10 restaurants just as famous for their mood as their food

There’s a great meal. Then there’s a great meal in an unforgettable atmosphere.

Maybe it’s kitschy. Maybe it’s old school. Maybe it’s crazy. Maybe it’s just plain unusual.

These are 10 of our favorite restaurants to visit for the food and the vibe.

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Bill Castro, co-owner of El Meson, sits in his restaurants market area where items including jewelry and pottery can be purchased. Contributed photo by Alexis Larsen

Credit: HANDOUT

Bill Castro, co-owner of El Meson, sits in his restaurants market area where items including jewelry and pottery can be purchased. Contributed photo by Alexis Larsen
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Bill Castro, co-owner of El Meson, sits in his restaurants market area where items including jewelry and pottery can be purchased. Contributed photo by Alexis Larsen

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

1. El Meson

903 E. Dixie Drive, West Carrollton | WebsiteFacebook

If you’re looking for a festive place to eat, El Meson can literally transport you far away with its delicious entrees, tapas and refreshing cocktails in one of the more unique dining settings in town.

This Dayton gem offers a wide array of authentic Latin cuisine you cannot find elsewhere. But an equal draw to the food is the cool, fun atmosphere. The restaurant has an indoor patio that even in winter makes you feel like you are somewhere warm. Each dining room offers a different vibe.

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Seabass Ceviche, a traditional treatment of the dish, at El Meson.

Credit: JIM WITMER

Seabass Ceviche, a traditional treatment of the dish, at El Meson.
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Seabass Ceviche, a traditional treatment of the dish, at El Meson.

Credit: JIM WITMER

Credit: JIM WITMER

The restaurant can seat a whopping 450 people in five different dining rooms. There are private dining rooms as well for private events. It’s one of the best places to dine on a patio in town (if you ask us) with 15 tables in the solarium and 10 tables in the front patio of the restaurant. They have tons of fun special food events throughout the year, the biggest of which is its Cinco de Mayo celebration.

>> 40 things to love about El Meson

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PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Credit: HANDOUT

PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
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PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

>> PHOTOS: A Cinco celebration like no other at El Meson

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One of the dinning rooms at The Dock. Bill Lackey/Staff

One of the dinning rooms at The Dock. Bill Lackey/Staff
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One of the dinning rooms at The Dock. Bill Lackey/Staff

2. The Dock Food & Spirits

250 W. Main Street in Enon | Website | Facebook

Head to the sea for delicious seafood and tropical cocktails while staying on dry land. The Dock feels like a tropical oasis in the Midwest. It has a lovely outdoor patio surrounded by koi fish as well as an indoor covered patio that Jimmy Buffett would appreciate.

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The bar area at The Dock. Bill Lackey/Staff

The bar area at The Dock. Bill Lackey/Staff
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The bar area at The Dock. Bill Lackey/Staff

The decor includes an indoor waterfall pond, palm trees, saltwater aquarium and mementos collected from many trips to the islands of the world. The Boathouse dining area provides a panoramic view of the outside ponds with water fountains and beautiful night lighting. The Dock is a bit off the beaten path, but the relaxing environment, and good food and drinks are well worth the drive.

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The unique seaside decore in The Dock restaurant. Bill Lackey/Staff

The unique seaside decore in The Dock restaurant. Bill Lackey/Staff
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The unique seaside decore in The Dock restaurant. Bill Lackey/Staff

The lobster bisque is a must-try. Seafood, steak, chicken, pasta and sandwiches round out the menu.

>> Best seafood restaurants in Dayton

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Treasure Island in Moraine Supper Club (Source: Facebook)

Treasure Island in Moraine Supper Club (Source: Facebook)
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Treasure Island in Moraine Supper Club (Source: Facebook)

3. Treasure Island Supper Club

4250 Chief Woods Drive, Moraine | Website | Facebook

Step back in time with a visit to Treasure Island Supper Club, which features the original décor from when it opened in 1961.

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Treasure Island Supper Club (Source: Facebook)

Treasure Island Supper Club (Source: Facebook)
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Treasure Island Supper Club (Source: Facebook)

Walk in to find a vintage U-shaped bar with cushy pink seats and dark-wood booths under low lighting. It's quaint, classic and has been a gathering place for locals and visitors to the Dayton area with its ambience and menu featuring choice cuts of steaks and fresh seafood. This is a great lunch spot. You can't go wrong with a salad and a potato boat. Here's what's on the menu.

>> Treasure Island’s cheese-oozing comfort food

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The Hasty Tasty Pancake House is truly a Dayton Classic. (Source: Facebook)

The Hasty Tasty Pancake House is truly a Dayton Classic. (Source: Facebook)
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The Hasty Tasty Pancake House is truly a Dayton Classic. (Source: Facebook)

4. Bunny’s Hasty Tasty Pancake House

3509 Linden Ave., Dayton | Facebook

This old-fashioned diner serves breakfast all day has been here since 1952 and remains a classic for many regulars. There is a long-time staff, and the menu features homestyle items like fried chicken, all-you-can eat fish on Fridays and more.

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California-based performance artist Charles Phoenix searched for the Miami Valley's classic and kitschy local landmarks and lore ahead of his Holiday Slide Show at Dayton Art Institute Thursday, Dec 6. Phoenix outside of the Hasty Tasty Pancake House at 3509 Linden Avenue in Dayton. Photo by Amelia Robinson

California-based performance artist Charles Phoenix searched for the Miami Valley's classic and kitschy local landmarks and lore ahead of his Holiday Slide Show at Dayton Art Institute Thursday, Dec 6. Phoenix outside of the Hasty Tasty Pancake House at 3509 Linden Avenue in Dayton. Photo by Amelia Robinson
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California-based performance artist Charles Phoenix searched for the Miami Valley's classic and kitschy local landmarks and lore ahead of his Holiday Slide Show at Dayton Art Institute Thursday, Dec 6. Phoenix outside of the Hasty Tasty Pancake House at 3509 Linden Avenue in Dayton. Photo by Amelia Robinson

Vintage Coca-Cola signs, framed vinyl records and old advertisements, license plates and other items line the walls and add to the atmosphere surrounding the leather-seat booths. Don’t be surprised if the waitress sits down to join you while taking your order. You will truly feel at home and like you’re part of the family here.

>> Best pancakes in Dayton

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The Tavernette in Medway is worth the visit. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS BY ALEXIS LARSEN

The Tavernette in Medway is worth the visit. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS BY ALEXIS LARSEN
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The Tavernette in Medway is worth the visit. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS BY ALEXIS LARSEN

5. The Tavernette

111 W. Main St., Medway | Website | Facebook

Tucked half-way between Springfield and Dayton in tiny Medway is a Clark County restaurant gem that residents from both cities should get to know.

The Tavernette Inn, established in 1939, is one of the area’s best kept restaurant secrets, boasting atmosphere and ambiance that goes on for days.

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The Tavern Sticky Pizza at The Tavernette Inn. The pizza is topped with hamburger meat, bacon, pepper jack cheese blend, peanut butter, and jalapeño jelly

Credit: Ben McLaughlin

The Tavern Sticky Pizza at The Tavernette Inn.  The pizza is topped with hamburger meat, bacon, pepper jack cheese blend, peanut butter, and jalapeño jelly
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The Tavern Sticky Pizza at The Tavernette Inn. The pizza is topped with hamburger meat, bacon, pepper jack cheese blend, peanut butter, and jalapeño jelly

Credit: Ben McLaughlin

Credit: Ben McLaughlin

An old-school bar greets you when you enter and sets the tone for a nostalgic evening, but it’s the walls and cabinets full of old toys and kitschy antiques that transport you to another era.

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The New York Strip Steak at The Tavernette in Medway. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ALEXIS LARSEN

The New York Strip Steak at The Tavernette in Medway. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ALEXIS LARSEN
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The New York Strip Steak at The Tavernette in Medway. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ALEXIS LARSEN

Hot orange chairs and turquoise booths add to this vintage feast for the eyes, and a menu featuring steaks and classic comfort foods — with a twist of delicious pizzas — is a terrific companion to the throwback setting.

>> Why this old-school restaurant is one of Dayton’s best-kept dining secrets

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Buffalo Jack's in Covington (Source: Facebook)

Buffalo Jack's in Covington (Source: Facebook)
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Buffalo Jack's in Covington (Source: Facebook)

6. Buffalo Jack’s

137 S. High St., Covington | Facebook

Imagine walking into a restaurant straight out of 1978 situated in the heart of a charming village downtown in Miami County. There is non-nonsense, rustic charm to this place. Don’t be surprised to see a giant stuffed buffalo hanging from the walls. You’ll also be greeted by a giant buffalo statue outside the entrance.

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Buffalo Jack's in Covington (Source: Facebook)

Buffalo Jack's in Covington (Source: Facebook)
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Buffalo Jack's in Covington (Source: Facebook)

Menu highlights include a robust breakfast menu with made-to-order omelettes, traditional dishes including fish and chips and the unusual, with game dishes including alligator, buffalo, elk, wild boar and venison.

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Buffalo Jack's in Covington. (Source: Facebook)

Buffalo Jack's in Covington. (Source: Facebook)
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Buffalo Jack's in Covington. (Source: Facebook)

This is a dining destination for someone feeling a little adventurous.

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Peta with green onion from El Greco's.

Credit: Lauren Rinehart for Dayton.com

Peta with green onion from El Greco's.
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Peta with green onion from El Greco's.

Credit: Lauren Rinehart for Dayton.com

Credit: Lauren Rinehart for Dayton.com

7. El Greco Pizza Villa

3976 Salem Ave., Dayton | Website | Facebook

Located in a nearly abandoned shopping center on Salem Avenue sits this unassuming little restaurant and bar. Inside you'll find a handful of booths, strings of Christmas lights and deep red carpeting covering the walls.

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The patio is a relatively new addition to El Greco's.

Credit: Lauren Rinehart for Dayton.com

The patio is a relatively new addition to El Greco's.
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The patio is a relatively new addition to El Greco's.

Credit: Lauren Rinehart for Dayton.com

Credit: Lauren Rinehart for Dayton.com

You'll still be comforted by the glow of twinkly lights, the dark ambiance of that red carpet, and the flavors that are exactly as you've remembered them since you were a kid. That's probably why so many people make it a point to visit when they're in town.

Customers make a special trip there to order their favorite hard-shelled tacos or thin crust pizza. The restaurant had a change of heart when it had planned to shut down. The loyal customers changed their mind in the end.

>> Fans of El Greco rejoice over owner’s change of heart

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The dinning room at the Mel-O-Dee Restaurant. Bill Lackey/Staff

Credit: Bill Lackey

The dinning room at the Mel-O-Dee Restaurant. Bill Lackey/Staff
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The dinning room at the Mel-O-Dee Restaurant. Bill Lackey/Staff

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

8. Mel-O-Dee

2350 S. Dayton-Lakeview Road, New Carlisle | Website | Facebook

Family and history come to mind when one thinks about the Mel-O-Dee. The vibe is a no-frills classic diner. The Mel-O-Dee has been family-owned and operated for four generations and the food puts the “home” in home cooking.

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The Mel-O-Dee Omelette with hashbrowns and biscuits and coffee. Bill Lackey/Staff

Credit: Bill Lackey

The Mel-O-Dee Omelette with hashbrowns and biscuits and coffee. Bill Lackey/Staff
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The Mel-O-Dee Omelette with hashbrowns and biscuits and coffee. Bill Lackey/Staff

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Dive head first into the bread loafs, coleslaw and broaster chops, chicken and fish. And don’t skip the pie.

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The Mel-O-Dee Restaurant. Bill Lackey/Staff

Credit: Bill Lackey

The Mel-O-Dee Restaurant. Bill Lackey/Staff
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The Mel-O-Dee Restaurant. Bill Lackey/Staff

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The Mel-O-Dee was voted Best Diner in Dayton.com's Best of 2018 people's choice contest.

>> Classic Dayton restaurants you have to try and love

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Guerra’s Krazy Taco in Springfield has crazy good tacos and an sugar skull artwork galore.

Guerra’s Krazy Taco in Springfield has crazy good tacos and an sugar skull artwork galore.
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Guerra’s Krazy Taco in Springfield has crazy good tacos and an sugar skull artwork galore.

9. Guerra’s Krazy Taco

229 N. Belmont Ave., Springfield | Website | Facebook

Guerra’s taco restaurant and bar looks like a party outside and inside. Sugar skulls and skeletons like those associated with the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) decorate tables, walls, the sidewalk and even the ladies’ room. A novelty sign near our booth read: “Tacos are good for you.”

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Guerra’s Krazy Taco in Springfield has crazy good tacos and an sugar skull artwork galore.

Guerra’s Krazy Taco in Springfield has crazy good tacos and an sugar skull artwork galore.
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Guerra’s Krazy Taco in Springfield has crazy good tacos and an sugar skull artwork galore.

Come for the party, but stay for the tacos. These tacos are street style with unique flavor combinations including The restaurant has an assortment of tacos with ingredients ranging from candied ginger on the Asian Ginger chicken taco to the fresh pineapple on the Sweet Avocado vegetarian taco to Sriracha on Flex’s Favorite, a seasoned ground beef taco. Wash it down with a tasty margarita.

>> ‘Krazy’ good tacos make this restaurant worth a visit

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Combs BBQ in Middletown. ALEXIS LARSEN/CONTRIBUTED

Combs BBQ in Middletown. ALEXIS LARSEN/CONTRIBUTED
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Combs BBQ in Middletown. ALEXIS LARSEN/CONTRIBUTED

10. Combs BBQ

2223 Central Ave., Middletown | Facebook

Located just outside downtown Middletown, we discovered this hidden gem barbecue restaurant by accident one night attracted by its massive collection of neon signs glowing warmly in welcome and beckoning us in.

The collection taken as a whole feels like the appetizer to the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati. The Combs family who owns it also owns a sign shop in downtown Middletown, according to one of the servers we chatted up during our visits.

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Combs BBQ in Middletown. ALEXIS LARSEN/CONTRIBUTED

Combs BBQ in Middletown. ALEXIS LARSEN/CONTRIBUTED
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Combs BBQ in Middletown. ALEXIS LARSEN/CONTRIBUTED

The business has a cool, nostalgic vibe with vintage and retro collectibles, instruments, art and signage adorning nearly every part of the walls.

The barbecue itself is worth the drive from Dayton. But the atmosphere helps take it up several notches.For the price and ambiance, you can’t beat Combs.

>> Hidden gem barbecue stop has just what the summer ordered

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