architecture. The western end of the city features many large properties and historic houses, which tend to lie on well secluded plots of land surrounded by trees such as the home of Orville Wright. Think old money!

The restaurant is a low slung, one story, building with a red brick façade that is sandwiched between two other buildings. Upon opening the first door, I encountered a second door and on that door was a sign that, if I remember correctly, read; “Appropriate Dress”. This made me stop and think. Having lived in San Francisco for a number of years I have encountered many cross dressers, and I must tell you that very few men look good in a dress and I pondered just exactly what an appropriate dress might look like. I shook those horrible images from my mind and hoped that my long black pants would suffice, and I pushed open the door.

Holy Bat Cave Batman, the place was pitch black. Having just come in from the sunny summer daylight, I couldn’t see a thing and had to just stand there for a few minutes until my eyes adjusted. The bar in the middle of the room came into focus first and I headed toward it like a ship on a stormy sea headed towards a lighthouse. The joint was old world wood and leather and I would learn later had been in continuous operation since the day it opened in 1947. There weren’t even any TV’s at the bar!! I plopped down on a bar stool that I imagined had been there for 60 some years because it was small and hard. Back in the old days, people’s butts were much more compact than they are today, and if you want proof of that, just go to any Wal-Mart in America and check it out for yourself.

The Buckeye Boys showed up shortly after I arrived and the four of them stood around my hard little bar stool all dressed up in white Buckeye logoed polo shirts very much looking like choir boys from hell. Guess what everyone ordered? The most interesting variant was a dirty vodka martini served with the dirty on the side. The dirty comes from the brine and bits from the olive jar and sometimes even contains minced olives and is quite yummy.

We sat down in a booth and the food started coming. Appetizers of Nantucket Cape Scallops were moist and tender and breaded to a pleasing crunch on the outside. The Blue Point Oysters on the Half Shell were a bit smallish but also quite tender and flavorful but were marred by a few bits of crunchy sand or shell in them. The salads were quite good and my blue cheese dressing was just right and not too blue and not too piquant. The best was the house dressing, which was vinegar and oil based with a number of secret ingredients that gave it a flavor all its own and was unlike any dressing I had ever had before. Fortunately, I can order it online from the restaurant directly and will be able to enjoy it at home.

The stars of the evening were the steaks. OMG!! These steaks were gigantic and looked like they had been hewn from a Tyrannosaurus Rex rather than cut from a steer. They actually had a steak I had never heard of or tried before, a bone in Filet. It was perfectly cooked and perfectly tender and perfectly juicy and well, just darned perfect. The rib eye was right up there with it.

The sides were awesome as well. The asparagus was tender yet firm with a bit of snap, the creamed spinach was balanced and lively and then there were the beets. Being Polish, I happen to love beets and my mother makes a dish called Buraczki in which she grates the beets and adds hot horseradish and vinegar to it, and it’s to die for. Well, it turns out that Jim hates beets and when we started discussing them he scrunched up his face like any 3 year old would when facing much hated spinach and crossed his arms across his chest and said emphatically he would not even try them and nobody could force him to do it…so there….take that!!!!! To emphasize that the conversation was over, with a still defiant look on his face, he soiled his diapers and that truly ended the discussion about the beets. They were really, really good and I didn’t even have to share……so there. The five of us also enjoyed three bottles of Cakebread Napa Merlot 2005 that paired incredibly well with the steaks.

Pine Club Owner, David Hulme

The owner of the Pine Club, David Hulme, dropped by our table and sat down and regaled us with stories. Turns out the restaurant doesn’t take reservations and makes no exceptions, even for then President George W Bush who was made to wait over 30 minutes for a table.

The evening ended all too quickly, a bit abruptly, and quite mysteriously. After dinner, the bill was paid and Jim and Chris snuck out for a smoke and never came back so the remaining three of us left the restaurant and searched for the missing pair for a bit but they were not to be found. Just like the Lone Ranger and Tonto they had snuck out of town in the middle of the night, rode over the ridge into the sunset and vanished before the townsfolks could thank them for their generosity and kindness. Hi Ho Silver and away, I wonder if I’ll ever see them again?

By George Brozowski

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